Bjeshka Guri (interviewer)
Kefsere Dula (interviewee)
Acronyms: BG=Bjeshka Guri, KD= Kefsere Dula
KD: My name is Kefsere Dula, I am an Albanian language teacher.
BG: Can you tell us how the war started, how do you remember the war starting?
KD: The war started, as they say … it was very difficult to experience all that, because we couldn’t even imagine it, we had a hard time experiencing it, because we didn’t expect the day to come to leave our country. One day, after the NATO bombing, after NATO launched the Serbian Police Headquarter for the first time, we did not expect to leave our apartment even then, but the usurpers came, the Police, with masks and entered our apartment, I was with my three children and my husband , when they saw them, so suddenly, the children were terrified.
I told them, calm down, it’s nothing, don’t be afraid, now we will go out, the children were afraid that they would kill us, I didn’t have time to bring any clothes, because we had food, we bought it, I was prepared and already had bought some food, because I didn’t think we would have to go out during the war, I thought it wouldn’t last. I did not think that they would deport us, the whole of Kosovo, as the Serbs thought.
BG: Was it just you, just your family, or were there other families, too?
KD: No. There were 5 families in that building, they kicked us all out. First they started from the first floor, then the second floor and so on … only one Serbian family lived on the fifth floor.
When they came to us on the fourth floor, they told us that we had to leave the apartment and get out. I told them why we should leave the apartment. They told us we had to get out.
We left the apartment, I was with the children and my husband …
After we went out into the hallway, I didn’t know what to take with me, I didn’t bring any clothes or anything, I went out with slippers, I only brought jackets for the children, I told them to take them since we would be outside and that it could be cold.
I didn’t know where we were going to stay, I gave them their jackets and we went downstairs.
When we went downstairs, I was with our three children and my husband. My husband was stopped. They took him back to the apartment. I told two grown children, a son and the elder daughter, to continue with the neighbors wherever they go, and we will find you on the way. I also stood in front of the apartment, because three policemen took my husband and took him back to the apartment. I was told to leave and that my husband would join us. I told them do you see my daughter crying and I told them do you have parents? Do you have children, are you a parent? Are you a parent of a child? What does a child do for a parent while knowing in what kind of situation the parent is? Go, because he will come, one of them told me, I told him I will not leave until my husband comes out, when my husband comes out, then I will go, too. It lasted for half an hour or an hour … then they brought him out, and they took 2000 euros from him, you took all the juwelry I had and then they searched him. They didn’t beat him, but he was very scared, they put a machine gun in his throat, my husband told me that, then they brought him out and we went downstairs, then we went out and found our children on the street, in the middle of the street, in a place called “Te Qafa” in Pristina, where we met and reunited with our children.
BG: Were you surrounded by Serbian police?
KD: The police were on both sides of the street and they told us: go straight to the train station.
We went to the train station, there we saw that all the people had gathered. Everyone, residents of the „Qafa“ vicinity and people from all over Pristina, came to the train station. We had no bread or water, we had nothing with us. When they entered our apartment, they took us out, and we didn’t even know where we were going. We stayed there until 12 o’clock at midnight. It was dark. It was cold.
BG: At the train station, right?
KD: Yes. At the train station. The train left after it was overcrowded. People were entering even through the windows. The children were put inside through the windows. The door was overcrowded by people.
God, people were crying, what are they going to do to us? What will happen to us. They will send us somewhere to kill us.
Because they didn’t even tell us the place where they sending us.
And when the next train arrived at 12.30, we also tried to get on the train. And even if they kill us, at least we were with the others. They did not allow us to leave the station.
As soon as the second train arrived, my husband and I took the children and got on the train. There we were piled up, like this, as the fingers of a hand join.
We tried to get on the train as soon as possible. We got on the train, some were sitting, some were standing, some were fainting, they couldn’t stand, some were sick, without legs, without arms, old, young, children, there was all kind of people in there.
And when it was half past one in the night, the train started, moved for five minutes, and then stopped, every time the train stopped, we thought they would kill us there, until we arrived in Stankovec, the train was moving so slowly. .. you could get there faster on foot than by train.
The police did not enter inside the train to harm us. We had no water with us. Someone had water, maybe they were prepared, and we couldn’t take anything with us.
When we arrived in Stankovec it was 4 o’clock in the morning. We didn’t know that we were in Stankovec or what the place was called … they just told us that we will stay there. The train stopped and we were told: Get out. We went outside and saw that the place had only grass and bushes, thorns, and dry scorched earth. It was foggy. It was awful. We use to say Help us God, where will we stay, how much we will suffer, there was no living soul out there.
BG: How long did you stay in Stankovec?
KD: We stayed there for 5 days. It was rainy weather. Mud. We laid packages on the ground to sleep … with clothes, as we were dressed. Then people from Tetovo came, I want to thank the Albanians from Tetovo who helped us a lot, they brought us blankets, bread, water, they supplied us with everything. They did not allow us to suffer for anything. The place was horrible, but they brought us blankets and all the necessary things. We stayed there for 5 days. Then it got a little warmer in the middle of the day and an Albanian journalist from Sweden approached and wanted to have an interview. He asked me if you could give an interview? He asked where did you come from? I told him what could I tell you for the interview … This is war. You see people leaving their houses … without sweaters, without anything, with yard slippers. He told me, tell us something … I said, okay. I told him we left the house open. The police kicked us out of the house. I would never come here … nor leave my place. But when you are forced to get out by a machine gun in your throat, then you definitely have to get out. From 9:30 to 13:30 we were at the train station. At half past one we got on the train and arrived here at 4 in the morning.
The interview was conducted at 9 p.m. That journalist was very good. He took off his jacket and put it on my shoulders. And he told me to hold it because it’s cold. I am very grateful to that Albanian from Skopje, who was a journalist. He told me that he could take our grown children with him, he would say that they were also journalists, that was all he could do. I will say they are my helpers and I will take them to my house. He took my two elder children. My husband didn’t know about it because he had gone to get bread, where they brought us bread by truck. The journalist took our children and kept them in Skopje for 5 days or a week. The next day that journalist came back and told me not to worry. His mother takes care of them as if they were her own children. The children are fine, but I’m sorry I can’t find a solution to take you too, because they don’t allow … we’re going through the mountain to get here. I said okay. Let the children be sound and well. Then we started moving towards Stankovac. We suffered a lot in Blace. The place where we were standing was like a hole that you had to cross through it in order to get to Stankovac. You had to walk to reach the army. That part was difficult to cross because the police did not allow us to cross the border and go to Stankovec, on the other side where the army was. Since I was with a little girl, they allowed me to cross and I crossed to the other side … so I moved from Blace to Stankovec, but my husband was stopped. They did not allow him to cross. He talked to them, and somehow he managed to escape, and then we headed towards Stankovec, where the army was. And we stayed there for three weeks. The army brought us tents. But we were, so to speak, psychologically traumatized. We didn’t know where we were going, or what we were going to do, or where we were, or where our other family members were.
BG: Were there any Serb police officers there where you stayed?
KD: In Stankovec?
KD: No, there were no Serbian police there. There was only an army there. While in Blace yes. There were police in Blace.
BG: Where did you go after arriving in Stankovec?
KD: When we arrived in Stankovec, we enrolled to go to Israel. We enrolled and went to Israel. Two days after we enrolled, we received the news that we were going to Israel. We arrived in Israel in three hours.
BG: How many of you were there, approximately?
KD: 150 people. There were 150 of us. And we went there. We were very well received there. The president of Israel was also there. They greeted us with flags. It was an incredibly good reception. At that moment, I know that I relaxed a bit, when I saw that they were waiting for us with red flags and they welcomed us very well. Because I don’t forget the horror the time left behind. Even now when I mention those moments, I recall the horror and that very difficult time. They placed us there nicely, in a nice hall, offered us a drink and welcomed us in their language, and an Albanian from Albania translated our speech, in fact the translation was a woman. Her name was Hana, she was a woman from Albania and she translated for us in Albanian. We stayed there for an hour. After an hour they sent us to another place, how to say … somewhere in the outskirt of Tel Aviv and there they booked a restaurant for us to eat and drink. They also prepared a place for us to sleep. It was a special place for sleep. There were 150 of us in that group.
BG: How long did you stay in Israel?
KD: We stayed in Israel for 6 months. After two or three weeks, we were told that one family member could work. My husband said okay. Why not work. He started working a little. Then he took his son to work. Our elder daughter also started working. Only the little one didn’t work. Then, after two months, because even small children had to be taught, not to forget the language, they asked if there was anyone who was graduated on education, I was qualified, I finished higher education and worked as a teacher, I finished language studies, and said that I can work with children. They told me okay, just if you are willing to work with children, and I said I would work, just tell me the place where classes will be held because I am ready to work with children. And I worked there for about two months with the kids. Then I taught Albanian children Albanian language classes, mathematics, physical education, they were happy with me, I worked with children on some topics, some music, some acting, the children asked if we would ever return to Kosovo? I told them that we will. Just had to wait for the situation to calm down a bit. The kids were happy with me. I was happy with them too. What to do. Such is life during the war. It was hard to experience such things.
BG: Have you considered returning from Israel?
KD: We would return to Kosovo on the first day. We would fly this way if we had wings. We thought of staying there, but after 6 months we were told the return date and returned to Kosovo. When we returned to Kosovo, everything was burned, but still nothing can be compared with your homeland. However, when I think that the family survived, I was happy, because some families were affected by the war, some were destroyed, many people were killed and massacred. We lost no one in the family. I pray to God and I hope that from now on it will be better at least for young people because as far as we are concerned our generation has gone through these difficulties, at least for you young people to be better. And I believe it will be better.
BG: Hopefully. Thank you so much for your time, we wish you all the best.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview.
KD: Thank you.