Stories of members of families of missing persons from the last war in Kosovo (3)

Interview with: Nezir & Hamide Avdyli | Photo: Atdhe Mulla

Interview with Nezir and Hamide Avdyli 

The parents of eight children, Nezir and Hamide Avdyli, remember the time when the war broke away from their two sons and they have never seen since. Three of their boys, Fadili (24), Fatmiri (18) and Kujtim (16-year-old), were separated from the family to join the convoy of people being deported. Kujtim together with some of his cousins managed to hide in a hut. The other two were in the group who had withdrawn from the convoy to a yard of one house. There Fatmir was killed while Fadil managed to run, but he was injured in his arm. One of his neighbours who met him has bandaged the wound. He is the last one to report seeing Fadil alive. 

Today, after twenty years, the family knows nothing about his destiny, despite the efforts to find him made by father Neziri and brother Kujtim. Hamide tells that Fadil often comes in her dreams saying: "Come on, mother, come with me because I don’t have time! You come with me, also"! The parents are living with the hope that at least they will find their remaining while they are still alive.  

“Something happened, don’t cry!” 

Nezir Avdyli: Narration in first person: 

I am from Ofçar, there I am born and grown up for some time until we were taken as soldiers. I was young and jobless. That time we were cultivating the land, just to survive, as people says. Now, somewhere in 69 I have served one year in the then military force. My father was having heart issues, he couldn’t work, and my mother was old. My mother is still alive, she is 100 years old. Yes, she is abroad, she is there at her sons.  

When I was back from military, I got a job and got married while I was still in the village. Trepça was hiring employees. I have worked in Trepça for twenty years. I was hired in 1971 and I have worked until 1989 when Slobodan Milosevic fired us all from our jobs. In February 1989, I was in strike for eight days and eight nights we were sitting inside, without going outside at all. When we went out of the mine, we went to Prishtina walking. Then were often protests and events… we were also punished because we did not appear to work. We were requesting our rights. But it was well known who did not give us our rights. We were attending protests, we were coming to Mitrovica.  

My marriage was arranged by middleman. Then no father let his daughter to meet a guy. One of our relatives has told to our next of kin: “I found a good guy; will you give your daughter? He thought for some days and it was the destiny and I got married with her. Before I was engaged to military we were engaged; as soon as I came back from the military, I got married with her and that time I got a job in Trepça. I stayed in Trepça for 12 years, we had our own apartments because Trepça was away from Ofçar about4-5 hours walking. Then we had no cars. The roads were not good. After I have bought this place here, in 77th. In 78thI have built this house with all my efforts. In 80th I have taken my family here. When we moved here, I was going to work singing. Because then when we were working, we have suffered but when I got the job things became better. 

We had the wedding, there were singers who sang when you paid them. There were also drums. But then the women were staying separately from men. The wedding ceremonypreparationsstarted a week in advance. There were also some of old ladies, 5-6 ladies, who prepared the layers for pie. Then, there were some persons called chef, 2-3 persons who knew how to cook, 3-4 big pots, they were cooking all kind of foods. The guests were coming on Saturdays. If the summer was good and you had no enough space, people were sitting outdoor also. They were having fun, dancing. The wedding ceremony started a week before but those daughters, guests, it took a week after until they went back to their homes. However, it was very fun then. Even now days it is fun. Then this was the way of engaging two people, without meeting each other before. For someone was not a good deal. They would never be fit to each other, maybe one of them was much older, or something like that. However, these days, young people are seeing each other, like each other, dating, living together but sometimes they say, they are getting broken and this how they are ruin little bit. 

Our first child was born after one and half year. Now I have six children, 4 boys and 2 girls. But Fatmir and Fadil are not among us. The war was tough for us. He has suffered a lot. We are still suffering. Not only some, but a lot. Here at our house they sometime let us stay but sometimes not. It happened that during the night we had to move somewhere else, in Tavnik to any of our relatives, because we were here around, river Iber is close and even the road was close. But them, were coming every minute, different kind, police, military, with masks, no masks, with beard and no beard, with axes and without axes, armed. We had suffered a lot. I don’t know how is more difficult what we have experienced. 

If I did not forget, the day when we were deported from Mitrovica, it was 15 April ’99. We were deported from our houses. It was also on 16 and 17, I guess, these 3 days were huge war, big storm. For those 3 days, whatever it was inside Mitrovica, they deported everybody in three parts and who ever had the possibility left for Albania. 

I did not, at my gate I have split with my sons. Two days before. And I did not see them anymore. I remained in this side, at Zhabar’s road with my wife and my youngest son, two daughters and sons in-law. My married daughter had two children. There were we have split up because my sons told me: “We will go with some friends of our neighbours where God sends us or to mountains or we will go somewhere but you father go with mother, sisters and children where ever you can”. But I have told them not to split, let them go together because if something happens, we don’t know what will happen. “Yes – told me the other guys at the gate, we are going with some friends because if something happens, it is better not to be all together”. 

This is how I split with them lastly. On the last day I was split with them, here at my gate I have seen them. When they reached there to the uphill, my sisters told me, because three of my sisters were in the same convoy, some of my nephews, seven or eight and some other relatives. However, there the first one was stopped Bedri Muja from Kovaçica, my youngest sister was married to him. He had two children. As I remember one of the children was two years whereas the other one six or seven months old, or one year old, I am not sure.  

I have been told that the police were with masks that time. One tall police, his face was seen, he was white and blue eyes, and he asked Bedri Muja: “Are you Bedri?” he replied: “yes I am” and he said: “come here, give the child to someone and come here!. He has told for three-four times but Bedri did not leave the convoy. Then the police approached and took that child and told: “Someone take this child!”  The mother of the child approached, my sister, and took her child. Bedri was stopped there. Then they have stopped Fadil, Fatmir and my sister’s nephew, his name was Mehdi, he was 20 or 19 years old, he was not older. There they have stopped also some other from Mitrovica neighbourhood; this is what I was told. They were as group, eight or nine people, something like that. This is how a witness has told, they placed in a yard of one house and have killed them there. But how Fadil managed to run from there, only God knows. But he left wounded.  

The old man told me, he was close, a neighbour: “I have met Fadil. This neighbour was in the convoy. But he was very old and exhausted, and his wife was old too. They could not walk in the convoy. The left behind the convoy. They have met my son Fadil. The exchange quickly some words, they could not talk longer because the forces came closer. They have told me that ”he was wounded in his right hand. We have torn apart the shirt a bit and tied the hand quickly”. But Fadil has told them: “everybody inside are killed”. Fatmir was inside with that group. 

Fadil has told to this neighbour: “Now I am split from the convoy, I am injured but my concern is where to go”. There is a road which leads to uphill. To that part there connects with Vagrancies. Then KLA and Bajram Rexhepi have been there, the doctor has had his own headquarter, for the people who need aid. This neighbour has told him: “go that way, I hope you will be seen by KLA and they will take you there immediately”. Fadil left in that direction. He left immediately and this is all what I know as my neighbour told me. Since then, 19 years have gone, and we don’t know anything about his fate.  

So, Fadil knew about Fatmir. But how he left from that yard, that fire, those killings, I don’t know.  If he left from door or window, I don’t know. But to this neighbour he has told another one. When they were put inside that house, to this brother-in-law, Bedri Muja, he has told: “Shall we escape from window, if we survive good but if not, we are dead anyway”. He replied: “No, we are not going to escape because we did nothing, we don’t own anyone. They might let us go. “But as Fadil has told, they have let them outside and there they have fired on them. 

We knew nothing. We were running up to our home and sometime to some of our relatives. Somedays we could not sleep, we stayed awake and dressed. One day a guy came at our gate and told me: “who are you?” I replied “I am Nezir”. I was smoking in balcony. I have seen some people, many women and men, they were coming from Iber and walking in direction of Tavnik, there at a curve, while I was passing through a yard, I have seen around eight or nine young men, dressed, handsome, with bags, made you believe they are smiling, but they could not talk. But I did not dare to look at them because police were there at the station. Above them was a house full of police. I was afraid they will kill me if I look at them. And I told to myself, poor their mothers and fathers, that our young men are going. I felt a lot of pain for them. I did not know who they are, but I felt pain for them.” 

After one week, another guy came at my gate. He was another. He asked me who am I. I told him. And he replied: “be strong men, because your son Fatmir, I knew him, he was player. One of your nephews also, I knew him also, and Bedri Muja from Kovaçica, and some other friends there with them”. This is how he expressed condolences. He said: “We had difficulties to take them two nights before together with KLA, for seven days and seven nights they have stayed there in that yard”. They could not take them; they did not dare because of police forces. “We have taken them during the night in two parts and moved to Vaganica, there they are buried, and they have a cloth in the upper part”. In addition, he told me: “Whoever we knew, we have printed their names”. On 16 April my sons were killed.  

I suffered and suffered a lot, not eating or drinking at all, on rain, running to the house, up and down. A lot of suffers. We were here sitting and a person from behind came and told: “police came a we put some people to a field, I have been asked to tell you to go there, you go in direction of Tavnik”. I don’t know who that man was. Moreover, we took a shortcut here through some houses, because we didn’t dare to go down the road because they could shoot on us from the castle. We went to the health house, as there was an open place. There were many people, old, young, women, a lot. I don’t know where these guys went anymore. There they have kept us until 11 or 12. Police came on that day also, military, some with axes, with beards but I do not know to tell because they were criminals, chetniks from Serbia.  

From there they have taken us to bus station. It was raining whole day long. When I left from there, I could not wear my shoes, but I had a pair of “opinga”, traditional shoes, and I went to prison and later in Albania. With those opinga, no socks at all. We had nothing, just to run as fast as you can. There they started around 12 midday until 5 in the evening, to separate men in huge mass, only a very old man was left with women.  

When a truck arrived, it was like we were potatoes, the truck was filled with people. The last ones were beaten with edge of the gun. We did not know where they are taking them. The last remaining people were around 150 or more. It was around 5 o’clock in the evening they have put us in that truck. When we reached at the market the driver purposely drove fast and we felt on each other. The swop platform broke and three to four people felt down.  What happened with them further I don’t know. If the climbed back to truck or not I don’t know anything. I felt in the truck’s base. How many people felt above me, I don’t know but I felt breathless. There is nothing worse than when you have no breath. With God’s help I got little up, holding on my hands and my throat was released. I could have died there on the truck. 

Then we went at Sjenica Bridge, there where the barrier is. There they have brought one truck covered with tends. They have approached the trucks close to each other and we left that truck and got into the other truck were they have closed the tent, we did not know where are we going anymore. However, we were drove to Mitrovica’s prison. When the first ones left out, police were standing in both sides and they were armed, and they had big black sticks. Half of the stick was black and the other half yellow. They were beating us with them, and people started shouting: “oh mother, oh mother”. They put us inside the prison there was a huge yard. Before I entered the prison’s gate a police officer has beaten me as much as he could between my arms, I almost felt down. I still have the feeling of that pain in my shoulders, and I cannot walk straight, I walk bended. My back is in pain, because with that stick he has beaten me as many times as he wanted. 

As soon as we entered, they have placed us with face towards the wall. Our hands were cuffed. Then there one by one: “you come, you come, you come” were taking us to the prison. As much as I remember, it was first floor. There is a circle, police were standing there, and you could not enter or leave from there anymore. When my turn came, they told me “you come”, but we did not dare to look anywhere. In my left side was another one but I did not dare to look, I did not know that he left. The police came speaking in Serbian said to me: “What were you waiting?” he swore on my mother and hit me for around four time, with as much force as he had. I barelystraighten up. 

They have taken us to prison’s offices to interview us. There was a commander, I don’t know who he was, but he was young. There were three police in his left and other three to his right and two or three behind. I was surrounded by them. When I entered, he said” “Do you speak Serbian? I replied “I don’t know”. “Is it easy for you to speak Albanian or Serbian, because we know all”. He told me.  The he asked me “where are you from”? I said: “I am from Ofçari.” “How is your name?” “My name is Nezir. Nezir Avdyli”. And he said to me: “look, if you lie or make a mistake and you do not tell the truth, we will beat you here”. I said: “I have nothing to lie because I did nothing”. 

However, I forgot to tell that when we entered in the corridor there were seven or eight people washed in blood, hands were tied behind their neck and face towards wall, but some could not stand on their feet. Two or three of them were sitting but I did not dare to look. Some were standing naked and they were totally undressed. They were totally in blood. We felt that something is going on. We had water mill before in the village. When we were grinding in dry, when there was no corn, the mill had very hard noise. We felt that something weird will going to happen. When I have seen these people like that, I said to myself: “they are going to do the same to us, they will just ask those questions and then will take us there to grind”. 

In that office that have taken me to say the words, I already told you. He said “Where do you live?” I said: “I live at Aradha e Shalës”. This is how this street was called then. One of the police officers took a stick to hit me on the head and said to me: “you are lying, it’s not called like that”. Another police officer told him: “don’t hit him because he is not lying. Two weeks ago, I was there and is called so, but he said I am surprised because we are here in Mitrovica for long time, but I never seen this man”. He said: “Do you ever go out?” I said: “Whenever I need to go and buy something for the house. When I do not need, I work at home or stay there”. The other police that was interviewing me said: “two days ago we were at Ofçari, looking for you. We stayed there for two days and two nights. We went there because of you. I said: “I don’t know for who you went there but I am telling you where I live in Mitrovica and I am not aware I have done anything. You have taken us and now we are on your hands, you have the possibility and now you can do whatever you want with us”. “He told me do you know how much is 99%? I said: “Yes I know,” he said: “I am swearing that 99% you will not go out alive, but 1% yes”.  

They gave us some documents; someone is from Vaganica and some others to some other places, someone there, documents that we were in KLA. “Do not lose these documents!” There we stayed for two weeks. We were around 150 people. They gave us water. But we could not just drink without eating. They used to give us a very tiny piece of bread, old, God know for how long it was there, and also was something like soup, I do not know exactly what it was.  

There they have kept us for two weeks. On 16th of May they have taken us there whereas on 29th or 30th May they moved us from there. The day when they let us go, it was around 8 in the morning. A police officer came with bunch of paper in his hand and said: “whoever I call by name, shall take its own clothes and go out in the corridor, and to back on the wall with their hands behind the neck”. We left out but there was no space and they let us go out in the yard. There we have stayed until everybody came out. When we left out with our hands behind our neck, they were calling: “you come, you come, you come!”, but we didn’t dare to look. As soon as I looked up, I have seen Kosovatrans’s buses were at the door. I have seen two buses, I don’t know if there were more or not. There we handed over all the documents that we had with us. The person who was taking the documents I don’t know if he was police or soldier. The documents that they have gave to us, we handed over there.  

When I entered in the bus, a police officer was there, I did not know him before, he was staying there whilst we were in the prison and he was beating as often as he could. Someone told that he has no children or anyone else. When I approached at the bus’s door, he hit me as much as he could, even though I was walking bended. He has beaten me up until it was enough for him, but I held on the door otherwise he would have broken my jaw and face. We entered in the bus until it was full and these two police. They were very young. Even the driver was young. We, who were in the bus, and another bus, have taken to the bus station. When they took us there, we were kind of happy. We thought: “they are letting us free”. When we reached there, they turned to gas station and they were supplied with fuel. As soon as he came in, we understood that there is chance to take us home, but we did not know what was expecting us.  

Then, as soon as they filled the bus with fuel, the police have told us: “we cannot open the doors but open the windows and if you see any relative, neighbours ask them about your families”. Some have seen someone and asked. I have seen a man whose house is close to old school. He did not know us, and I could not talk to him and ask “if my family is alive, or where they are?” And he was far away. The bus left, all the buses and directed to Prishtina. These two police officers, they were young, somebody said that they are from Suhadoll, driver and the police officer. Whoever wanted they gave a cigarette. I did not smoke, because I was smoking that time, but I did not smoke for two weeks and I did not take from him. I told him: “I don’t smoke”. It was a girl there when we left; I don’t know who she was. Who was her brother or father there, I don’t know, but has asked about her relative, who was at the front door “can you tell me where are you taking them and what will happen to them?” He said: “at four o’clock in the evening you come here, I will tell you where I left them”. I don’t know who she was, but she was speaking in Albanian.  

We left in direction to Prishtina. When we reached in Millosheva, the bridge was destroyed. The bus went down to that road and we went somewhere in Fushë Kosova. Where ever we go there were police, soldiers, with and without beards and armed. We were thinking when they are going to shoot us… we were just listening what will happen with us. He drove us directly to Zhur. When we reached there, the bus stopped. While we were going the Serbian police told us: “we know where you are coming from. You are coming from prison. If someone wants to have water, take it and said you are free to go”. They said to us “your border is 4-5 km away from here. If yours will let you cross the border, it’s your business. Our job was up to here, we can’t go further. We are just telling you something to be aware. The road, on the left and right, is mined. Don’t you dare to go out of the convoy or anything else because you will fall in mines”. Further he said: “the houses around are full of police and soldiers, you do not see them. As soon as you step out, they will kill you”. We did not split, and we went. “They told us to go with tied hands”. 

When we left out, we went in colon, like guests when they take the bride, one by one. We have gone quiet far and I could not hold the arms up. I told to one man before me: I cannot hold my hands anymore”. The voice was going to each other and speaking if there were any police or not. Someone said no. “We have no one. No more police”. While we were going down to the road a man became nervous with some women and children and said: “they will turn you back, because they turned me back at the border”. No one has stopped us anymore. We were safe. We went to Albania. There were not much police. However, we could not look much, but there were not much police around.  

Then, we enter Albania’s border. As soon as we crossed the border, there came some vans to help us. Thanks to our brothers there in Albania. They have helped us as much as they could. The came with cars and vans to pick us up and took us to Kukës. There were many refugees. There I sat and had some rest. People were coming to ask about their relatives from Mitrovica. 

There came a young boy, he was here close on rent, he found me. And he told me: “Nezir, your sister and nephews are at this place. And he said to me “We have seen on TV that your sons, nephew and brother-in-law have been killed. Is this true? I said: “yes, everybody was found except Fadil”. Later came another brother-in-law, he is still alive, he found me there and brought some packet with cigarettes. I have stayed with them. The young boy who was living close to us, said: “I will take you to your sisters and nephews”.  However, I did not go walking because it was quite far, and I had no money to pay a taxi. While I was in the prison, they have taken 100 DM from me. He said to me “You don’t need to pay anything. I will pay for you”. He took me there. It was quite far. During that way there were a lot of people. There I found two of my sisters. There was also the one that her husband has been killed and the one that her son was killed. They were crying, grieving. They asked me about the ones that are killed. They were asking for my sons, for her son and the other sister for her husband. I told them: “don’t worry about them because my sons, my nephew and brother-in-law have gone with KLA. They will not leave them alone, they will stay with them, don’t worry”. However, they were dead already, but I should not tell them. The sister with two children was crying all the time. She was swearing telling to me “You know but you are not telling“. No sister, don’t you worry because they are alive, but they are with KLA, they are with our military”.  

There we have stayed for one month, until the end of June. When I went there, I found my family, they said to me: “Children are having cold here, we will go to Tirana, and we found a house for rent there”. They asked me: “Are you coming with us?” I said: “I will try to find a connection, if someone can take me and go home because I don’t know what happened with others”.  

My wife, the married daughter and my youngest daughter were In Albania. I had also three sons, because one of them was abroad. However, things were not as I was thinking. Somebody said to me: “Don’t you dare, because you might not go alive there, but come with us”. We then went to Tirana. We have rented a house close to the road. We all contributed to pay the rent. They have welcomed us. I cannot express how much. There was a taxi driver who took me every day “Come with me and let’s sooth the boredom”, and we were hanging around.  

It was one month when NATO entered. We have had a brother-in-law; he had a van and also car of my nephews. I wanted to go back immediately, and I had no means. We came with them together. I had many sisters there. I had many difficulties to tell them what exactly happened. We came with that van just before the sun set. When we reached at a place called Lushnje, beyond bus station, my oldest sister is married there. She left there. A lady from our neighbour, she is quite old, but maybe she thought that my sister knew about her son, as soon as she left out from the van, she entered in the house yard, she greeted by hand and said to her “I am sorry” expressed the condolences for her son. She started shouting, screaming “Brother, why you didn’t tell me?” the other sister found out about her husband. Those days were very tough for us, very tough.  

I forgot to tell you that when we went to Albania, they prepared the phones, meaning that they found out that we entered in Albania, because we reported there. There was a person who was mentioning the names who ever came in Albanian. This is done in purpose that other family members to understand about their families. All my brothers and my son who was abroad found out that I am in Albania. For the other part of family for a time we did not know they are alive, because phones were switched off. For a period of time I did not know where my mother, my wife and children are. I did not know if they are still alive. I did not know. After a while I got connection with my brothers and they told me “they are alive but exhausted, they are at home but not home”. When I came here, I found my mother, wife, one of my sisters, the youngest one, and whoever I left alive a found the alive.  

When we came back from Albania, we went to Vaganica cemetery, there where Fatmir was burred. I am very thankful to KLA, our brother that they have taken him, regardless if my son was with uniform or not, Serbs could have taken him, and God know where that would have taken him. I am thankful to whoever have taken him, so, we went there to see where they are buried. We went there with my brother-in-law, the one that his son was killed, my sisters and family. The whole group that was taken together were buried in row. There everybody was crying. You did not know which one to calm down first. It was hard. I don’t know how I stood. They left their clothes above the grave. We found Fatmir’s jacket above the grave. He was wearing same jacket when he left home, and sport pans. Whoever buried him there, they put his jacket and new sneakers above his grave. We did not find the sneakers, but the jacket was there. We could recognize him from his clothes and whoever was known by KLA, they printed the names. We knew exactly that ours are there. 

After six months a commission with some doctors came from Hague Tribunal. They were exhumed there. They invited families, parents, who ever had their family members there. We went there for 4-5 days until all that row was completed. Each that was exhumed they called the family to see that body. They put them into plastic bags and zipped them. When came the turn of my son Fatmir, they exhumed. At the beginning they didn’t let me see but my brother-in-law stayed there. Then he called me. “Come because they pulled out your son”. When I approached he was zipped in plastic bag. They were taking to doctors to see. I opened the zipper by one of foreigners told me in his language “don’t you open it!” however, I opened and seen my son. I have seen all his body was with clothes. Even his sport trousers were like new. His socks were on. Only his flesh has fallen. They took him, checked him, they did whatever they needed to do and brought back. Then we have taken these planks in Zhabar, each for his own family member.   

Fatmir used to have good ring in his finger. That finger was removed. I think maybe criminals did it. When body of my son was exhumed, I have checked myself, trousers were dressed, socks also but face and head, the flesh felt. For parents this is very hard. For the family, for mother and father is very hard. The young men grows up, get married and create his family and they get something. For them is little easier but for father and mother is very difficult. I pray to God “Allah, this was a war, I hope will never happen again. I hope we will not experience same again”.  

We reburied in the same place, they just took them out and we put these planks, as our tradition requires, even these doctors, the commission, said: “for how long we are here, you should not take them”. They told us when they finished their job there. They took some days there. They further said: “we have to go to Suhadoll and they will be done for that year, because weather is changing and we cannot look anymore”.  

Afterwards, we went there every time we need some peace. But we missed a lot, my wife and me. I don’t know to describe how hard it was, because of tears…… I have no force to tell because I grieve a lot. Now days we go during the year to check is the grass is grown or anything. We did not build something big there. We were told that is not good to build at the graves. We have fixed somehow just to identify his grave, his name, reason he gave his life. When their anniversary is, we go with all families. Our grief is awaken, same as on the day when this happened. 

Regarding Fadil, we never heard anything anymore, except what this neighbour has told us. But he is not among us anymore. For some time, we though he is in the prison, somebody said they are there, somebody else there, but probably because he was injured and was not found there were the KLA had the health station in Vaganica, I didn’t believe much that he is there. God knows. Serbia knows very well because it committed the massacre. The criminals from Serbia, Miloshevic he gave the order to do these, they know it very well. But they do not want to tell. Serbia knows very well where the missing persons are. Serbia shall tell this, if they have burned them, put them in the water or they are somewhere in any massive grave, somewhere in a hole. Serbia knows very well where they are but is does not want to tell.  

I remember Fadil and Fatmir, not because they are my children, to praise them, but they were very good, wise, and capable, they had friends, they had everything. At the yard’s gate Fadil has told me: “if something happens, I will die with this worry, that I could not wear the military clothes”. I replied: “I hope nothing bad will happen to you or anyone else, none of the sons of Albanian mothers, I hope nothing bad will happen to anyone”. Fatmir said to me: “Look if something happens, don’t cry because I am going to play football”. He mentioned names of two police officers. He said Ratku and Saviq” I did not know them who they are. But my son told me: “while I am going to play through Tavnik and the way back, maybe they saw me I am playing good, and I am making them jealous, kind of hate me, however I did nothing”. But he said: “if something happens don’t you cry because I don’t care for my life nor spirit to die for Kosovo. The war is war. There is no war without blood. Further he said I hope whoever survives let enjoy the life in Kosovo, because if we run, we cannot live, daddy. Running to go to play, with fear to go to school, fear to have coffee, we cannot live like this”.  

So, he pledged me. For me this is very hard, it is very big deal he left me and told me “don’t cry”.  Both of them pledged me “If something happens, don’t cry for us!” but when I think I am proud, I hold myself, struggle myself and I tell to my family: “We should be strong and not to grieve because they gave life and blood for Kosovo”. The ones who died, who were engaged in military and others who were not, the blood is same. All of them are painful. They gave their lives, spirit for this freedom that we are enjoying today. 

As soon as we came back from Albania, I have put the chair, I opened the door for condolences. Then was set for 15 days. After 15 days I removed the chair. Whoever wanted, had the possibility or felt pain, they came and expressed their condolences. 

However, the state, government could come just at my yard and say to me: “Nezir, do you grieve for your sons who gave their lives for Kosovo? Do you have any income, or are you holding? For me this would be enough. Last year this association of Bajram Qerkini, thanks to him, they have taken us 3 persons to the spa in Kllokot. Even this year, month ago, I went to that spa with three friends. Some of their relatives are killed, too. We stayed there for ten days, but nothing else. 

I would plea to this state, our government, to make more efforts and find the missing persons, together with internationals who are here and claiming that they came here for justice, to help us , make pressure to Serbia, criminals of Serbia, and the ones who committed these crimes to face the justice.  

I am saying one more thing, all the young boys; the youth in Kosovo let them love each other as much as they can. Let them respect each other and nothing bad happens to them. My heart says so.  

Mid-title: “Two of my sons have disappeared; we found the body of only one of them” 

Hamide Avdyli: Narration in first person 

I had good time at my father’s. We were ten children. Five sisters and five brothers. I shortly went to school; I had no possibility. I should have attended four years, but it was short. My mother was not well, she had migraine. My oldest brother was two years older than me, all these children, these things have been done by me. Mother most of the time was laying on the bed. We were living only with our parents. I was like second mother for my siblings. Only God helped me.  

My father died two years ago. My mother is 90 years old.  My father used to work in agriculture, land. He was not employed and we were ten children. I have taken care for them like this. Most of the times I was engaged helping at my father’s rather at my husband’s. We did not attend the school that time so much but we did house work, fields.  

I have good relations with my siblings. We are very much connected. Now I have four brothers. The oldest one died. Now we are five sisters and four brothers. But in my village, I did not go for 22 years because my son is with Down syndrome. They have taken him there to play because he cannot stay without me. My family is in Prishtina and for one year, I did not go to visit them. My son does not let me. He is my son, he needs shower, everything in my own, to help him and everything.  

With my husband, Nezir, we got engaged through a middleman, not like now days, they meet each other, get married and split in their own. We first got engaged. Nezir’s sister is married to one of my brothers. Me with her brother, Nezir. Both of us through middleman. I was engaged for seven years. We never met. We never dated. I didn’t dare from my father. My father was very tough, I didn’t dare even to look in the eyes, or anything. Neither my sister-in-law. This how it was before. Later both of us got married. We have taken the bride for our brother, good wedding, and for us. I had had good time with my husband. He is very good. 

We had enough people for the wedding, but it was not like nowadays, fun. Then was lesser. Now they are having more fun. Because you have your own family and you have more will.  

I was 18 when I got married, when I became 19 my oldest daughter Hafize was born and after five sons and after one girl and other two boys. I was 11 when I got engaged. This is how they engaged you before and sometimes while you were still a baby in the cradle. After Hafize, was born another boy Fadil, the one that is disappeared. Halim is the third, Ali the fourth, Fatmir, the dead one, is the fifth, Kujtim is the sixth. Then we got Ardiana and Gentrit. Gentrit is the eight. They are all good, everything is fine, healthy and no problems. We have never taken them to doctor. I don’t remember I have ever visited doctor. 

We have always lived in this house. Even during the war, I was always at home. My husband and sons have escaped but me with my oldest daughter Hafize, son-in-law, children, and all here. We left the house for short time when they come, to avoid not to happen what we heard. We went there uphill and we came back here again. I have worked, cooked, and welcomed many refugees. They were coming from Mitrovica surrounding. Believe me they were above twenty people. I have cooked on my own. The brick ovens were burned. I did all, even though I have my own grieving for my sons. I am very patient, you can never notice me, and this is what is keeping me strong. I grieve for my sons, but I am very proud to have had such sons to give their lives for Kosovo, for our blood, but still the youngest son, Gentrit, is over it. He is over it. I have problems with him.  

My husband has been in spa with them from association. I could not go. My husband is going for two years now but I don’t know what the spa is. I am grieving a lot, but I have patience, maybe I am praising, but I am neat, I have moral because for me is difficult. 

When military came in, because they were here located in Mitrovica, down to the mosque, and they pulled and some roma Serbian came with masks. They were scary. They came in and addressed to the bride: “Come with us!” The asked her “is your husband killed in KLA?” More or less we knew that these two were married. They came in and took her by the arm. We have had a kitchen here, they went holding her by the arm. I pulled out 300 DM and gave to them. I said to them: “go! You have killed enough, you did a lot of bad things, take these and go!” they said: “give money and gold, you have foreign money!” I replied: “I have no money nor gold, you have killed my sons, take these 300 DM and go!” they left. I saved the bride. I had to take the daughter and bride. God might accept this. Then, we left with headscarf on our heads. Stupidity, why we should have worn the headscarf? War! 

Two of my sons were disappeared in the war. After nine days, we found a body of one of them. Three of my sons, Fadil, Fatmir and Kujtim where going to join the convoy because we have been deported from our houses.They expelled us to Albania. But I was not with them. Telling the truth neither my husband. They turned them from water supply and brought them to a road here, which is called road to Zhabar, above Mother Theresa there. The oldest son, Fadil, was wounded in the hand. Someone has seen and told to my husband that he met Fadil on the way and was wounded in the hand. Fatmir was killed together with his aunt’s husband, aunt’s son and a friend. They were in convoy, when they reached to water supply… the placed in one yard and there they were killed, they back to the wall and killed them four.  

Since that day we are waiting because I want to know about Fadil’s fate. If I know where he is. The grief for me is same if they find him or not, but at least to know something. For the other one we know where his grave is. Yes, we know and we visit him. The grievance for me is same as long as I am alive. What should you do? It was a war. We should accept. All of them are of someone’s mother, sisters, fathers or brothers.  

When they went at the door of the third yard, my son Kujtim, he lowered the head. He was then 16 years old. He was just looking. Fadil and Fatmir have said: “What shall we do with you, mother? You are with this son (Gentrit is with syndrome Down), what shall we do with you, because we will go with KLA with our friends. We are ready to die for this land, for this country, for freedom, this is nothing! What shall we do with you? This boy that you will carry on the back”. The boy is not well. The last time I saw Fadil it was here on the stairs. When they expelled us from our houses, Fadil together with Fatmir have told me these words. I didn’t see him anymore.  

We split from them. They went to his uncle, three of them. We left on Wednesday. We slept there overnight to one of our nieces, together husband and children, Hafize, with son in law. Fatmir, Fadil and Kujtim slept over at my brother in Zhabar. They were expelled on Friday. Them were killed on Friday … Fatmir was killed. It was Friday. But Kujtim survived. They called them by names, both of them called. Fatmir attracted them. They said “you come also!”. They swore on Fatmir. They hold him by arm. Kujtim was with one of my brothers in a hut, with his aunt and grandmother and said: “uncle they killed our guys!” he replied: “no, no they just shoot in the air”. 

I split up from them five days in advance. I did not see them anymore. For nine days we stayed in Lubovec. We were sheltered there. Upon our return – they said the situation is better in Mitrovica – and we are going back. They were killed nine days ago, from Friday. Some guys from KLA came to tell us. My husband was not here, they did not tell me. Later they have told to my husband. He told me after two weeks. 

I had refugees in my house, my brother was also with his wife and children. I did not know anything for two weeks, for none of them. After two weeks, I woke up in the morning to make bread, baked around twenty breads for all the refugees. My husband was sitting and smoking and said to me: “Hamide, could you have any rest?” “Yes, enough.” He further said: “Yesterday, when the brother –in-law came, his son is killed”. Son of one of the brothers-in-law was killed together with Fatmir. He said: “Why you did not tell to Mursel that his son died, that he was killed?”. He was going around. I said “I did not know anything”. I said: “What about Fatmir who was with Fadil and them in the convoy?” he said: “Fadil was wounded in the hand, someone has seen, and told, he survived there. But Fatmir is killed”. 

At that moment I backed to balcony, bars and I went to the kitchen where I was cooking. To avoid my oldest daughter and I went to that kitchen. I thought to avoid them hearing me crying, to blow at least. My daughter came, I stood up to wash my face and not see me, it is a war I said, they will be surprised, you don’t know how they will come and what will do to us. The daughter said: “Mother, what’s wrong, why are you grieving? This is a war, everybody is split up”. I said: “I am having head ache, my sons are split up”.  

She plead, she said: “I swear in God, in my brothers, why are you crying? I said: “oh Hafize! Your father said that Fadil is wounded and Fatmir is killed”. She… I have seen her pulling her hair. She loved him so much. They were too much connected. No one ever said any bad word for them, I have educated them and spoke about everybody. Mother’s role. I did many things for them, I still do. Maybe is not good to praise myself, the son with syndrome … wets on the bed, I take him, wash his clothes and everything else with other house works. My grievance, work, other engagements. As long as we are is very fine. But when we are not anymore, where he will be? 

Fatmir would have been 19, in eighth month. He was killed on fourth April ’99. Fadil was 24. He wanted to go abroad but the circumstances were not good. I cannot ever take him out of my heart. We were not in the situation to pay for him as he wanted to go abroad. He wanted to go in Europe. Fatmir was playing football. They were good. The war is so… 

Fadil completed secondary school.  He worked after completion of school. We owned some cows then. He was taking care of them. He worked privately also, he helped to his father. Others were still young and at school. Halim, who is abroad, he completed forth class of the secondary school. They started to go in the school also, in Vaganica we call there. They were stabbed with knives, scissors … but we don’t know who they were. And we have taken off from school. 

Fatmir was in secondary school and he loved to play football. One day before they joined the convoy, Fatmir was stopped by two Serbs at the school. They were playing at the sports hall and said to him: “Are you done?” he was Ratko Slaviq, from here. And they stepped out. A day before they joined the convoy.  

Fatmir, that was the last time I have seen, and said to me: “mother, I am only 16 otherwise I would go to take my sister because there down town they are burning and killing. I would go to take Hafize but I don’t have identity card”. Hafize was staying here as refugee but she went at her home. Her house is close to the army. Opposite the tunnel, almost in Bajr. 

That day I said nothing to my sons. Nothing at all. I just steered on them. Kujtim was holding his head down and almost crying, he was young. They left, three of them split from us and went to my brother. This is last time when we have seen each other.   

Nowadays when I think, I say to myself, why I have split from them? Why? Why I did not stay close to them, why I split from them? My life is nothing without them. They were mine. I loved them so much and they loved me also, there is any kind of children, any kind of mother. They were very much connected to me. I suffered a lot for them. It was not easy to take care for eight children! I mean, at that time is was difficult. They were very happy with me, I stayed day and night for them, to continue schooling. To help them go forward, not backward. To be literate. For example, I do any kind of work but I have no school, very little. Back then they did not allow you to go to school. 

Their sibling experienced very badly. Adriana, the youngest daughter, she was 13 but she was beautiful as God created her, she was looking like 20, she was shouting and shouting saying: “oh they might come and take us”. The oldest one was having same behaviours. They forgot about the death. They were very crazy, Serbs, roma, or whoever they are. We have experienced a lot of evil things from them, we have suffered a lot. Since we remained here, we have suffered a lot, many grieves. What shall we do? 

Fatmir was found by KLA. He was killed. They buried him. After one week they came and told us. They found here up, there is a place. At the place where he was killed together with the son of his aunt, husband of his aunt and a friend, they stayed for nine days. Fadil is not know which way he went. Here, at the hospital, there or they were three people. We searched everywhere at the imam up to the graves (exhumations), we were looking for his clothes or anything. But no, we never got any news. 

For the last time Fadil was seen by one of our neighbours. He torn his underwear shirt and tied that hand, because he was bleeding, he said. He went to that bridge that leads to Mitrovica, Fadil entered there, he crossed the convoy. The old man told only few words they exchanged, as he said “Police came, soldiers came”. They met the daughter of the old man. Fadil has told to him: “I really climbed a wooden fence there at that yard, I got wounded and them, they have killed, Zenel”. He has told to Zenel and his daughter that other have been killed. After, if he is found, someone said this and someone that, we have not exact information. For 19 years. 

The grave of Fatmir is there where he was buried by KLA. There are the aunt’s husband, aunt’s son, Fatmir and his friend. At a village is called Vaganice. Fatmir was not in KLA, but they had to take the dead bodies. I said to my husband: “bring him here because I miss him! Bring him here”. Here we had only a garden, 12 acres of land. I said “bring him here to bury”. He said: “no, he should be buried with his friends”. Then I agreed to bury him there. 

For the first time I paid a visit to his grave I was with my oldest daughter, one son-in-law and Kujtim. It was for the first Bajram (Eid al Fitr). I cried and tried to hold myself. It was because of my daughter and Kujtim. Kujtim became ill. He was crying and crying, and he found his clothes. All his belongings in the pockets of the jacket, shaving foam, and tooth paste, socks, shoes on his grave. Then he cried, shouted and he lost his consciousness when we brought him home. We had to take him to the doctor. Kujtim never talks about this with anyone. He just stays like that. Kujtim is the sixth child. Since that he is like that, he even does not work. He used to work before the war. Before the war he took care for the whole house, because the wife left long time ago. He was taking care for whole home; I was taking care, prepared food, to wash the children … Not anymore, now he just sits. He is not even working neither married. He is 34.  

My husband was taking care to find Fadil. He gave statements. My son, Kujtim, was looking everywhere in the graves to see if he could find at least a sign of him. He went everywhere together with his friends. He could not get any information. Just before end of the war we had a hope that he is in the hospital, there were rumours, they have taken from hospital, he is cured, they are still healing him, he is in the prison, they are three of them… nothing for 19 years at all. We are still waiting but nothing.  

All of my family supports me, they help me a lot to relieve the grief, and they do their best. I have these two nephews, I pray to God. Fadil is not found, we are waiting for his fate. I know Fatmir is killed. However, I pray to God for these two nephews, they are good, I love them and they love me, they relieve my grief little bit. They hug me, they love us, one comes and sits here and the other one sits here, and I feel like two of them are here in the house. We are so much connected. My husband is very good also. 

The oldest nephew holds the name of Fatmir, the other one is born after him. I was waiting for Fadil’s fate, that he will be found. The other one is called Fijon. This nephew Fatmir, he is in my heart. I don’t know if he loves me as much as I love him. Whatever I buy, work, he does not want anything from his mother. I am the only woman in the house, days and nights. When some from my side comes, because I am alone, and the house is full of men, then I feel that my grievance is relieved for a while. I say: “Oh God, I have nephews, husband, and other sons”. The God has predicted this for us, it was their death. This was a war. We have to accept because they are mothers of heroes. There is worse and worse. Do you see that lady in Suhareka, when she appears on TV, I cry for her together with my sons. She is all alone. Shyhrete, who is left alone. Now, with justice, for her is harder than for me. 

Fadil was very wise boy. I remember only the good things. He wanted to go to Germany, where the other son Halim is for 7 years, he left since he was 16, he went there to give us some help because that time we were poor. My husband was fired from Trepça. Children needed schooling, they were growing. They loved to go forward. Halim went abroad to help us. He wanted to go to Halim, to work and get married. He was 24. I think about these issues and we could not afford to them. 

Fatmir loved to be football player. My daughter has taken the photos he took with his friends. Before the war he managed to be one of the best players. She has taken these photos because I was holding on my hands whole daylong. She has taken them to Belgium. I just remembered as I wanted to go and look them. I was hospitalized twice because of the grievance. In Mitrovica was for five weeks and in Prishtina same also. I fainted, I could not wake up, stress, I was dreaming them very often, I was talking to them, and I remembered them everywhere I went. 

Fadil always comes in my dreams and says: “mother come, come with me because I have no time! Come with me you, also!” I see Fatmir also, but him rarer. They just say to me: “mother come with us!”. I remember their clothes, how I took care of them, I remember their words. I remember everything even their socks, how I took care of them.  

On that day, on the stairs, both of them were wearing jeans, both of them with leather jacket, shirts, shoes, white socks, like they wore them for Bajram. I still keep their socks. My daughters have taken some of their clothes. “Give them to someone” they say to me. Their clothes I have given to a poor family in Rahova, I gave to a cousin of our son-in-law, and they were ironed. That day was harder for me than the day I found out they are killed.  

I have given away all their clothes. Also, the imam has told to my husband to give away because is not good to keep them. The son, who is with us, he didn’t want to wear them. The other one is abroad. Also, the other one that is here didn’t want to wear them. One day my husband said to me: “the imam told me to give away because is good”. I gave them all. My sons did not want to wear them because they were very much connected. They grieved a lot. 

Fadil enrolled in KLA but they did not hire. He went to that village Bajgora, Shala of Bajgora. He went after KLA, we followed him and I was worried. KLA then was in front line, they did not enroll him because they claimed that they do not have uniforms. They told go home and if something we will call you, but they didn’t. It was better to get the guns, get enrolled and get killed there. Fatmir was young, they wouldn’t take him at all. Fatmir didn’t even had the ID card, he was not entitled yet. But he was grown.  

They had many friends. They played football, they enjoyed playing together with friends. His aunts were close. With their children they enjoyed a lot, like brothers. They still love each other. They went down town together. Now when is Fatmir’s anniversary, after two days, we go. The read in internet about Fatmir, how they played together. I don’t know where to read. His friends come for visit. He has two friends who are twins, they come often to visit me. They were good friends and they loved him. But for a period of time they are not coming. Because they say: “when we see mother and father that they are grieving…” they are avoiding. I am very glad when I see their friends coming. I have had such son, to expect their good attitudes from them. Us, as parents, to have the feeling that he was good. His friends, the ones I know, they all survived. One of his friends is living here close. He comes for every Bajram. He is good, he was grown at his uncle because his mother was divorced, but he is very good, very good friend, I love and respect him, he accepts me like a mother. We don’t own a car, I go walking to withdraw their pension, for both of them 203 €, because the fate of Fadil is not known yet. As soon as he sees me walking, says: “Hamide, where are you going?” I say: “I’m going down town”. He knows, I cannot explain that I am going to take the money of my sons”. He says, “I am taking my car and drive you there, like my mother”. Next Bajram I will buy a shirt for him, as much as I can, a pair of socks to give to him, for the sake of Fatmir. I never leave him without a gift for Bajram. 

Fatmir’s friend is married and he has two daughters. Good enough, but when I see his children, I think “If Fatmir or Fadil would have had son or daughter, maybe they would look alike”. I have grandchildren but what to do, this is how life is. I accepted it now just to make efforts for the ones are alive. Mother is same as for daughter and sons. But these ones were the best ones.  

I remember ones Fadil was taking care for cows, because when we came here it was only a field, only trees were. Golden earrings he found covered with the paper, some fallen golden earrings. That time they were wearing such earrings, full of gold. He came home and said: “I found some golden earring, as soon as I set to eat my food, I found them there”. What did you do, son? How did you find?” “I just cover because there were other children around and I did not tell, I just brought them home”. “OK, I said, my son, this how you should do. Someone will take them. This is why you brought” But – I said – nothing even a lighter you find, don’t bring it home. If I have a lighter, I will start the fire but if not, your father is working and he can buy. Because this will remain your vice. Once, twice and you forget about good things and take the bad things, when you do bad thing, you will find yourself under the bridge and then is harder to get up”. This is not going by lesson but by blood. You must help through advices and also as much God gives you. 

To tell you the truth, I grew them up with many people, we were living together with fifty people here. I have had seven sisters-in-law, my husband’s sisters, two of his aunts. Now days before they come, they call you on the phone to ask you if you are free or have any plan. But then, they were staying for three weeks, one month…. One of them had nine children. Myself working on my own, never said any word. I made by 15-16 breads, three times a day. Then we did not have much. Mitrovica was always not developed. It was not completely poverty. Before, no one would buy a bread for you. Only with my hands. No one ever heard a word from me. Their children respect me like a mother. But to tell you the truth, my children were suffering. I gave to them only the leftovers. I told to them “this is what has left, my son” if there is not enough bread for you, I will make it again”. I remember these. 

I see now children of my sons. My son now works, ta make them better life, from whom are running, from their mother and father. What kind of mother and father? Why to run from sisters-in-law, I am not surprised, now no sister-in-law loves the sister-in-law. Is it so? Very rare, rare. Only if is from very good family. To run from mother, father. Just to suffer. 

Nezir, on his own is trying to find Fadil. Some internationals were twice, to tell you the truth, they did not understand. Twice with one foreign police. They were foreigner, black. They asked: “Did you find?” “Look in graves (exhumations) you might suspect in his clothes” but ours never ever. 

When was New Year, because my son with syndrome becomes 24 on 5th of May, he has seen everything, chocolates, and things. He said: “Mother, are we going to the shop to buy something? Come with me!” I said: “I am coming also”. He said” Why they did not bring chocolates as gift for me? I have seen taking to everyone else”. He is very nervous. I keep him calm only with tablets [murmurs]. Whatever he needs we have to save the last cents to buy for him because he does not care? We receive 75 euros for him. What he wants? He drinks only juices whole daylong. He does not ask whether you have or not. Whatever he asks we have to buy. We have to make conditions for him. When he wakes up in the morning, I gave one and half of tablets to keep him calm. And to keep him sedated, sleeping and not to go out during the day. My husband cannot go, he was beaten in the Mitrovica’s prison, during the war. He is really tired. 

About Fadil, I would like to know about his fate, where his bones are, our grief is in half, because we didn’t find. Even when he is found we will still have grief. But still is better to know about his fate, some have been found. If we find him while his father and I are alive, this is what I would like. I plea to whoever has the power, for Fadil’s fate, in Prishtina. Prishtina has, because Mitrovica has nothing. It’s useless to talk in Mitrovica. There is nothing. Whatever you speak here, Prishtina will fix it. Whoever is taking this interview, let it take, otherwise, this is God’s will. 

We know that it was a war, for 19 year few hopes. I give a will to myself, I lay on Allah will to help, I always pray for this, for everybody. What shall you do? This who the destiny is. To have some will. 

 

(This story is part of “Living with memories of the missing: Memory book with stories of family members of the missing from the last war in Kosovo”, implemented by forumZFD program in Kosovo and Integra, in cooperation with Missing Persons Resource Centre, with the support of Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Rockefeller Brothers and Swiss Embassy in Kosovo) 

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