Interviewer: Verona Sopa
Interviewee: Nazmije Sopa
Acronyms: VS=Verona Sopa, NS=Nazmije Sopa
VS: Can you tell me something about yourself?
NS: I am Nazmije Sopa, 41 years old, and by profession teacher.
VS: How did you experience the war?
NS: If all people think that war in Kosova had occurred in 1999 year, I think a bit differently. My entire childhood was war.
VS: Why war?
NS: Because, since the year of 90-ies, to Albanian people in Kosova have been denied fundamental rights from the Serbian regime. At that time, all Albanian parents were expelled from their work place. Albanian schools were closed, televisions, radios, newspapers, theatres, everything that has started in Albanian got closed. However, as we are ancient nation we also have many qualities, because we all managed to get mobilized, in order for assimilation to not occur. Many houses were turned into schools. Teachers used to work without payment, only for the students to continue with education. Many houses turned into Universities as well, in which students followed the lectures in private houses. All these injustices did not stop, but became even wilder, until the massacres towards the civilian population began all around Kosova. Only then the International Community took seriously issue of Kosovo, when on 24 March 1999 NATO bombed Serbia.
VS: How did you experience the bombing days?
NS: When the news was broadcasted on television that NATO is starting bombing for us it has been indescribable joy, but as counter response to NATO, Prishtina was full of Serb militaries, police and paramilitaries. They started cleansing of the city, they came with tanks in front of every house and forced us to leave from the house and to go to Albania or Macedonia. But, of course we did not want to leave Kosova. They expelled us from the house, therefore we went from my neighborhood to another neighborhood, with the hope that we will remain in Kosova, in our land. However, even there came a group of Serbs in military uniforms in which was written Military Police, of course in Serbian language and their faces were entirely painted in black. We were in the house of my uncle. They came inside, and ordered us to go outside, just as we were. They ordered us to go to the yard and from there to go out. They only stopped my uncle in the yard. As I heard them a bit, with my basic knowledge of Serbian language as far as I understood they were asking for money and for the vehicle which was my brother’s. All left whilst I approached the 5 Police Officers and I pulled my uncle from his arm by saying: “Come with us”, but one of the Police Officers pulled him to the opposite side. In that moment, my brother made me a sign to go and get the key of the vehicle and give it to them in order for the uncle to be released. I did so, I pulled my uncle very much and I handed over the key to a certain Police Officer who was holding him on the arm. Surprisingly, in those moments I was not afraid at all, whilst today when I recall those moments I get terrified. How scary and armed they were. Then, as we went out to the yard, Police and the army kept us in the line and we could not leave the line. They sent us straight to the train station where we had a real terror. There were so many people, thus the train got full, and hundreds of people remain at the train station where we stayed all night. There were many Serbian forces that all night were machine gun shootings above our heads. It has been the most terrible night of my life. There was a case when a woman gave birth there at the train station. There were babies who cried ceaselessly, because they did not have milk, there were children who cried, because they were hungry. It was a horror. A horror that cannot be described in words. This way we stayed until the morning when the train came, but there were so many people in it, that if there were 20 more trains, they would not fit the people that were in the train station, without their will, of course.
My family and I succeeded to get on the train, it was also so narrowed there that we could not even move our hand, and being very crowded the train left to Macedonia, but in Fushë Kosova the train stopped, in which were paramilitaries who entered into wagons and pulled out young people. We very scared there, but luckily in our wagon they did not enter at all. Those who were near the window used to tell us: “they took two boys, three girls” whose fate even today we do not know. After two or three hours in Fushë Kosova the train left and continued the road up to Blace, border with Macedonia where they disembarked us in the neutral zone. There we were safe from Serbian forces, but even there we had a very bad treatment from the Border Police of Macedonia. We stayed there for six (6) days in the open sky and almost all the time in the rain. Albanians from Macedonia started to bring us food there, because many of us did had not eaten for 2-3 days, and after the 6th day they came and took us by bus and sent us to a camp which was prepared with tents for refugees. We stayed there for few more days, and from there my life has changed.
VS: How did it change?
NS: Ah, it changed not only for that just because I left my hometown, but I also left my family, because at that time I had a boyfriend and both of us were students. Our plans were first to finish the studies and afterwards to get married. However, there we decided to get together and begin the life together.
VS: How were the circumstanced created in order for you to meet each other?
NS: Aaa, since at that time there were no mobile phones, even reunion between people was very difficult. Aaa, my partner was looking after me for several days. He met one of my friend who told him that family of your girlfriend is in Macedonia and then he started to look after me in every town of Macedonia, and in one city he found out a list in which was my name and last name, Nazmije Sopa. He together with a relative went to find me, where a family from that list with the name and last name as ours happened to be in a very remote mountain village, somewhere in the Municipality of Tetova. He went there, and surprisingly he met a person whom he asked “is Nazmije Sopa here”?, while he replied “yes, she is”. That person further asked: “Why do you need Nazmije Sopa”? He stated: “but she is my girlfriend” Then, the person said: “Ah young men, I am sorry but she is my wife and she is an old lady” and then he laughed with that gentleman, and had returned with the lost hopes that he is not going to find me, but still he continued to look after me, and finally found me where I was with my family, and afterwards our meeting happened, and after that we met we decided together to get married or to get together and to start the life. Therefore, we both settled in one camp. In that camp there were many International Organizations and Embassies that were taking and bringing refugees to different countries of the world. Since my husband was doing volunteer work at the Australian Embassy, they insisted for us to go to Australia and we accepted this offer. The trip to Australia was very long. Upon our arrival there we encountered warm reception and very good conditions, but we who were hurt and traumatized from the war did not enjoy anything and all the time we were listening the news about Kosova, how many people were killed, how many massacred, how many houses were burnt by Serbian forces, and in the other hand how much is NATO bombing Serbia. Therefore, after 78 days of NATO bombing, Serbia knelt down and Kosova was liberated. It was a great joy for us. We immediately requested to go back to Kosova. Australians, Australians tried to convince us to stay in Australia, because they told us that your houses are burnt there, mined sites, which was true. But, we still wanted to return to our lands. In month of August we went back to Kosova. Aaa, I cannot describe that happiness. As soon as we entered in the border of Kosova we had nothing to see except all burnt houses.
However, in those burnt houses, in their roofs the red and black flag was flying. That flag was flying for which many martyrs gave the blood, that today we are enjoying this freedom.