Twenty years of friendship between former miners from North of England and Kosovo was finally cemented with a gift of miners’ safety lamp.
On a recent visit to Britain Kosovo deputy prime minister was presented with this gift by former miner Alan Johnson from Murton, County Durham, signalling a hope after years of repression by the Serbian regime.
When Alan and another former miner, Dave Temple, visited Kosovo they received a hero’s welcome when attended a rally to mark the 20th anniversary of Kosovo Albanian miners’ strike in 1989.
It was in 1989 when a message of support was sent from Murton miners to Kosovo miners.
Dave, now 65, from Barnard Castle, County Durham, recalled: “In 1989 the Serbian dominated Government of Yugoslavia withdrew the autonomous status of Kosovo causing the miners of the Trepca company to strike and march on the capital, Pristina, in protest. “Thousands joined this demonstration and the Serb authorities retaliated with a wave of violence, shooting 14 miners and jailing hundreds.
“On hearing of the brutal repression of the Trepica miners we sent a message of support from Murton.
Although this letter was intercepted by the Serb police contact was finally established.”
Dave, now an author, publisher and Durham Miners Association official, said: “On our visit we were welcomed by Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo, Hajredin Kuqi, and Minister of Miners and Energy, Justina Shirova Pula.
“I was invited to address a rally to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Trepca miners strike of 1989 and received thunderous applause.
“In 1998 I saw the devastation caused by the aggression of the Serbian paramilitaries.
“I saw houses of poor families that had been burnt and shelled.
“Going back was a very emotional experience. I have made many good friends in Kosovo and it was good to see them in happier circumstances.
“When I was there 10 years ago it was in an atmosphere of fear and few people ventured onto the streets. It was great to see the schools rebuilt and new houses replacing the burnt out shells.
“Of course there are still many problems to overcome but I came away with a very positive feeling about the future.”