My refugee story

In the morning of the 27th March of 1999, I was a five years old girl, with not much knowledge back then of why everything seemed so pale and why dad was telling me I couldn’t go to the city with him like I used to. That morning the whole family was awake and getting ready for Eid festivities, a celebration that would always bring joy in our homes. But that morning something wasn’t right, and I could feel it. My uncle came to the door running and yelling that we had to leave from there as soon as possible. Everybody had taken the ultimatum that if we didn’t leave our houses by 7 pm we would all get killed. It was war time, and it was exactly three days after we had heard foreign flying planes bombing our neighbor country. Everybody started running in panic to get as much clothes as we could and get out of there as soon as possible.

By running down the street I remember seeing a woman whom my mother said would once be my teacher. But except her there were many people running in euphoria without knowing exactly where their final destination would be. I remember that night we went to my mother’s family who lived in a village near the mountains at the border to Montenegro. In that house were other families who came for a shelter, more than 60. In absence of space, people of 8-10 slept in one room, while in the biggest room in the house more than 30 were making a try to get some sleep. Two of my uncles, and another youngster who was staying there, were a part of the Liberation Army of Kosovo. Every day they would come back home to tell us about the atrocities that were taking place in the villages near us. Every moment was becoming more dangerous to stay there. After two weeks, we had to leave there, grab our things and chase the new salvation road. We took refuge in an improvised camp in the mountains. There were hundreds of other people who had fled home after threats, just like us. After two days there, we had to leave again, because we heard that the enemy’s army had come close to the area and was burning down every house in the corner and shooting every walking man. We couldn’t get all of our things, but had to leave as fast as we could carrying our clothes only and little food for the road. Two hours after we left, we reached a hill, to see fire in the camp we were placed. That was a sign we had to speed up our steps no matter how much force we had left. With the night coming, we had to stop and spend the night at a wood house that would never fit all the people in need for a bed. I remember that my mom and dad barely found a bed for me and my sister and had to spend the night outside in the snow trying to lit a fire to keep them warm until morning. I also remember I lost one of my gloves and crying all night about it. In the morning we took the road that seemed to not have an end. There was snow everywhere, it was winter and so it was very cold, and the light was so powerful and wouldn’t let you see the endless line of people walking for hope. Many people didn’t survive the cold and the fatigue and were left lifeless in the mountains. I heard a lot of cries and screams from some of the people who had actually lost hope. There were so many high hills, and I was always asking my dad how many of them are left there and he would always say to me: just one more (while there were tens of them). After two days of walking we reached a highway where a truck would pick us up and send us to a refugee camp placed in Rozhaja, Montenegro. They had placed two or three tents while hundreds of people were located there. After three days there, we took the bus to Ulqin. Arriving there, we got a room where all eleven of us would eat and sleep. We lived in that room for a month until we went to the refugee camp where thousands of our compatriots were placed. There were a lot of tents, food and clothes being delivered for us. Many of the people had lost family, some had been injured themselves.

I remember that I celebrated my sixth birthday in that camp, and getting a little teddy bear for a present. An improvised school was also built there. When I was four, even though I was never able to go to kindergarten, I could read and write. But when I first tried it there, it had been gone.

“I grew up in peace to hate war, and work hard that no kid in the world goes through my story, and I know some did worse.”

A little than three month after we left home, we were going back. It was one of the happiest days in my life. The moment we opened the door was so emotional and so very sad. Nothing looked the same anymore, even the grass didn’t look as green as I remembered it from last summer. But we were home, where I often thought I would never be back again. We rebuilt everything from the beginning, and I started school in September. I laughed at myself when I saw a woman in the classroom. It was the one my mom and I saw running along with us that day. I learned to read and write again and so I started putting all my feeling in a piece of paper. I did learn that not all my peers had my destiny, some of them didn’t make it. Not everyone rebuilt everything like we did. But I learned to be thankful knowing that no human being deserves to go through whatI  did. I grew up in peace to hate war, and work hard that no kid in the world goes through my story, and I know some did worse.

My duty, your duty, our duty is to make it easy for everybody, if we cannot stop it, to live peacefully in a world of wars and terrors.

Text: Krenare // Photo: Inga