A few days before the start of the NATO bombing on March 24, 1999, 17-year-old Betim Berisha waved goodbye for the last time to his parents — Avdi and Fatime — and his brother Kushtrim, in their house in Suhareka. He traveled to nearby Prizren, where he was attending high school in the Albanian language parallel education system.
The next time he entered his house, already empty, was after he returned as a refugee from Albania in June of that year, a few days after the war in Kosovo had officially ended. Upon returning to his hometown, he was finally confronted with the truth about his most loved ones: All three had been killed by Serbian forces in the Suhareka massacre.
On March 26, 1999, two days after Betim had seen his family for the last time, Serbian police forces from the Police Department in Suhareka killed 53 Kosovar-Albanian civilians in that town. Among those killed were 49 members of the Berisha family, including 23 children, a pregnant woman, and a 100-year-old woman.
Some of the men were shot dead in front of the houses of the extended Berisha family, others were forced into a pizzeria in town, where they were attacked with hand grenades while locked inside. Those who showed signs of life were shot in the head. Only three people survived the massacre, while the bodies were dumped in a mass grave in Kosovo, and later were transported to the mass grave in Batajnica, on the outskirts of Belgrade.
The mortal remains of 23 of the Suhareka victims were found in Batajnica, while Avdi, Fatime and Kushtrim are still missing.
Betim talks about life with his family before the war and how his close friends, specifically his wife, Arlinda, have helped him to find new meaning in life.K
Feature image: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.