Longing and searching | Missing persons

Let them kill me, I want to be a martyr

By - 05.05.2023

Mursel and Bahrie Gashi share their story.

Bahrie: My name is Bahrie Gashi and I was born in Suhareka. Besides my father and mother, in my family we are four brothers and four sisters. I went to primary school until the third grade, and then I stopped going to school. My father was a farmer. Some of my siblings continued attending school, and others went to work. Some have gone to work in foreign countries. Life is like that. I got married here in the village Reshtan to Mursel Gashi. It used to be very good here, he had a big family, but the war left us completely burned, completely broken. 

Mursel: I am Mursel Gashi, from village Reshtan, and I was born on September 8th, 1956, in a family with a father, mother, and eight brothers. My parents didn’t have a daughter. We were a poor family. I finished primary school in Suhareka and high school in electrical engineering in Prizren. In ’74, as an 18-year-old, I got employed in the “Balkan” factory in Suhareka. They had good salaries. I worked until the ’90s when the occupier fired all the Albanians. Up until ‘99, I was unemployed and I stayed at home. After the war, I continued working there for six years. We were a big family. There were eight sisters-in-law and many children in our family. We were 50 family members in total. 

After we started working, we helped our father financially because he only had a pension. My father was old. My brother went to Germany in the ’70s, but he returned in ’74. In ’80 he went to work in Switzerland. Then we started doing very well. We lived in a house in the lower part of the village. We bought this piece of land, and we built eight houses for eight brothers. We always had a good relationship among us. My eldest brother, who was in Switzerland, has now died. The second brother was killed during the war, one day before my daughter was killed. I am the third brother. The fourth brother died from a heart attack, the fifth and the sixth brother are living in Switzerland. The seventh brother is living here and the eighth brother is a police officer in Suhareka. 

As for school, I finished elementary school here in the ’70s. In ’71 I went to Prizren to school and at that time my brother had already gone to Germany, but the salaries in Germany were small so we didn’t have enough money. It happened often that the bus conductor would kick me and my brother off the bus, because we didn’t have tickets, and then we had to walk back home on foot. 

After I finished high school, I enrolled in university and after some time I was contacted by people from the “Balkans” factory and I immediately started working. I received a good salary, and I was able to support my family. 

Before we got married my wife used to live near our house, she lived maybe a kilometer away from me. Their fields were close to the Suhareka graveyard. She traveled every day together with her father and they passed nearby our house. My eldest brother once told me, “Let’s send a msit (wedding arranger) for you. She seems to be a good girl, she is helping her father.” They worked as farmers at that time. 

I got married in ’79. It was a very big wedding. My family members walked on foot from our house until her house because it wasn’t far. There was also a horse-drawn carriage for us. 

The entire village attended the wedding because at that time our village was small. It was really good then; I think it was better than now. 

I have four children now. They are excellent, they are good children. My son works as a manager in a company, my daughter is in Germany, the other daughter works in the Municipal Assembly, she has completed the faculty of law. My other son has a degree in economics. Also, my daughter-in-law is educated. My son went to Germany for about three years as a student, and his work manager asked him, “When you finish the university, will you come back?” My son said, “Well, I will try to come back.” And now he is living here. He also brought his wife here, she is German, she has now given birth to a daughter. 

When my wife gave birth to our first child, the child lived for only two weeks, and then she died. She was a girl. A year later, in 1981, Leonora was born in Germany. She was treated like a princess, not only by us but by everybody. Wherever I went, I carried her in my hands. The whole village knew her. They still ask us about her. 

At that time, we didn’t have modernized toys, but there were some children’s toys that were made by the carpenter. In village Samadrexhë, I made her a single wheel toy and she played with it all day long on the village road. 

Our second child was Liridon who was born in ‘84. The third child was Liridon because the baby that died was our first child.

After Albulena, Vlora was born. Vlora was born in 89’. At that time we and the miners from the “Balkans” were on strike. For seven days I didn’t come home at all. When my older brother took my wife to Prizren to give birth, he called me from the hospital, I remember telling him “I hope that she will give birth and that they will be fine, but I can’t get out from here”. 

He couldn’t get out from the protest. This is the fate of Kosovo. This was our fate. 

Vlora was a very smart child, and when I enrolled her in the first grade … she was six years old. I went to school, and teacher Sadiku told me, “Vlora is very intelligent, I am surprised by her every question”. The teacher asked her, “What will you become when you grow up?” She said, “I will be a Doctor because when my father and mother grow old, I will take care of them.” That was two or three days after she started going to school. 

What is more interesting, when the war broke out, from March and onwards, I went through Drenica to see how things are going. On the 8th of June, we came here to the village, right here at the guest room where the house was burned. I left Vlora with her uncle, and she started learning the Serbian language by watching television. When I came back after about three months, she told me, “Dad, I learned the Serbian language from TV. If the police ask me at school, ‘Who is your father?’ I will say that I am the daughter of Xhevdet Kuci – my uncle’s daughter – because if I say that I am the daughter of Mursel Gashi they will kill me”. Her uncle was in Germany, and she thought that they won’t do anything to her. Because she was coming from Suhareka to school. She would read every day the newspaper, and then she would go to school. Sometimes she would stay until two in the morning watching TV. Whatever she didn’t understand, she would write it down. 

Children still have a good relationship among themselves. Whenever the boys get together they immediately call the sisters. They contact them all the time. They all loved Vlora. 

My mother-in-law took Vlora, and it was their fate to get killed together, because she could have taken the eldest daughter, or she could have taken the daughter of her sons, and not my daughter. But she didn’t go anywhere without Vlora. 

“I want to take Vlora with me,” she said. I asked, “Why Vlora” and I started crying. I told the girl, “Go with your grandmother because I feel sorry for her.” My mother was 60-years-old but she was a lady. I put a dress on my daughter, I hugged her and I told her goodbye. When they left, on the way they met her teacher on the road and her teacher told her, “Vlora you should stay, don’t go!” and Vlora started crying because her teacher loved her very much. She wrote many poems, she loved writing, all by herself. 

My sister-in-law from Peja told me, “She is so smart” Also her son was an excellent pupil but she was saying, “Your daughter is much smarter than my son.” My daughter sometimes spoke like an adult. Such is life. 

She would always draw, and study, she stayed all the time in the room, she didn’t play much with the other children. 

Sketch at the school… We have recorded the sketch at school, where she acted like an old woman, but we never watch it. We rarely watch it. We have all the tapes. We even took a tape when we were in Germany. We couldn’t watch anymore the first sketch she made at school.  

Her teacher brings flowers to her grave every year.  

During the war, I stayed at my family’s house, while my husband was in the mountains, and my daughter was saying, “Mom, I want to go to school” and I told her, “No my dear, Dad is at war, there will be enough time for school if things get better.” And two of my daughters went to school, Vlora and Albulena, they enrolled themselves in school. They were surprised at how smart they were. 

Her teacher asked her, “Who was your teacher?”. She said, “Teacher Sadik from Suhareka.” And when that teacher met Sadik, he said, “I am a very old teacher and I have had many pupils, but I have never seen such a smart pupil.” and Sadik replied, “Aaa, Vlora is my deputy”.  

Then sometimes he would come to see my daughter and he would say, “Don’t let her go to Reshtan. The police are at the bridge, don’t let her go there. If anything happens to her, you will be responsible.” 

The next day I woke up, I was working with a machine we had and I was holding the children’s clothes in my hand, and I started crying. She was getting ready to go to school and she said, “Mom, I read the newspaper and I am taking it to aunt Vala and then I am going to Reshtan”. I said, “Daddy told me yesterday, ‘Don’t let the girl go to school.’ and she said, “Oh mom, let them kill me. I want to become a martyr” and then I started crying even more. She got ready, for days I accompanied her, she would come and go, and she would say, “I don’t care even if I die. Dad is at war and I will not leave my teacher and my school friends, if they want to kill me – let them kill me.” So, she stayed with my mother and they both got killed. 

My mother came back together with my daughter. “Let’s go back to the house,” she said since they were very close, but they couldn’t get out anymore because of the police and they stayed there. When Gafurr’s house in Suhareka was set on fire they got scared and they wanted to come back. They found the brother there because they thought that he died. They all got on the tractor, it was full of clothes, they got on it and then in village Peqan they were shot and killed. They were killed in front of my uncle’s house. As soon as they entered, police were there or special forces or whatever they were, and they killed my mother and my daughter who were on the tractor. My brother ran away, he jumped off. It was nighttime. When this happened he went to the KLA. 

Then we left, but we came back again because I didn’t want to go to Albania either. My youngest son was six years old. I left together with my family, and then for three months I didn’t know where we were or if anyone had survived. I didn’t know anything for three months. But I thought that my husband would not survive. We knew that he was in Pagarusha, but we didn’t know if he was alive. Three months later, my husband came back, he took us and we came here. Everything was burned and our house was destroyed. But we were dealing with what happened to our daughter and we didn’t think so much about the house and other things. There was a mattress in the house and the children were sensitive, they were not used to sleep like that. They didn’t like what the aid organizations were giving and also the clothes that we received didn’t fit them.  

Liridon was caught by the police driving a tractor in a nearby village. They asked for money from him and he said: “I don’t have any”. The woman that has given him the tractor, took out 100 marks and tried giving it to the police officer. The police officer started cursing at my son, “A 100 marks? I want more money!” He said, “But, I don’t have any more money” and then my son told us, “He insulted me and kicked me, and then he pulled out his machine gun to kill me”. Then he said, “Someone called him to go somewhere and he threw me in the mud, and he didn’t take that money at all.” 

I left with my family members and I left my son and husband here. My husband had a ring and he gave it to our son, just in case, because we had no money during the war. We were building our house. He was insisting, “I want to stay in the war, to fight.” 

And when we went to Kukës, my son almost went crazy when he saw my husband’s friends from Prizren, Bexhet, and Miftar, who used to work in the municipality. My son asked them, “Where is my father ?!” And they said, “We don’t know anything about your dad.”  

We spent that night in the mosque and my son was scared, he would talk while sleeping, “Where is Vlora, where is Vlora?”. And I would tell him, “We will find her now”. 

Then we went to Vlora in Albania, where we stayed for three months there together with the children. My brother-in-law went to Germany, and he was telling me, “Come to Germany”. Some of my family members were in Switzerland. I said, “I will not leave my husband behind, my daughter died there, I want to return to Kosovo, even if I get killed I will not go abroad without my husband and my daughter”. I thought that I would find my daughter when we get back. 

My eldest daughter is very sensitive. She finished high school, but we couldn’t afford to send her to university. She used to say, “Mom, I hope that she died because if she survived then she must have gone crazy, it’s not worth living like that because she is very sensitive.” I said, “No, I want to see her”, but I never saw her again. At the house only one carpet was left there, the washing machine and other things were stolen. 

I used to wake up during the night. My husband was not only a friend but much more than a friend. I would wake up at night, and I was looking for my daughter, I got used to having her close to me. 

One day, my son Ilir woke up and went to search for Vlora to find where she is. He was 16 years old. When we got up in the morning, the boy was not there. We were looking at the nearby houses, they were all burned down. We went to the graveyard, but he was not there. It was already eleven o’clock. I was upset that we couldn’t find the boy, I was afraid that I would lose another child. When it was noon, or maybe one o’clock, he came back. He was crying and he said, “I went to the house of your uncle in village Peqan, mother Ije and Vlora were killed there”. 

My daughter was found about a month after we returned. They found her after the burial ceremony for Mursel’s brother. Many people attended that ceremony. They found my daughter at Suhareka graveyard. They were killed in Peqan and they were buried there. They found her together with my mother’s body. 

I saw the graves, but I didn’t go there, on June 12, the next day I went to the graves. But I didn’t tell my family anything. 

He didn’t tell us anything. We were going to Suhareka, he didn’t take me there but he took me on this side. I said, “Why aren’t we going this way, towards the basement?” Because I didn’t want to look in that way. He said, “No, it’s better if we use this shortcut.” Afterward, I told him, “So, you have known all along where the bodies are”, “Yes,” he said, “I knew”. 

On June 8th, the army entered our village and I was the chairman of the Democratic League, the Suhareka, and Reshtan branch. I said to myself, the party is down. We went to the mountains, we stayed here until August 23rd when the first offensive in Reshtan started.

I found out about my daughter immediately that night. On August 26th, at two o’clock, we were in Semeti, because on the 24th NATO bombarded. On the 25th my brother was killed, and on the 26th my brother-in-law came

While we were there I heard someone shout, “I am Muhamet from Suhareka!” He was shouting so we wouldn’t kill him. He came and said, “They killed my mother and Vlora.” He said, “I was coming with a tractor, together with my mother and Vlora. I hope that we will survive, but they were killed, that is what happened”. 

 On the 27th I wanted to go there. The police were there, I wanted to take three or four soldiers and to go and look, but my friends didn’t let me. On 28-29 we left for Drenica, because our position was breached. Malisheva station fell, and the Semetisht line didn’t fall but they came from behind and we were forced to leave completely. We went to Drenica, stayed there for five or six days, and then we returned to Semetisht. Then I went and saw that place where they were killed. I saw a commotion. It was a terrible sight. The tractor was covered in blood, and all the clothes were taken by the people who returned. 

 We were in Semetisht and my brother-in-law told me what happened that night, “They were shooting at the tractor, they didn’t know who was there”. He jumped from the tractor because the tractor was shot. The tractor and the trailer were full of bullet holes. They shot as much as they could. My son went there and he saw the tractor and he got very upset. He saw it after the war, and I saw the tractor during the war. It was full of bullets. There were some clothes on the ground, some pictures. They took the bodies immediately, after they killed them, they wanted to bury them in Peqan but someone told them, “Don’t bury them here, because they will be recognized.” My mother was recognized. And so, they buried them in Suhareka. As soon as I came to the graveyard, he immediately told me… He told them with numbers. I went there and I saw the graves. When we removed them, KFOR took them out, I was present, they invited me to go there. My brother’s body was taken out and his body was preserved, he looked almost as if he was sleeping. He was there for two-three months. They pulled out my daughter and she was wearing her clothes. 

Bahrie: He didn’t tell me anything at all, but I could see it in my dreams. I said, “I saw Vlora, I spoke to Vlora”. That day when they pulled them out from the graves, I saw a dream. I dreamt of pulling water from a well during the war. I was pulling with a bucket, not with a hydrophore. My daughter was telling me, “Mom, grab the bucket because the police are here, grab it before I let it go.” I woke up. Then I cried all day long. 

And my husband went there, they called him to go there but he didn’t tell me. To be honest with you I wanted to see her. In the afternoon a neighbor from the village arrived and he told my husband. My husband went and saw them. When I heard about this I asked my husband, “Why didn’t you call me, why didn’t you let me see my daughter once more?”. He didn’t tell me anything, he never tells what he saw and what he heard, nothing.  

I saw her but it would have been better not to have seen her at all. My body trembles when I think about it. 

Sometimes when I see Vlora in my dreams I get very happy. Sometimes it seems to me like she is real. But I do not see her very often. Once I saw a dream of her, we were in Prishtina, at a market and she asked me, “Mom, I want some bread” and I was looking around and I couldn’t find bread to give her. When I got up in the morning, I said to myself, I left my daughter without bread, and I cried and I cried. All day long I was sick. The next day my son said, “Let’s go to Prizren, or Prishtina for a walk because I want to go together with you”. And all the time I could neither eat nor drink because I was thinking of her. And then everyone got sad and they all started crying. “Until when,” asked my son, “are we going to keep doing this?” I said to him, “What can I do, she came in my dreams. Maybe I was spending good times with you and she is not well.”  

I haven’t seen her anymore but I would like to see her. Last winter, after the New Year I saw her. I saw her this year as well, but now I’m forgetting. We were somewhere together, but she disappeared, she was gone. Yes, I rarely see her, and I get upset when I see her and maybe that’s why I don’t see her anymore. If I would see her again, I would be very happy. 

Mursel: I sometimes dream of her but … 

Bahrie: What do you see? Say something. He never tells me anything… 

Mursel: In ’90, we had two classes at school, and at the initiative of my older brother, we decided to enlarge the school building and to make two more classes, and we had a meeting to talk about expanding the school a little, because there were many students, and there was not enough space anymore. In the beginning, nobody was giving money and my brother said to me, “You start first! Someone will give money, others will not but we will finish the school.” We made two additional classes, and when the village noticed that we were serious they helped us. In ’94 we built a two-story school, and in ’95 my daughter went to the first grade. Sometimes I dream of her telling the other children, “My dad has built this school”. I have this dream because I heard her with my ears saying this to the other children. 

Thank God the grave is far in the village because if she was close I would uncover her just so I could see her. It’s good that she is far.

 

Feature Image: ForumZFD

  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR ForumZFD
  • This story was originally written in Albanian.

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