Culture Supplement

The night and the day were very noisy. NATO planes did not stop at all

Albanian citizens look at a large cloud of smoke after a NATO warplane reportedly hit Serbian targets near the Albanian-Kosovo border in Morina, northern Albania, Monday, May 31, 1999 (Photo: Associated Press/Luca Bruno)

Albanian citizens look at a large cloud of smoke after a NATO warplane reportedly hit Serbian targets near the Albanian-Kosovo border in Morina, northern Albania, Monday, May 31, 1999 (Photo: Luca Bruno)

Photo: Associated Press

"Only ruins, dead bodies, herds of cattle without shepherds. No civilians anywhere. In Suhareka, only the multi-storey buildings are standing. The increase has been made flat", wrote the journalist Zenun Çelaj in the war diary on May 27, 1999. "The night and day were very noisy. NATO planes did not stop at all. I do not know which military or strategic facilities remained unbombed. I talked to the boys, my brother, Rudina, who in London, who in New York. Everyone asks me: "Do you have anything to eat?" Valdetja has gone for the cards. We were staying with Nejddet in his apartment, when unknown people appeared from the balcony, but he identified one of them as the neighbor's son", he wrote on May 28, 1999.

For the first time, sixty days after the bombing began, I went out into the street. I had said that I would go out and I kept my promise. All the houses and bars on both sides of the road, in which military or police formations are stationed, seem to me to have turned into eyesores. I had an indescribable fear. Across the sidewalks, military vehicles seem threatening. I found others in Nehati. When they saw me they screamed like in the stadium.

Again many expelled from Kosovo. There were also bombings. The NATO Council agrees to double the peacekeeping forces in Kosovo, after the eventual consent of Yugoslavia.

In Qaza, I met Ramadan Hashani and his daughter, Fatima. I worked with Ramadan for almost forty years in "Rilindja". We were not only homesick, but also worried. All his sons are out.

Wednesday, May 26

Qaza has decided to take a corpse to the morgue, which could be his brother's. The corpse is charred. Only a piece of cloth is left, which was probably his.

Nejdeti came from Prizren. The situation there is calmer than what the radios say. The sights along the way had made him sad. Only ruins, dead bodies, herds of cattle without shepherds. No civilians anywhere. In Suhareka, only the multi-storey buildings are standing. The addition is made flat.

Thursday, May 27

Early in the morning, Qaza left for Podujevë with the corpse assumed to be his brother's. He went in a vehicle that carries the dead. He had paid the Serbian driver three hundred marks. He returned without burying his brother. He had left this job to the few remaining relatives. Alija, the daughter of the one who was buried, will take care of the whole ceremony.

Today we have to equip ourselves with some green cards. Identity and place of residence must be legalized with them. With them, the police will now have an easier time finding those they are looking for. I decided not to complete it.

The Hague Court has filed the indictment against Milosevic. As much as I was happy with the decision, it also scared me. Now this one has nothing to save. It can also delay the deal. Who will sit down and sign a deal with a war criminal?

Friday, May 28

The night and the day were very noisy. NATO planes did not stop at all. I do not know which military or strategic facilities remained unbombed.

I talked to the boys, my brother, Rudina, who in London, who in New York. Everyone asks me: "Do you have anything to eat?" Valdetja has gone for the cards. Nejddet and I were staying in his apartment, when unknown people appeared from the balcony, but he identified one of them as the neighbor's son. He had entered Nejdet's apartment several times. When she asked him what he wanted, he fled down the stairs.

Alija started to go to Mahija's sister, Qaza's sister-in-law, somewhere in the city. But as soon as he goes out into the street, he is stopped by a uniformed person. He asks to identify him and accompanies him to the apartment. However, when he sees Qaza, he leaves without speaking. When this takes place again, at the corner near the "Hasan Prishtina" elementary school, he reappears: "You must come to the police station!", he tells her. Knowing that there was no police station there, he left the documents in his hand and ran away towards the soldiers, who were stationed nearby, in the ground floor premises of the multi-storey building. "I was speechless. I started to speak Albanian to the soldier. I said help me. He seems to have been a Serb from Kosovo and he also gave me back Albanian and advised me not to be afraid. Behind me came the man in black uniform with the documents in his hand, which he threw away as soon as he got close and ran away" - she explained to us very shocked about what had happened to her.

Distraught and scared refugees from Kosovo cry as they wait in a field to be put on buses after arriving in Albania at the border crossing in Morina, Wednesday, May 12, 1999. Refugees continue to pour into Albania in the face of a Serbian campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo (Photo: Associated Press / Santiago Lyon)

In the evening, after 22 p.m., the radio announced: "Milosheviqi has accepted the basic principles of the 7+1 Group, on the condition that the Security Council recognizes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the RF of Yugoslavia", which has never been disputed by the international community. It was a sign that he is tired.

Saturday, May 29

The West shows reservations about Milosevic's promise. It requires the fulfillment of five known conditions. This means that we still have to wait to get out of anxiety.

I spent almost the whole day at Nehati's.

Zaim and one son, Arianit, had been released. Albini will be brought before the court.

For the first time we talked with Fahri (Musli) in Belgrade.

Sunday, May 30

The announcement that Milosevic and the Serbian leader have agreed to the G-8 plan does not excite me, no matter how much each of us here feels like hell. I suspect that it will not be a game of his, that the international community can accept to get out of a situation that he himself did not expect. We must accept the prolongation of anxiety and perhaps some less happy individual fate.

The West shows reservations towards Serbian declarations of compliance with the G-8 plan. "We want concrete actions, not words" - say those who are in charge of making the decision. Unfortunately, more and more often there is talk of a division of Kosovo, which in no way would go in favor of the Albanians.

Rugova returned to Italy, although it was previously announced that he would remain in Germany, where he had a base and support in the first people. In Germany it would be even closer to the placement offices. He was also in Macedonia and for a few minutes he also saw a camp, but not in Albania, where most of the deportees from Kosovo are. Explanations for some reason are completely meaningless.

Monday, May 31

Several times we had power outages, while the water has stopped earlier. What do they do who have neither these, nor the bread, nor the roof, nor the mat, nor the cover? They say it threatens a humanitarian catastrophe, but in fact it does.

A powerful detonation, around 4 am, disturbed our sleep. I said it fell on us. Then it was quiet.

Another massacre in Staradran of Istog. Many were also killed in Shala of Bajgora. A neighbor of Nehat says that the army and the police are withdrawing from Dragodani. If the news is true, then the work is being done. But people here also say what they like, not what is true.

Someone who was released from Lipjani Prison said that there he saw Flora Brovina, Halil Matoš, Albin Kurti... I am happy with the news. They are alive. I had thought about Halil and Bardh Hamza many times and for the first time I found out about Halil. Blerim (Sala) as if I heard his voice from Macedonia. I also tell my sons, who communicated with the Albanian means of information - Kosova Presi and Free Kosovo, but also with foreign means of information. At least it should be known that Halil is in prison.

Tuesday, June 1

Yesterday I had mistakenly marked June 1 in my diary, although here we are also counting the minutes. The days unfortunately resemble those that have gone: long, heavy, full of sad news.

Someone who came from Prizren to talk on the phone from Nexdet's apartment told me that Dr. Dautin, the symbol of Albanian medicine among us. Nejdeti had told me that days ago in Prizren he had seen when he was waiting in line for bread, the seller had served him out of order. He is a man who is respected by everyone.

Esat Stavileci, dressed a little differently than usual, had arrived in Tetovo together with his old and sick father. His father died a week later. Iljaz Kurteshi had also arrived in Macedonia.

It follows in the next issue of the Supplement for culture excerpted from the chapter "Diary of war: Hell before freedom" of the book "Journey to the past" by Zenun Çelaj, KOHA Publications, October 2020

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