H.K.

Photo by: Korab Krasniqi

Stories of women survivors of torture during the last war in Kosovo (5/10)

Raping the Entire Neighborhood

With their children and other family members they had left the village with the idea of searching for a safer place. For months they wandered from one village to another. It became harder and harder for a mother and her children as time was passing.

Under the orders of Serbian paramilitaries, she and six other families were placed in some abandoned houses in a city of Kosova. All were children and women. They were systematically raped for several months. Children were not spared. She is convinced that she has managed to abort using folk medicine seven weeks after the first rape.

First Person Narration: I Aborted the Fetus I Had from Them

H.K.

I was born in 1969. My childhood was a difficult one. We were poor. Misery, hardship. We grew up under harsh circumstances. My father was unemployed; we were many children. We suffered a lot. We went through so much. Imagine, there were days my mother managed to bake a bread. She would not eat at all. She would start to cry. I was the biggest child. I would see our mother cry and I’d say, “I don’t want to eat either.” I swear to God. Life was so difficult. We were all good at school though. In spite of what we went through and the hardship, they are now all employed, some are doctors, and professors. I am talking about my brothers. We the girls could not continue our schooling.

I got married at 17. It was an arranged marriage.

My husband’s family was rich. So, the time came. We used to make so many handcrafts, maybe you remember, to have all that for when we get married.

It was Saturday morning, I clearly remember, and I started to cry, because I was getting married. Not cry; I bled from my eyes. I felt so sorry about leaving mamma. So Sunday came, and it was the day for me to get married. They came to get me with two sets of drums. They were that rich and they were throwing a big wedding party. But my father felt unpleasant as he was poor. The wedding lasted for a week.

I had never seen my husband before that Sunday when we got married. I never saw him that Sunday when I first went to their house, or during the wedding, until he came to sleep in the same room with me. My husband turned out to be quite a good man. He never yelled at me, he never ordered me around, neither did he see me as lower because I came from a poor family. Never in my life. We went on quite well. His people all liked me.

I gave birth to my first child only 10 years after we got married. First I had a daughter, then God gave me a son, and then another daughter. There, three children to my life.

Before the war, I mean until the war broke out, we had a happy life. God gave me children. My daughter was in her first grade. I was happy with my husband. Never did we have any problems or issues. He showed respect for me and I respected him too.

They came as they started to collect arms. They took the hunting rifle from my father and even slapped him in front of our eyes.

Every night at 7 p.m. the curfew started and we were not allowed outdoors until 7 a.m. the next morning. And then when the war broke out it was April.

I was preparing the dough for the bread, and a neighbor comes and asks my father-in-law, “Where are the boys, where are the women, the girls!?” He looked like he had lost it. My father-in-law said, “Well some are in the field working, and others are inside.” “Assemble them quickly, the war has started. We’re finished.” “What are you saying?” “I swear to God. It’s true. Tell the entire neighborhood.” We all went crazy. The war?

“Run away, because we don’t know what awaits us!”

“Where shall we go to?”

The Serbs started coming towards us. Military vehicles, cars, surrounded us.

What were we to do? The shooting started, the turmoil started, going up the mountain.

We grabbed our children, abandoned our houses and went to another village. It is a bit higher up on the other side. The war had no stopping from then on.

The police and the military were all stationed there. We spent that night without sleeping at all.

They started to shoot above the houses. Dear God, we were terrified.

There was this basement. The entire neighborhood assembled there, in our basement. And we spent a good three days there. Some would try to emerge and bring some food secretly, or something we could cook and eat, but then after three days they found us and kicked us out of there. The men had run away in the mountain earlier, so they were not there. It was only us women there. Men were afraid to remain with us. The day the shooting started they all left and there was no chance for them to return home any more. We would find a way to send them some crumbs of food, secretly of course.

“Move it now, get out of here, go wherever you want.”

We didn’t know where to go. What way were we to go? We set off towards a nearby village. The night that we set off, my son, my only son, fell off a balcony. I had gone out to fetch some water from the well and take to the children inside. I had left my son on the balcony. But then a bomb exploded, and my son got scared. He jumped from the balcony and fell on concrete. He tore off his forehead and his eyebrow.

I thought that he had died. I took him inside; he was covered in blood. We put him on a tractor and sent him to a doctor in a nearby village. He put some stitches, closed his wound and I am very thankful to him, wherever he might be now. And we went back to the other village. Back there, everyone thought my son had died. But he gained his strength and soon got better. They then came to the house and caught us all there.

They assembled us in one field, all of us. We were out in the open for three days and nights. The first night I remember, it got very cold and started to rain. We had all gathered to feel warmer, without food or water. The children were crying. Some people had taken some flour and were trying to bake some bread there with some fire. They threw bombs on us. They killed a man, and then a woman. Cries, children terrified, it was horrible. It was so hard to have to suffer all that. Shells were flying over our heads. They came in among us and collected young men, choosing them at random. They would even take boys as young as 11. They took them away.

Three days later they released the men and so we got on our tractors again and headed towards the city.

We were moving across a field when many soldiers appeared before us. They were all dressed in black and masked. All were armed and were pointing the arms towards us. They started to swear at us, beat us up. They laughed and joked, swore a lot, while we were all crying and screaming.

They ordered us to go back, so we did for another two hours and went to a field full of people.

We stayed there for ten full days. Then then came, burned our tractors and ordered us to walk one after the other.

I had one of those concrete trolleys where I had put my daughter and pushed her. But the wheel would not move in the mud. It was raining heavily.

God wanted it to rain, and it was pouring. And it was muddy. My daughter was only seven weeks old. She had lost her conscience. My God, I thought, my girl is going to die. I did manage to push my daughter to the bridge. I left her on the bridge. Got her down. I said to myself, “Dear God. Forgive me.” I could not do anything else. Had I stayed there, I would have been killed.

I parted from my little girl. I was exhausted, could not catch my breath, and it was so hard. There is nothing like parting once and for good from your own offspring. I asked Lord to forgive me, I closed my eyes and I put my girl down.

Nobody knew what was to happen to us. We were all traumatized, exhausted... and they were pushing us to our limits. The minute I moved on and made a few steps, my baby started to cry. My other daughter, who was 6 at the time, went to her and started to pull her. “Leave her,” I said. “No mom, I won’t,” she said. I said, “Let me get you and your brother to the other side of the bridge, and I am coming back for her.”

I took a blanket from one of the tractors, tore it apart and tied it around my waist, and tied my baby around my waist with it. Then we moved without stopping. Three days later they let us enter a village. We all went inside a school. It looked like a palace to us.

They told us that we had to move on, as we could not stay there. We decided to split and people were heading each their own way. About 60 of us took the same path. We went beyond the city and got to a village. And there we were stopped again; we were all ordered to remain there. “Come on now, either you’ll give us all of the gold and money you have, or we will slaughter you all!” they were saying. They had gathered animals, and they were killing in front of our eyes horses and cows, dogs even, whatever animal they could. I made some steps backwards, with the baby around my waist and my son on the trolley. But this man with a scarf around his head grabbed my son, put him down his feet, pulled a knife from his wrist and put it against my boy’s neck. And he says “Money, gold, or the child is gone.” I said, “Please, for the love of God, I have no other son but him.”

Another one saw me cry and hit me with the back of his riffle on my back. I begged, “O please, I beg of you, don’t kill this boy. Kill me rather. Kill my daughters too. Kill me right away, but do not kill this boy.”

I had a chain, two rings on my fingers. I took them off quickly, and presented them to him. I took off my earrings too, and that’s all I had. There, I said to him, that’s all I have. Please, kill me but let this boy live. Please don’t kill him.”

They searched us thoroughly. Our bags as well. They let my son go. But when he released him, he gave him such a hard push, that the boy fell on the asphalt, so his nose and mouth got filled with blood.

These ones were uniformed. It was a green color uniform. Mostly green and then around here it was a bit more mixed with yellow. Their scarfs were black.

But they would not let us go. They held us there. We’d be there all day long. They insulted us. All sorts of swearwords. “I will tear off your (private parts)”, they’d say, “I will do this and that.” They would laugh, drink alcohol, joke. They kept us there all day. Before it got dark they said we needed to go to the city. And they asked us to each find a house. We each had a young girl with us, 17-year-old. The one with me was ever so beautiful. They said “Should she run away, we will kill you!” She slept with us that night in a house we went to in the city. We didn’t know what to expect, just chose a house and entered it. We had no idea what was going to happen. They came on to us that night, and they guarded us all night long. They would be outside or in the neighborhood. Inside the house, we screamed and yelled. The next day they said, “Remain in the same places and in the same numbers. If there’s someone missing, we will kill you all. We did not dare move. What were we to do? We knew what was going to happen to the young girl. We decided to help her escape.

They came and had remembered her. They asked for her. That night the raping started.

It was the end of May. We spent three weeks here, and three there.

They all ran away, and I was left in that house with the children and the old woman.

When the paramilitaries came to me, they said, “Where are the others?” “They ran away, what do I know?”, I said. “How did they run away? We will slaughter the old woman now, and the children too. I said, “I did not come with anyone else here. Slaughter me. I will not get any worse. Us here are dead already.” I could speak some Serbian, as I had an aunt married in Prizren. And in school we would have a class a week in Serbian, like they learn English now. I said “If you find nobody else, here I am. Kill me. There is no-one here. We’re the only ones left, so do whatever you want, I have nowhere to go, nowhere to run to.” And they started to come from that day on. They would refer to one of them as Boza, he was a bit older. He was a paramilitary and had his own group. He started to come, not just to me but he would go from one house to the other. He would come every day. He would enter the yard, and ask for coffee or tea. Or he would order me to make him pies and food, I would beg him, ask him not to assault me for the sake of God, and he would say, “Fuck your God. What God? There is no God here.” Please, I would ask him. He brought some coffee with him one day and asked me to make him some. There was no electricity, no wood, no stove. I found some candles inside the house. I was forced to cook it with candle light. He would torture me so much. I was in the house with the old woman and the children only. He’d ask for a pie. Where was I to find the ingredients and make it for him? I was so afraid of them. A woman next door was very pleasant and she saw me one day from the yard. She asked if I had anything to eat, to feed those little children with. She brought 25 kilos of flour, 2 litters of oil, some pasta. She gave that all to me.

When they came on to me the first night, I will never forget. It was a guy called Boba, and I could read his badge, it said he was with the police. I would look at their badges. It was army and police. No paramilitaries. The regular army never touched anyone. None of them touched anyone. It was OK while they were the only ones around. But then three nights later they started to come. And there was this guy called Boba. He was a policeman. All day long he would circle the house where I was staying.

The old woman asked him, “Why are you always going round the house?” And he could understand Albanian. “I am observing the area. Stay calm,” he said to her. He was a policeman. That night four of them came to the door. I had no key or anything. I would use some strings to keep the door closed. They cut them off and got inside. One of them grabbed me and started calling me his sweetheart. My God, what I suffered. The old woman screamed. The children, my little boy, too. We had only two rooms and a corridor. There was a dining table there. And he goes to me “sweetheart,” and starts to chase me. Three of them were staying by the door and one came in. They would wait for their turn. And this one grabbed me, trying to kiss me. I pushed him. He used his riffle to push me. He caught me behind the table. He tried to grab me. He would bite my breasts with his teeth. I tried to protect myself, pushed him and cried. And my daughter cried, the old woman cried. I tried so hard but could not push him. That was the first time. He did what he wanted and I had lost my senses. I lost my conscience.

I don’t know what else happened the first night. I was so dizzy and could not even say where I was. We had no clock to know that the time is, if they were still there or gone. We did not know. I just remember waking up. I was totally naked. My mouth, my face, my breasts, my entire body was bruised. I enter the room where the old woman was, and she was screaming. My God, what is happening to us, she would say. There was no stopping ever since that day. Some of them would come every other night. The same guys. Then they would come again. They would come at night.

It was the time for my cycle. Then seven weeks past but I did not menstruate again. I started to throw up. I started to feel the smells more distinctly. I would get tired easily. Dear God, I screamed and cried, but they would not stop.

So I knew I was pregnant. I was calculating, as I already had had the experience with my previous pregnancies, and I could recognize the signs. And I knew that I had been impregnated by one of them.

I went to the neighboring house. The people had abandoned it; I find some food and eat it. And then I started to feel sick, something disturbed my stomach. My belly got swollen. I felt so sick. I could hardly move. I knew I was very ill. And I started to think that I would die. I tried to fight though, as I did not want my children see me die there. I thought I go elsewhere. I started to walk. It was such a hard thing to do. My stomach was swollen like a balloon. I went to a yard of a neighboring house. The old woman saw me. “What’s the matter?” she asked. “Nothing,” I said. “What did you do? Don’t you go die on me and leave me, an old woman, to look after your children.” I told her that I was pregnant. I almost died that night.

All night I was in pain. I had that food in the afternoon. I started to swell, and got sick. When the night came, I had nowhere to go. Then, at around 5 a.m., before sunlight, I remember my cycle starting again. I was bleeding.

Indeed, my cycle started again. And then, maybe some 20 minutes later, some large pieces were coming out of me.

The same people came every day. They have tortured us so much. They made us cook for them and used us.

We were subjected to sexual torture nonstop. I just could not stop them. I pushed the as much as I could but my strength was not enough. But they had us there under their control in those five or six houses in that neighborhood. In short, they made us their slaves.

It was that guy Bozo with his friends. He would use a stick to lift the skirt off a six-year-old girl and look at her panties. He would then push the girl to the ground. The old woman would cry, “It is only a child. Don’t you fear God?” he would laugh, drink, like wild. He asked me that day to make him some pastry, and I said “I have no flour. Kill me, I just cannot do it!”. So he pushed my daughter. He put the stick between her legs, and I still remember her cry to this day. And to this day my daughter is traumatized. She was covered in blood. How can I forgive that man? Is there a God? Is there any justice? Is there anyone on earth who can tell me? And EULEX calls me and asks me, “Do you want to withdraw your statement?” How can I withdraw my statement? I wish God granted me just one chance. Is there a God? If only for once in my life I could see them brought before justice, and sentenced. I will never forget this for as long as I live! Because they were sucking our blood. Is there justice in this world?

My girl remembers it to this very day. And she was six at the time.

Believe me. My girl then started to go to school, after the war ended. She was always frightened; she was never relaxed. Always tense, always traumatized.

My husband does not know the entire story. The old woman has died. My husband does not love me the way he used to any more. It is different now.

He did not know if we were alive until the end of war. I never told him. I was way too embarrassed. I found it so hard to do. Impossible. And I understand my husband.

He has always considered me a wife and a friend. He used to approach me and love me dearly. Very dearly. Even if I tried to mention it to him, he would lose it. Now our relations are very cold, extremely. And we don’t approach each other as husband and wife again. He does not desire me, and I don’t desire him. None of us approach each other. We are distant.

My older daughter always says, “My dear mom, do you remember what the war did to us. Do you remember?” I try to not let her think about those things any more. I try to avoid it, either by going out or by changing the topic. Because she often mentions it. She does not laugh, she started the school but never laughed.

 

This story is part of "I want to be heard: Memory book with stories of women survivors of torture during the last war in Kosovo", powered by forumZFD and Integra in collaboration with KRCT - The Kosova Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims, and supported by German Federal Ministry for Cooperation and Economic Development, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and UN Women.

 

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