The University Record, June 21, 1999

Phone books may help Kosovo refugees reclaim homes

By Mary Nehls-Frumkin
University Library

Janet Crayne, senior associate librarian, holds one of the U-M’s Yugoslavian telephone directories that may help provide information to officials and make it easier for Kosovar refugees to claim property they fled during the mass displacement. Photo by Bob Kalmbach
Yugoslavian telephone books may be the only form of documentation of residency that still exists for Kosovo refugees, and the University Library has a number of these unusual, yet vital, forms of demographic information.

Librarians here and at Harvard University are coordinating a project to collect additional phone books and to microfilm all data. Several organizations, the U.S. government and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have expressed interest in the microfilm.

“One of our goals, and certainly the most pressing goal, is to provide information on residency and home ownership for the Kosovars forced to flee to other countries,” says Janet Crayne, senior associate librarian and project coordinator in the Slavic Division.

“Refugees had to forfeit all deeds and personal identification prior to crossing the border from Koso-vo to another country. The information in our phone books could facilitate and expedite repatriation.”

The Yugoslavian phone books have a separate section on Kosovo, so established Kosovar residences can be noted and traced on a yearly basis, said Crayne. Donations have come from educational institutions and private individuals, and Crayne urges anyone who may have Yugoslavian phone books to contribute them.

“We intend to microfilm all the phone books that can be acquired from the former Yugoslav lands,” Crayne says. “The last Yugoslav census did not provide reliable and/or consistent demographic information. Because of mass displacements it is necessary to preserve all available information on residences in this region.”

The project also includes census data from the region for 1971, 1981 and 1991, and trade directories.

For more information, or to donate phone books, contact Crayne, 111G Hatcher Graduate Library North 1205; phone, 936-2348; fax, 763-6743; or send e-mail to jcrayne@umich.edu.