Interviewer: Arbër Halilaj
Interviewee: Ganimete Halilaj
Acronyms: AH= Arbër Halilaj, NS= Ganimete Halilaj
AH: What did you do before you ran away from home and what happened?
GH: We were there as usual, we knew that there was a war all around, before someone in the village told us that the police is in the village, and then we were forced to leave, we took the children?
AH: And where did you go?
GH: We went to a nearby mountain above the village and stayed there for 3 days. On the third day, Serbs came and started firing. We had the things we took with us to the mountain, food, clothes. They were constantly firing, the people were fleeing, there were wounded. My husband’s grandfather, brother-in-law and his son were wounded by a grenade during the night and I can’t remember, but there were a lot of people killed. And from there we went to (not clear), we met with (not clear). The wounded were taken there and given medical assistance. We stayed there to spend the night and then we returned to the village again. The same morning they started attacking again and firing and again we were forced to flee to (not clear)., and we stayed there for another night. Then we came back home we were forced to stay one night, I remember well, and then they started shooting at us a lot again, I remember we couldn’t go out, and then at some point in the evening we organized (not clear) and we went to a (not clear) village. Some guests came to us, my father and mother to visit us, because we were attacked and we were wounded, they stayed with us, and they took us on tractors and we went to their house in (not clear), we stayed there for a month . After a month, the situation calmed down, we returned and then the second offensive started, which was worse and we stayed for seven weeks (not clear). They set fire to our houses, for the first time they set fire to all our clothes, tractors … flour, food … we had nothing to eat! We stayed home without food again for 2 days! My older son (not clear), we ate only cheese with our hands. During the second offensive, they also set fire to our houses and what we had, we escaped only with what we were wearing.
When we escaped to (not clear), we stayed there for 7 weeks, they took care about us, they brought the food they had, what they could buy, although there was not much to buy, there were no shops, some macaroni and something like that. Living 7 weeks with almost nothing, there was no sugar or anything, except for the bread we had. After that, the attack started again and then we started running in the mountains again. That morning we prepared corn bread, we had enough flour, in the evening we would prepare the same (not clear) there was some meat, but cooking meat without salt, somehow it doesn’t work … it’s not tasty, it couldn’t be eaten … that’s how it is we saved ourselves, otherwise it could not have been worse.
We were wounded, me, (not clear), brother-in-law, old man, and a lot of people from the neighborhood, there were killed, in short without food, …. some managed to go to Albania, more precisely most …. but the rest of us on this side, we wanted to surrender … we couldn’t stay during the second offensive, but some friends took us, while the other part of the village went to Albania (not clear), so we stayed here in Kosovo until the end of the war and we’ve been through it all, the hardest things no one can imagine. Just thank God, we didn’t have any family members killed, we survived that way with wounds but we saved ourselves.
AH: How are you injured?
GH: They started shooting early in the morning, we were preparing food in the forest, preparing bread in the evening for the morning. (not clear) When they started shooting at us, I was kneading bread. There were a total of 50 members, most of them refugees from Blace, Malisheva … when they started firing I was preparing food … I didn’t know what to do, how to leave those people without bread, (not clear) more than half people ran away, I went back there again to the food (not clear) and then running uphill they shot again, I was alone with my brother-in-law and my two children. When I got up to the mount I saw an old man, grandfather … he was left alone, he couldn’t move. Then I told my brother-in-law, take these children and go with the refugees, I go back to pick up the old man and we went to a tractor. When I left the old man at the wheel of the tractor, a grenade fell and wounded the old man in the face, and hit me in the shoulder, my shoulder hurt so badly that I thought my inner bone was cut (not clear), I saw that my blood it flows, and there were a lot of wounded there, I can’t remember exactly how many, but I saw the 25-year-old die, he died there on the spot and I saw many others who were not allowed to watch that happen. After the war and a long time after that, we had traumas, me and my children, we saw the horror, everything bad.
AH: And when you returned to your house after the war, how was it in that place, do you remember?
GH: When we returned home, only the walls remained, all the houses were set on fire, there was nothing left. We went to the neighbor’s house, the guest room was large, it was located near a barn, then we had it in front of the window (it is not clear), there were a total of 14 family members in that small room, we were sitting there. When we came back I was not allowed to enter the yard, we went there to the neighbor….after 2 weeks, we went to my family in the village (not clear) we sat there until we made accommodation. There was nothing there, everything that was left was destroyed, clothes, gold, everything was taken away … we only had what we were clothed during the war. Thanks to the good people, for helping us and after that we got supplies (not clear).
In addition to killing and wounding us, they also destroyed the property we had. We were expelled twice (not clear).
AH: How did you feel after the end of the war?
GH: After the war ended, I felt somehow, knowing that we were liberated … as if we were flying, we felt good …. we freed ourselves from shooting, when something shot we would always be reminded of events … we didn’t we cared about whether there was food or not, we could live in a tent only if we no longer had what we went through every day, we took care of the children a lot … I remember when we were in exile for 7 weeks, that the children were clothed, that be ready for the night, to put them on our backs and run. We separated our food only for children (not clear).