JOY at being able to return home was mixed with tears at leaving friends behind in South Cumbria as a group of refugees began their long journey back to former battle zone 20 years ago.
The Mail, on August 18 in 1999, noted: “Tearful Kosovar refugees bade an emotional farewell to Ulverston – their sanctuary of the past three months after fleeing their war-ravaged country.
“Eighteen refugees left their accommodation centre at Ulverston Victoria Lower School, following the 17 who returned to Kosovo earlier this month.
“Among yesterday’s departures were 13 members of the Morina family, who will be reunited with their father who left earlier to make sure it was safe to return.
“The remaining 158 refugees wiped tears and wished their countrymen well as they boarded the bus to take them to Leeds Bradford International Airport.
“Five teenage girls from Ulverston – Jemma Kelly, Alison Wilkinson, Helen Ramsey, Beck Britton and Shanti bell – came to say goodbye to their new-found friends.”
They were also seen off by volunteers and Cumbria County Council officials.
The first 100 refugees had arrived at the school buildings in Hart Street, Ulverston, had arrived on Thursday, May 20 after weeks of frantic preparation.
They arrived in four coaches at 1.30am after a flight from Macedonia to Manchester airport.
Ulverston’s new arrivals included members of 16 families – the oldest person was 75 and the youngest was just four days old.
There had been a major official and community operation to get the school ready as a new temporary home.
Classrooms and science labs had been changed into bedrooms.
Up to 320 refugees were expected to pass through the school in the next few months.
A total of 17 bedrooms were created, plus toilets, showers, teaching areas, lounges and a doctor’s surgery.
The transformation cost £200,000.
County council officials also set up special teams to help with the welfare, social and communication needs of the refugees.
There was a wave of public support for the new arrivals, with people holding events, providing their time and services and donating toys and clothes.
Members of the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service and the Friends of Kosovo organised collections of all the things families would need after leaving their homeland with almost nothing.
Originally published here: