Bjeshka Guri (interviewer)
Myrvete Guri (interviewee)
Acronyms: BG=Bjeshka Guri, MG=Mirvete Guri
BG: Tell us something about yourself first?
MG: I am Mirvete Guri. I am a teacher at a professional secondary school. I am a biologist.
BG: Can you tell us something about the time when the war started?
MG: When the war started it was my first year working as a teacher in a primary school in the village, and by the end of the war we started to leave Kosovo, but not all at once. Maybe we were among the last one that left. One month and a half, five or six weeks before the war ultimately ended, on June 11. We left our houses and escaped on foot.
BG: Can you describe the circumstances, the situation at the time before leaving? Did anyone tell you to leave?
MG: We did not think of leaving until the very last moment. We did not have too much contact with the Serbian forces, probably because geographically the village was more distant, and the soldiers did not let them come near us. But the situation was getting worse every day and we saw it reasonable to escape because there was no other choice: either they come and kill all of us or we leave Kosovo. And, one day, there was an immediate news, in my opinion. Very spontaneously they came and told us “You have to go”. I tried not to leave but they did not let me. They told me that I must go because we cannot provide safety for you. And so we set off. It was the afternoon or 2 p.m. when we left here, all of us: children, women, boys and girls, and we headed to Luboten on foot. You know what kind of road that is. We traveled at night most of the time. I remember that we walked for 24 hours.
BG: How many of you were there approximately?
MG: It was our entire village and some other villages. I think there were around 300 people. But not everyone managed to get there because it depended on how much they could walk. Some old men, for example, could not walk and stopped there. They turned them back home. We only rested for 5 minutes, no more.
BG: Who was the leader of that journey?
MG: There was not a leader, but the heads of the families led their families. My late father took care of this. Almost everyone individually took care of leading that journey because no one knew the road exactly. I don’t know, I cannot imagine now what the road was like because we only walked at night but I know that it is such a road that only goats can walk through, not people. It often happened that people slipped and fell down. Animals too. Because some people took their horses or other animals and they fell of and were hurt. A women and a girl died too.
BG: How did it happen?
MG: It was very cold and, in Luboten’s peak there is snow even in May and it is very cold. They did not fall down but that women and her daughter sat down to rest and they froze. I do not know why but both of them died. This is how it happened. A very difficult situation. I have always tried to forget about this part but I just cannot.
BG: What was the atmosphere like? What did you talk while walking? Did you talk at all…?
MG: We talked very little…”walk this way, walk that way”. There was not anything to talk about…
BG: Did you have any lighting?
MG: We did not. I don’t know why…but also because they could not use any lights because we crossed the border with Macedonia illegally. When we crossed the border no one was allowed to talk, we had to keep the children quiet from crying because they could notice us and turn us back home. But I don’t know why the moment we passed none of the children let out a voice and we crossed the border. They did not notice us. When we got to the other side it was morning…
BG: You crossed it after 24 hours?
MG: Yes, after 24 hours. It was now morning. My sister, my nephew and Kenan, my cousin, were the first ones from our group. As we were walking two Macedonian police officers stopped us and the first thing that occurred to me was to look for their symbols on their arm whether it was written “Makedonska policija” and I told the boys to stop because I thought we had walked on dangerous ground. Then, one of the officers was Albanian and he told us in Albanian, “Don’t be afraid, come. We have come here for you”. The other one was Macedonian but he was nice to us. But when they sent us to a school yard, they gathered all of us, the other Macedonian officers were very rude. They offended us, yelled at us. But there were Albanians too. The Albanian officer helped us a lot he was so positive that it used to comfort us. He was always saying, “Do not worry, I am here, I am here.” They talked to us in Macedonian and I obviously cannot speak Macedonian although I do understand Serbian. But I could not speak. I spoke in English and he would yell at me, “Why are you talking in English? You can understand Serbian.” But that passed too. Then they took us in a systemized way to the refugee camp in Preshten, which was in Tetovo. When we went there had left our houses 24 hours ago, we had not had any food or water. At least us the adults, because we had to save it for the children. Then the American aids, I think, brought us food. But it was very weird because it was difficult to eat, our jaws were not working. It was like something that is not for people, very rough and difficult to chew. But this too passed. We arrived well. After we went there, I could say a whole week, my sister and I could not get up when we woke up in the morning because our muscles were stiff from walking and there was no way we could get up. But our relatives and someone from Tetovo would come and help us get up. A very difficult period. Horrible! But the best thing was that none was maltreated or murdered; the rest passed. Yet it has left really bad traces in me. War is the most difficult, the worst history that can happen to someone.
BG: What effect does it have on your everyday life?
MG: Maybe it made me stronger but at the same time it made me very weak because now I cannot endure such brutal things. Now I am not someone who can fight with someone, verbally, when they do something unfair to me. I cannot because I get very emotional. I become very weak and my hearts beats very fast, and so I give up. On the other hand, though, we are obviously stronger because we went through a war, we experienced many things and we are still mentally well, I think. I think we are okay since I am able to continue working as a teacher with my students without any incident. I have also tried to understand them more after the war because there were students with trauma, students who lost their parents, their fathers mostly, and I have always helped them and understood them a lot, very calmly. In that aspect, I think I have passed a very important exam in life. I don’t know, it is mixed.
BG: Thank you.
MG: You are welcome.
BG:Is there anything you would like to add or shall we stop here?
MG: I hope there will never be war again. And I want people to change their approach to life, to appreciate more their own lives as well the lives of others, and not become very tyrant toward each other even after the war. Let us be more sensible.
Bjeshka Guri (interviewer)