Simon Jenkinson is a mental health specialist and has worked in Kosovo.
Fadil's first message to me is very clear: squirming in the furthest corner of the room, he shouts defiance. Under this defiance is fear – he cannot trust the strange "psikolog". In less than a minute, he has escaped out the door, and runs, yelling furiously, into the fields. With the support of my interpreter, I learn from the Mother that during the war, Serb paramilitaries raided the home one night, terrorising the children. It was Fadil who was old enough to understand the threat. Compounding the insecurity is the Father's abandonment of the family, who apparently ran off with another woman. For any family, this would be painful; in a patriarchal culture where women are usually not breadwinners, it is a catastrophe. I feel overwhelmed by the desperation and the sense of loss: loss of love, loss of safety, loss of faith in any future. I promise that I will return next week to see Fadil; perhaps this time he will stay?
"I only know that perhaps – for a brief time – Fadil and I found a shared language. And maybe this is enough to enable him to begin the long journey of recovery: out of terror, into hope."
Gradually over many visits, Fadil spends more time allowing me to play with him, draw pictures, even draw a nightmare he had. One day, as we are leaving, he hugs me. I feel such a sense of relief when Mother tells us that he is not refusing school any more, and sleeps better. This is not a "success story". As I leave Kosovo, I know Fadil continues fatherless and bitterly poor. Médecins Sans Frontières cannot "fix" this. I only know that perhaps – for a brief time – Fadil and I found a shared language. And maybe this is enough to enable him to begin the long journey of recovery: out of terror, into hope.
We drove to a little village some distance from Peje, the town in Western Kosovo where Médecins Sans Frontières is based. A mother with five children under the age of eight, are living in a single room. The sadness in this room was palpable, like a mist enveloping the claustrophobic space. I'd been asked to assess the eldest, Fadil, a boy who was having nightmares, refusing school, showing many of the signs of post-traumatic stress. Like so many of the kids we psychologists struggle to reach, and with whom we try to discover with the help of our superb local interpreters, a common "language".