Longing and searching | Missing persons

I want to find the truth, in order to find peace

By - 03.07.2023

Dragica Majstoroviq

My name is Dragica Majstorović, maiden name Jerić, otherwise, they call me Dragana. Until 1977 I lived in Fushë Kosovë, at home together with my mother Petrija, father Ivan, brother Slavko and sisters Miroslava and Danijela. That year I met my husband, Milorad Majstorović, born in Obiliq, who lived and worked in Skopje, so I went after him and we lived there. I worked at the Skopje Military Hospital. In Skopje, I gave birth to two children. Nikola, the eldest son, who was born in 1979, and Ivan, the youngest, born in 1981.

In Skopje, we lived and worked until 1992. With the withdrawal of the army, because I was a civilian staff working in the army, we went to our hometown, in Pristina. In Pristina, I worked in the ambulance of the military garrison as a medical worker, while my husband worked with the electro-economy in Obiliq. They gave us an apartment in the neighborhood “Kurriz”, where we lived and raised our children. The eldest son graduated in electrical engineering, the youngest was attending the third year of high school “Ivo Lola Ribar” in Pristina. I finished medical school in Pristina and graduated high school in Belgrade.

My work has always been based on medicine. I had Albanian, Gorani, and Serbian friends. I helped all nationalities, I helped all people and I have always been involved in humanitarian work. That’s how I thought of all the people around me because they thought the same as me.

 We didn’t have any serious problems before the events of the war, because we were not connected with anything, neither politically, nor engaged in anything other than our work. The war itself found us in office. I worked all the time in the military ambulance, where we treated civilians, military insured persons, and everyone who was at risk.

My children were not working. The older one was about to start university studies and the other son just finished school. It was summer break, the school stopped working and we took them with us. We mainly stayed in Fushë Kosovë, together with my parents, in order to have the children under control, to stay all together. All that period of the war and after the war we stayed mostly together and we survived together. After the war, we decided to remain in Prishtina, because we had our apartment there, we had lived there and we considered that we didn’t do any harm to anyone and we thought that we could stay there peacefully.

After the army withdrew after everyone left, we stayed and I started working a little in the hospital, in surgery, as I was an instrumentalist in the operating room. This lasted only ten days after the terror began in the hospital. The Albanians who had worked there before, came and they started harassing the people and they expelled us. I realized I had no place in the hospital and I headed home. 

We constantly reported violence around us, but UNMIK and the British KFOR told us that they could not provide us with protection, they told us we had to leave.

After about ten days, one morning some people came, and they forcibly broke into my apartment and they just kicked us out of it. We took the documents and went to Fushë Kosovë to my parent’s place. I was out of work, my husband had not started working yet, the children were in need, one to finish school and the other to get enrolled in college. So, we had to look for other solutions.

I called my command and I received the invitation to return to work. I went to Leskovac and I started working there. My husband and the children stayed with my parents. And on that fateful August 19th of ’99, my son and our neighbor Dragan Stefanović took the road to come to Leskovac because I enrolled my son in Leskovac to finish the fourth year of high school. On the Fushë Kosovë-Merdare road, they were abducted and they were taken in an unknown direction. We later learned that in Batllava there was a Detention Center.

They left with the neighbor’s car. We were waiting for them in Merdare, but they never crossed the border. My parents and husband told me that they had been escorted. They were most likely abducted in the Llap area and they were sent in an unknown direction.

Later we received accurate information from our Albanian friends. We had many friends with whom we have cooperated, with whom we have lived well, whom we have helped. One of them told us that they were in the investigative prison in Batllava and that their fate was still unknown. A few days later, this witness was mysteriously killed. After that, we had no other information.

There was various information that people had been transferred to Albania for organs, that these collection centers were in Prishtina and Batllava. We tried all possible ways. The first attempt was when my husband, my mother, and father went to the English KFOR base in Pristina and reported my son’s disappearance, indicating that they never reached the place where they were going. They didn’t take any information, they only said that they are very busy and that they don’t have time to deal with that problem and they were told to report it to the Red Cross. They immediately went to the Red Cross to report the case and there they just registered the case and did nothing.

Then we tried, through our private connections, through some Albanian friends, various non-governmental organizations, to find out anything. We said we would pay, we would sell the apartment, we would do all this, but we had no success. Then we addressed our state, the Serbian government, and the representative offices. In the end, many families came together and we formed an association to find the truth more easily and to learn where our missing members are. We constantly cooperated with UNMIK and with KFOR, every week we met with the pathologist Jose Baraybar. I was in the first delegation, I went to Pristina long before the government was formed, but when they released the Albanian convicts, we left and I had a meeting that day. Seven of us, parents, were there to see what happened to our people.

It was clear to us that nobody survived. We asked we appealed that with the release of these Albanians convicted of crimes, they should release our people because the number of abductions was about 1700. And there were 2022 Albanians who were in Serbian prisons. I also went to those prisons, I asked the Albanians who had their people in the prison to do something about our people, to exchange all for all, for something to happen, because we had information from the Albanians that people had been abducted here because of the prisoner exchange. This was the first variant, those that were kidnapped to be exchanged in order to set the prisoners free. But the government of Koštunica and Đinđić did not listen, because they had probably received orders that they should be released, and we didn’t find out anything anymore.

We continued inquiring; we held various rallies in front of the embassies, we met with Hækkerup, regarding the first protocols that were signed. We met with UNMIK, KFOR, we gave them different information, we tried in every possible way, but everything was and still is unsuccessful.

And in all these 20 years we had to survive, to support our families. Meanwhile, due to stress, we all got sick. The whole family suffers from thyroid glands. My mother died because of this, then my father died a few years ago, now my brother also died. My sister and I, are being treated and we are receiving therapy for the thyroid gland.

Meanwhile, I wrote a book, dedicated to all the abducted and missing persons, because our abducted persons are still listed as N.N. When they are found, they take the name and surname, but until then are listed as unknown. I dedicated the book to the children and the slain, and even there is a poem addressed to the murderer. There I begged the murderer, I told him that everything would be forgiven, just to show me where my son is. Because it’s terrible to live my whole life and not know what happened to my child.

The most difficult time for us is the holidays. When they come, we always have one empty chair.

I have worked in the army, but as a health worker, on the humanitarian side, so I never did a bad thing. I treated people who needed help, and I still do today. My husband was employed, so we didn’t do anything bad to anyone. All the neighbors have always confirmed that we just helped them. But it is very likely that we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were on the other side and our religion was wrong, and that cost us our lives. So, my child paid the price because he was a Serb. He was neither guilty nor indebted, he was a high school student who was about to enroll in the fourth year of high school. They say in our language, he neither ate onions nor smelled onions. Still, he was a victim.

The most difficult time for us is the holidays. When they come, we always have one empty chair. He was only 17 years old when he left the house. Now, on September 5th, he would have been 39 years old. So, not only that one life was lost, but an entire family was lost. If he were alive, he would surely have a family. But what to do? When you have such problems, you are mostly left alone. My husband gave up immediately, he was unable to search for him. He gave up, whether because of guilt because we stayed, we didn’t leave immediately, because he kept telling us constantly, “We have to stay, we have done nothing to anyone, we will stay in our house.” Probably this is haunting him all these years, convincing us that we should stay and peacefully wait. Because that’s what people were saying then, “Stay in your homes!”

I have witnessed several meetings of Mike Jackson telling us, “Remain safe in your homes, no one will touch you! We came here to make peace, not to make war.” And my husband used to say “Listen to what people are saying.” Our leader Milosevic said, “People will come to take care of you, you do not have to leave your homes!” When Mike Jackson came to all the meetings, in all the villages, in Caglavica, in Fushë Kosovë, and in Obiliq, everywhere he said, “You do not need to leave your homes, normal life will continue, the situation will be fixed, people still have to live normally. An entire nation cannot be expelled now! ” And we were guided by the idea that it really was like that, that an elite army would take care of everyone equally. But we found out the contrary. First when we reported the disappearance, when a soldier told us that they don’t have time to deal with it, that they are not interested in that. Secondly, when we complained that people were being evicted from their apartments, no one wanted to come. Then we realized that there is no salvation for us, that we will have to go somewhere. And so, it happened.

And today we are still displaced. We have left Prishtina, our city, our building, our road, our people. We live here now. Belgrade is beautiful, but as Verica said, “Pristina is in our hearts.” We lived there, we loved there, we worked there, we had our linden road, we had friends, we lived happily, despite all the quarrels that happened from time to time. We didn’t want to leave, we wanted to stay. We thought we could since we were innocent.

I initially worked in Leskovac for eight months. I had nowhere else to go. I was alone, my family stayed in Fushë Kosovë. Ivan would come; he left on August 19th, 1999 to enroll in the school and to stay together with me. When he was abducted and disappeared, I stayed in Leskovac for another eight months because I had nowhere to go. I had no money, no shelter, I had nothing. I worked all the time. My parents stayed in Fushë Kosovë until 2000 and in the end, this neighbor who lived in Switzerland came and offered to buy our property, so my father sold it. When he sold it and bought a house here, we all went to that house. At one point, there were 16 of us living in that house. They bought it, and after they settled down, around March or April, I also came from Leskovac and then I took my family, my husband, and my son, and we lived together with my parents until I managed to sell the apartment in Prishtina. Afterwards, I bought an apartment here.

Ivo Andrić says, “There is nothing more beautiful than living in a place forever because that city becomes yours, the roads are yours, everything is yours”. So, I went to Leskovac first, I was there for the first time. It was not far, but I didn’t know anyone there. It was very difficult for me in Leskovac, because Ivan was abducted immediately. So, I lived in agony, looking for my boy, calling, petitioning, and I distributed hundreds of pictures of him with the caption, “Does anyone know anything, has anyone heard anything?”. Then I contacted friends from Pristina, people from Serbia, the state, the government, to do something. So those eight months were hell for me.

When I came to Belgrade, it was even worse, it was very difficult, I had to calm my parents. It was the hardest for them because they escorted him that day. I couldn’t calm them down; I am his mother and I had to comfort my parents. They were constantly watching how I am reacting and I was constantly holding back my emotions with courage, saying that there is time, that we should not give up yet, because you never know. Then we got in touch with people from Albania, some friends, who told us how during the Second World War my uncle went to Albania. They were imprisoned, but the people returned. So, with different people who survived that way, we were constantly asking questions, looking for witnesses who had been in a camp, whether they had seen anyone or heard anything.

My brother-in-law and my sister stayed in Kosovo for another two years because of my Ivan, in order to find out anything. Hoping that maybe someone will show up or that maybe he will come back. So this was an agony for the entire family because the children were traumatized, we were traumatized, and during all the time we had to work, to keep on living. I worked in the emergency room and I could no longer enter the operating room, by any means. The work I used to do was of high level, dealing with orthopedic-traumatological instruments. I had specialized in that field and I was very good at it. But when this happened, I asked for an easier job, I was looking for nothing high level and I think there is nothing easier than working in the emergency.

I worked all the time; I never took a day of sick leave. From the first day until retirement, I never took a sick leave because it was always much easier for me to work, look for Ivan, write, and support the family. My intention was to reunite the family, to provide for the family because my husband immediately gave up.

Then I negotiated with the Albanians for the sale of the apartment, I wanted to buy an apartment somewhere, and again we bought an apartment near my parents, in order to help each other as a family. To participate means to have someone to talk to, to share the pain.

Thanks to our association, we knocked on every door, and there is not an effort we did not make. Here you will see photos, meetings with all embassies and all the ambassadors. We appealed, we also made a movie, I wrote a book and I dedicated it to my son to leave a mark in history.

Our family, my father, and mother, had 20 hectares of land, a house, and a garden. My parents were retired when all this was happening when that peace agreement was signed. They didn’t want to leave, they wanted to stay, but because everyone was leaving, and we were passively listening to how people were being forcibly expelled, my brother said to me, “I cannot leave them, I will stay with them” When we made the decision, my brother and I went to meet Michael Jackson and he persuaded us to stay. On the other hand, we could see that the general situation was getting worse. People were being killed, abused, abducted, but my parents didn’t want to leave their property. They said, “If we leave this property, you will be left on the street, so we will sacrifice ourselves. If they kill us, let them kill us, but at least there will be something left behind that you can sell.”

We had the family graves there, my father’s parents’ graves. We could not persuade them to leave. They stayed until the end. They had good neighbors, but also my parents were very noble people. The daughter of our first Albanian neighbor helped our women give birth, she worked in the gynecology department. They went to see my father and they told him, “We can no longer take care of you, you have to sell the property because a group of people wants to kill you and we are fighting for you because we know you are an honest man and you never did anything bad to anyone. You better sell us your property and leave, otherwise, you will die here.”

When their neighbor said these things, my mom and dad decided to sell their property. And when they came here, it was very difficult for them. First, because my child was abducted, but also because they came to another city, another place. That year, my brother’s child failed the year at the school because he just couldn’t study. Even for my son, it was very hard to cope with everything. It’s still hard for him. He got married and he named his child after his brother. So, he named his daughter Ivana and son Ivan. Little Ivan, my grandson, is now 8 years old. That was my grandfather’s name, then my son’s name, and now my grandson bears that name.

On the day when I was expelled from the hospital in Pristina, I came to Fushë Kosovë and I told my parents that I have to leave if I want to keep my job. My son’s friends who had already gone to Serbia, kept asking him, “We will start the school soon, you are still not registered what will you do when you come?” And when I was leaving, I told him, “You will stay with my mom and dad, you will stay with your dad and brother and you will wait until I call you.” And he – he used to call me Draganče – he said, “Don’t worry at all Draganče, everything will be fine”. He sat down in front of the computer and just said, “Go, we will not say goodbye, we will see each other later.” That was the last greeting. 

Then he started calling me on the phone and saying, “Everyone is gone.” His friends were calling him and asking him what is he going to do? How is he going to finish the fourth year? He would have to repeat the year if he did not enroll in school, so we had to arrange to enroll him somewhere. I went to the gymnasium and I enrolled him. Then I was thinking about how to transfer him? The buses were not moving, there was no escort, no organization. Finally, when that man was about to leave for Serbia, I told my son to go with him. So, the two of them set off on a journey with no return.

I have my other son, but Ivan, maybe because he is no more, he has always been special. As a child, his grandmother took care of him so he learned to speak the Serbian language very well. When he came to Macedonia, after a year he spoke pure Macedonian language and he went to a Macedonian school. I paid for English lessons for my eldest son Nikola, but Ivan learned English better than Nikola did.

If he was alive today, he would surely become some kind of doctor. He loved medicine very much.

He was also a swimming champion. They both swam for “Vardar” in Macedonia. He was first in his group, he had medals for swimming. He swam and practiced karate. One day they studied English, one day practiced karate, one day swimming, both of them. When we came to Pristina, he was outstanding. He immediately fit in. There was an Albanian judo coach, and he immediately recognized his talent and took him to his club in “Boro and Ramiz” and trained him for judo. In high school, he was one of the best chess players. He did not play chess normally; his brother moved the pieces and Ivan turned his head on the other side and played chess like that. So, he was more advanced than the others.

When KFOR came, it was the Irish KFOR, he called me on the phone and said, “Draganče, imagine how well I speak English, I am talking with English KFOR and Irish KFOR.” So, he went around with the Irish KFOR and helped the people.

He was a child who could offer a lot, so he enrolled in high school. He said, “I don’t know what I am going to work in the future. All my friends already know what they will do in their life and I like at least five or six professions. I don’t know which one to go after.” I told him, “Enroll in high school.” He said, “I will go in the most difficult direction, the natural-mathematical school so I will be able to determine.” But September began and he never finished the fourth year.

If he was alive today, he would surely become some kind of doctor. He loved medicine very much. Since I practiced medicine, he also wanted to practice medicine, he knew a lot about medicine, he was always interested. He was a sportsman, he spoke the language very well, he was a good mathematician, a chess player, and he knew a lot about medicine because he was very close to me and he wanted to study medicine in the future and since we were always engaged in humanitarian work and we were always helping people.

When I go to church, I light a candle for him as if he were alive, and I also light candles for all the abducted and missing persons, and all the slain persons. To me, he is still alive. I would like to know at least where he is while I am still alive because he appears to me in dreams. He tells me, “I am in Albania, in an Albanian camp and I have escaped.” He calls me, he holds the phone in his hand and says, “I ran away, but I don’t know where to go.” I tell him, “You are very capable, you will succeed everywhere, just don’t return to Kosovo.” And he throws the phone and says, “Okay.” Or, I dream that I am looking for him in a cemetery, and he comes and tells me, “For how long are you going to look for me in the cemeteries, we have to move on.”

We were in Merdare to identify some clothes. And I saw a gray blouse because my son had a similar one and black shorts with a ribbon. So, I said, “Let’s check that blouse, maybe it’s his.” I went to UNMIK and I waited. Before that, I had seen a dream. My son was telling me, “I’m not dead, let’s move on.” And I sat down and my heart was beating fast. I calmed myself down by saying, “Don’t worry! For sure it’s not him. He told you that he was alive and that we had to move on.” And when I went there, I waited for half an hour and it turned out to be the body of a 60-70 years old man.

On that occasion, I wrote a poem entitled “Let ‘s move on”. In poetry, those who talk to me end up saying, “Let ‘s move on.” This is our motto. In that despair when we didn’t know what to do, I said we should give the magazine a title. I proposed the title “Abducted Truth” because people were abducted, but also the truth about those people was abducted. And the truth must be heard, whatever it may be. So our magazine is called “Abducted Truth” and our motto is “Let’s move on”.

I would love to find him, but I don’t believe I will anymore after 21 years. If someone just calls me and says, “Your son is alive and he’s in Australia, but you have to sign a paper that you’ll never see him” I would say, “Yes, I agree.” If I could only know what happened, whether he is alive, whether they took out his heart, or they killed him immediately. I have the right to know the truth, at least that. It’s difficult to agree with the fact that someone is dead, but the fact is that after 21 years, if someone would have been alive, he would have found a way to say, “I am alive.” Most likely he is no longer alive, or perhaps they have taken his heart.

When we speak about justice, is it justice that I don’t live anymore in Prishtina, that the apartment I furnished and where I lived happily with my family I no longer have, that I lost an innocent child? I don’t believe in justice. Whatever the justice, there will be no satisfaction for me. Maybe someone will get justice, but I don’t believe in it. Finding out what happened to my child would mean justice to me. That’s why I wrote this poem, “Killer, you will be forgiven.” Because, whatever justice may be, even if ten people were hanged here now, I would say, “Don’t.” It would be hard to see someone getting killed.

I would say, “Have mercy on them.” Some people are surprised when I say this, but I can’t see anyone getting hurt. I couldn’t stand something like that. Maybe my son would be angry with me, maybe he would say, “Eh Draganče, you forgave them and I suffered.” But I couldn’t have gone through with it. You know how powerless a person is in his pain, whatever he does. A man once told me, “Why didn’t you kill yourself right away?”. I said, “If he comes back, who will look after him? Why should I kill myself, I will not be killed? If I kill myself, it means I have surrendered. It doesn’t make any sense.”

I am reading this poem dedicated to the murderer. 

Killer, you will be forgiven, just tell me where did you bury my son.

Did you put a stone on his chest, or did you cover him with Sitnica land? 

Maybe you threw him in my field. How did you punish him? 

How did you find him guilty? What did you say to him at the end? 

Did you blindfold him, or did you bravely look him in the eyes? 

He had neither known true love nor had a chance to buy a razor and have his
first shave, he was constantly waiting for his brother to grow up. 

Killer, tell me, did he pray to God at the moment of death, did he call for his mother? 

What kind of death did you assign them? Did you shoot him? But he was just a child, how could you?

Killer, will you be forgiven, just tell me where did you bury him, under which tree did you end his life, and what kind of grass is growing above him? 

And when you went home did you caress your children after you killed my child? 

How did you sleep last night? Have you dreamt of my son? 

Killer, you will be forgiven for everything, just tell me where did you bury my son, 

or did you sell his heart in the world market?”


What can I tell you, life goes on, it doesn’t stop but it’s very difficult? I thought things would become easier over time, but in this case, time means nothing. It seems to me as if it is happening now, as if we are stuck at some point in ‘99. Sometimes when I have to write the year, I feel like writing 1999. Sometimes I feel as if time has stopped until I remember what year it is.

Probably people over time, like it or not, hold on to the hope that the problem will get solved. But over time it becomes just more and more difficult because even those killers are already dead. After all, they were certainly mature people who fought. Then I start thinking that there will be no one left to tell the truth. Unless under any command responsibility it is decided, “These were the responsible persons under the command responsibility of that region, these persons were in this region, they were there.”

I can’t say that I mourn my child more than a Muslim or Croatian woman or more than someone else who mourns their child. Mother is a mother; pain is pain and misfortune is a misfortune. If there has been a war, there are protocols. I first heard Haradinaj boasting that he kept a diary, so he knows about his part because he was responsible for his zone. I always said, “Let’s go through the zones to see which commander kept prisoners, who were the prisoners, who was killed.” So many years have passed, half of the people have died, and even half of those who have killed have died. But protocols must be opened for the sake of humanity, all situations must be resolved once and for all, for every missing person, every abducted and killed person, for the families to find their peace.

You know that Slovenian story “Servant Jernej and his right” eh, I believe there is no justice. I am not seeking that kind of justice at all. I want to find the truth, in order to find peace. If a child has died, let us know so we will weep over his grave. We don’t want to take a body that we don’t know. We gave blood for DNA analysis, to find our child, to find out the truth, to learn if he had died. If he is alive, imprisoned somewhere, or somewhere working in Iraq, Iran, or if he was turned into a fighter. At least we deserve to know if he is alive or if he is fighting there or if he died in that war, so whatever the case the family deserves to know.

Life goes on, you work, cook, wash, clean, you take care of everything, but there is a worm that constantly asks, “What is he doing now?” When I sit down to eat, I always think, did he die hungry, was he hungry when he died. What else will the mother think, other than how the child ended up, what happened. 


Feature Image: ForumZFD

K2.0 has shortened some of the stories. You can find the full stories in the book “Hijacked Childhoods”