You can't see the graves as you are climbing, but you can smell thenearby livestock, you can feel the mudv shifting under your feet, and you canhear the faint weeping. The unmistakable weeping of children.
It's estimated that 200 children were orphaned in Recak. Most have been taken to neighboring villages to join extended family, though some children still remain.Each and every day, in small groups, they make their way up a steep and windy dirt path to spend the afternoon with their parents. At their graveside.
Shortly after dawn on a cold Friday in January this year, Serbianforces, both military and paramilitary, entered the village of Recak.Many residents had fled advancing serbs weeks earlier. Those whoremained of the farmers and peasants that populate the village, werecalled out of their homes and into the street. After beatings andthreats, residents were rounded up and instructed to run over a nearby hilland flee into the mountains where they could escape. It was a trick. They were all killed.
Forty-five died in Recak before 9am. Not enormous numbers. Perhaps not surprising either, considering the numerous tragedies the former Yugoslavia has hosted this decade. But this event was noticed. A team of international observers led by American William Walker at the site almost immediately.Walker said what no one before him had,'What I have seen is a massacre.'
People listened. It was the devastating market bomb in February of 1994, killing 68 andwounding many more (and the vast coverage that ensued), that led the west to force an end to the Bosnian war. This time it was Walkers blunt description of the carnage in Recak that forced NATO leaders to start the plans for the liberation of Kosovar Albanians. His words were challenged by both Belgrade and those from the west not wanting to complicate the already stalled peace talks in Rambouillet, France. Autopsies and independent investigations supported Walkers assertions.It was a massacre.
Today the children roam from grave to grave grieving over fathers and uncles, mothers and grandmother. They tidy up the cemetery, planting plastic flowers and shoring up the dirt mounds. They replace old photos on the markers when they fade. They sit and cry, some pray, others stare. Some look as though they expect to see their parents walk up the hill.
Today Recak is quiet. Cattle roam and fields are tended. On the surface its not too different than before the war. Underneath, its another story.