Bjeshka Guri (interviewer)
Elife Maxhuni-Hoti (interviewee)
Acronyms: BG=Bjeshka Guri, EM= Elife Maxhuni-Hoti
BG: Can you introduce yourself please?
EM: My name is Elife Maxhuni-Hoti. I was born in the city of Vushtrri.
At the age of 18, in March 1999, at the time I turned 18, I was in my teens when the war broke out, it was a new experience for a very young age.
The escape from Serbian forces was a bit strange.
BG: Do you remember the atmosphere that prevailed before the war started?
EM: I lived in a district with Serbs. The village where I lived, Maxhunaj was populated by Serbs, by those who were very politically influenced and with functions in the police and the army and the house where I was, was among the houses of Serbs.
We were a little prepared or, as the people say, “ripped” with their culture and anti-Albanianism that they had because we grew up among them under a lot of pressure.
In 1995 we experienced the first attack on our family, when our father was wanted by the police ostensibly for gun raids and after a small raid they took him, abused him at the police station so badly that they took him and put him on the street, at the police station in Vushtrri, unconscious, and for several days they took him to the hospital in Mitrovica and we did not know his condition whether he was alive or dead, he was completely unconscious.
And that was at my very young age when I was only 15 years old and these were those first signs that we need to guard and prepare for something bigger as was the war that came.
In March 1999, my parents and my sister and I were in the family home, and one day after the NATO bombing, we received some refugees who moved from a village further away, my uncles and us. The next day, they drove us out of our house.
Our departure, since the uncles had a son who was with KLA soldiers, our departure was to head towards the villages of Llap, through the mountains, that is, not in the column of people, where other members of the extended family such as uncles and other cousins were, but my uncles and we, we headed to the mountains of Llap, where they originated from, and the fear was that if we went out in the column, they would recognize us as belonging to a soldier’s family and then there would be other abuses and other imprisonments.
It was a new place, the relocation was a new place I had not seen before, it was a place the locals had vacated, meaning they had been displaced by an earlier Serbian police offensive and we went there, the other refugees, who had fled from these places and settled in their empty houses.
BG: How was the journey?
EM: The journey was very scary, with many different vicissitudes, a bad rainy weather and the way to escape was with a tractor that often did not work well, but all the time in the mountains we were accompanied by the will and desire of the soldiers of KLA and their presence gave us the feeling that the danger has passed and you were already under their protection and our stay in that place, in a village of Llap, in the village of Lupç, was close to the mountains, a mountainous place where the KLA were located.
More or less we felt safer and in the moments of various airstrikes on targets over the KLA, we left our homes and joined the rest of the population in the mountains.
And this thing happened, 2 weeks we spent in the mountains, then the rest we went back home, it depended on the situation how dangerous it was.
These have all been at a very sensitive age which have remained in the memory and will remain forever.
A young age with many changes, a young age with emotional, physical and spiritual changes which have lasted until the end of June when we returned to our homes.
BG: How was that period of return?
EM: The period of return has been like a period that seemed to me to last for years, that period that you can hardly wait until you arrive from the mountains to the plain parts of Kosovo. But with much pleasure, and with much longing. Nonetheless it was also a great despair when we came back everything was flat, and in ashes.
It means that the house was completely destroyed, in our house and in our yard, there was a convenient position for the Serbian soldiers. I mean there were a lot of holes they used to place military equipment. Then we found different tools, different knives, different foods that they ate, they settled, slept in our house and finally burned it to the ground.
There have been many instruments of their violence, i.e., that they have exercised their violence with. For example, there were weapons left in the moment of their escape and many elements that have long reminded us of their presence in our house and in our yard.
Our yard and our house
were 100% different from how we have left it before, i.e. with a total destruction present.
BG: What do you think are the effects that the war has personally left on you, which you still notice today?
EM: The effects are multifaceted, multidimensional, they are spiritual effects, emotional effects, they are effects on loss in people, in relatives, in cousins.
Then there are the effects of destroying everything from our childhood, from the pictures to the books we left there. But it is that feeling, that patriotism that has been strengthened and built on a foundation that we have experienced ourselves, and then, it is that, that even the dreams we dream are always happening in the old house we had.
BG: If you do not have something else to add we would conclude now.
EM: War is something terrible that happens to all people, to all people of the world, but when it happens at a young age it is something that leaves very deep traces.
Seriously, it’s something like you miss that house, that environment, and precisely the dreams I see today, even after 20 years, I dream them all in that old house where I grew up.
BG: Thank you.