Bjeshka Guri (interviewer)
Albert Lekaj (interviewee)
Acronyms: BG=Bjeshka Guri, AL= Albert Lekaj
AL: I am Albert Lekaj. I work as a designer. I come from Klina. The son of Ana and Leka (laughs).
BG: What do you remember about the war?
AL: Yes. Even though I was 7 year old, I remember things… that I myself experienced, but also hearing about them from my family members. I remember when a friend of my dad came and told my dad that the war had began in Drenica. I did not know what war was at that time. But I just noticed that something bad was happening. And I could notice a negative energy in their conversation, by the people meeting there. And I felt that energy and run to my mother. I was 6 years old. Then, the war began. We left our home.
BG: When did you realize that you had to leave your house?
AL: Quite late. I mean, when the military attacks were close and we considered that we should mobilize and leave. We left together with some other families, some cousins. We left to Mitrovica. We initially intended to come to Prishtina because Prishtina was not a war zone. It was a region where people could move more freely. So it was not quite a war zone. But because the highway Peja-Prishtina was blocked, you could not come to Prishtina. So, we went to Mitrovica. We spent a night in a household of Mitrovica. The following day, we went to th bus station with the intention of leaving to Montenegro. That was the only point where we could decide where to go. We couldn’t go to Albania, neither to Macedonia, so Montenegro was the only choice. Fortunately, there was a bus going to Ulqin. We got in that bus and went to Montenegro. We went to the municipality of Tuzi. It is interesting that we stayed in a village named Lekaj, just like our last name.We stayed in the hous of Shtjefan Ibezaj, that now is a musem house. He has transformed it in a personal museum, with his own memories and war memories. He only has left a room for himself and the entire house is a museum to be visited by people. After that, we were obliged to leave from Montenegro too…we spent two months of summer of 1998 there… and we left Montenegro because it was still under Yugoslavia. And, my father, being an active member of the party, and against the war and the thing that were don in Kosovo at that time, he was wanted by the Serbian forces, so we had to leave because we were not safe there, in Montenegro. We went from Montenegro to Bosnia. Through Republika Srpska, in Sarajevo. From Sarajevo to Herzegovina, which is part of Croatia, of Bosnia. We stayed there in a small city known as Çaplin. Then from there, we took the bus going to Zagreb. We stayed for a night in the house of a relative in Zagreb. My aunt lives there. And then, we went to a camp in a town called Gjakova, like our city here, but in Croatia. And in the suburbs of that town, in an area called Gašinc, we stayed in a camp with refugees from Kosovo. We stayed there for a month or two. And we learned that NATO had began bombings in Kosovo. From there, we went to my father’s uncle who lived in a village of Zagreb. The village was called Precno, the town of Ivanicgrad. I started to go to the school there. I was enrolled in the first grade. And when the war was over in June of 1999, we returned to Kosovo.
BG: Can you tell me more about the atmosphere during the journey in those places?
AL: It’s not that I heard too much, because I was 6 or 7 years old. Besides that negative energy exhibited by the people, my parents always tried to maintain a positive energy within the family, so that it would not influence us as children, and in order that we would not suffer the consequences later. But however, it was an interesting experience, although, not very pleasant at the same time, because it was wartime and the migration and that long journey were quite difficult for us. What I see as a positive thing from all this is that we saw various places, various cultures. I try to see the positive side in things. We visited some places, e.g., we visited the whole Croatia through excursions organized by the school, and we also visited Vukovar, the last city of Croatia near the Croatian border with Serbia. The greatest war of Yugoslavia took place there. However, the people I stayed with tried to take away from me that feeling of war. We socialized with the Croats. Although there were cases when we were, let’s say not discriminated, but they pointed towards us, they called us refugees, siptari, albanci. But in general, we were treated well by the Croatian population.
AL: I wouldn’t say that it has had e direct influence on me. Perhaps it affected the people around me, and then they transmitted that to me. When you survive such a thing, regardless of not knowing what is happening, it still affects you. And it incited me to do a study of all the wars in Yugoslavia. I did a documentary, with books and other things, and that made me to… In a way, we are all children of war, and that will never change. So, I was interested about what happened in other countries too. My greatest interest was on the war in Bosnia, which was the most deadly war, and which incited me to search deeper into the Yugoslavian wars. But, I would not say that it has affected me directly.