"In my head I was already dead.
So was everyone from my family.
Everyone was taking bread and clothes to the mountains.
I was taking books.
Because I knew without book I would be forced to look at this terror all round us."
Rina Ahmetaj. Owner, Amphora Cafe, Manchester.
"We did not have enough food.
It was not normal life.
It was not secure.
We could not work.
Since 1990 the situation changed.
It started to get much worse.
I had to leave my job and they shut a lot of schools.
They killed my family in the garden."
Selatin Bogujveci. MAK leader, Manchester.
"I was so young. I was 16 years old before the war. I was meeting my husband Besim. Very bad things happen and they change everything. It was the war in Kosovo and my husband was shot in the face. One of my brothers was injured one of them was dead. Five was kidnapped and found dead after four years."
Valbona Peci Kadriu. Mother, home-maker, Manchester.
"This happened in the 20th Century: the age of the internet, the age of computers and you still have people with the mentality to empty a country, which doesn't make sense because you'd think we'd moved on from that kind of mentality. We had 24 hours to leave. There's still close to 2,000 people missing."
Bledar Bujupi. Film editor, Manchester.
"People were just disappearing.
We didn't have any clothes.
We didn't have anything with us.
We just left the house with a bag: all our memories, toys, books, little baby clothes, all gone."
Bleta Kabashi. Bronze foundry technician, Oswestry.
"We didn't know anything like that existed whatsoever, in the sense of mass being held in school. Because we were never used to anything like that back home, I had no clue.
They were told it was a Catholic School and my dad was like, 'So what difference does it make, is it a good school?' And they said, 'Yeah, it's a good school.'"
Adonis Alaj. Insurance broker, Manchester.
"I was deployed when NATO had to move into Kosovo to deal with the genocidal cleansing... At last, a plane was going to leave Pristina carrying four people. One young lad, shot in the abdomen, going to Salford. The patient with the missing face accepted by the ENT and Ophthalmic specialists in the Manchester Hospitals, and these two young girls. It made sense for them all to be going up to one city."
Col. David Vassello. Consultant medical surgeon. Royal Army Medical Corps. MaK patron.
"I’m at college studying nursing. Maybe because I was in hospital a lot when I was younger, I know what it’s like to be that kid, or that person, in hospital. I want to give that back: what the nurses did for me, how they helped.
I want to give that back to the community."
Jonida Bujupi. Health and social care student, Manchester.
"My father saved some money and he said to them that he would give all of his money just to be released. They accepted that.
My father had hidden his money in our shoes and he cut them, took his money and gave it to them.
And they started to have a celebration and started to drink again. And we had to serve them our food."
Ilir Nezeri. Dentist, Manchester.
"That night neighbours knocked onto everybody’s doors to say, ‘They’re coming here! They’re throwing bodies in the lake!’
That was the only night that my mum and dad had let us take our shoes off. I just remember it was raining and walking in the mud further away from the lake.
In fact they did throw bodies. They just threw bodies into the lake and drove off."
Lumnije Mustafa. Specialist nurse organ donation, Manchester.
"We saw Serbian police army forces going into our neighbours houses breaking the windows and just taking all the people out. We presumed that they wanted us to join the rest of the people in the roads and just leave, flee the town. Someone ordered the other guys to take us back into our neighbour’s garden and that’s where they just started shooting. And left us for dead."
Fatos Bogujevci. Artist & graphic designer, Manchester.
"When the war came we had to leave.All together, in the night, into the mountains. We were chased every step. We didn't have any clothes; we slept in the open air. Whenever we found food we would share it with everyone. That was pretty much it, for three months, until the Liberation."
Fazli Blakçori. MMU peace and development graduate, Manchester.
"That night we went to the mountain again. I was shot. I was alone: no one else can help you. After 24 hours I meet a few people. They gave me help to go to a house which has not been burnt down. I meet some of Valbona’s family over there. Everyone has been in shock because I was injured in my face."
Besim Kadriu. Former engineering student, Manchester.
"We survived the war.
We have never given up.
We have moved forward.
We have aimed to live our lives to the fullest but never forgetting the past."
Jehona Bogujevci. Artist, graphic designer, Manchester.
"I just remember the parents and the adults trying to keep it quiet all the time: always chatting away, but obviously we could still hear the worry.
I guess that put fear into us. You know there’s a real danger."
Qendrim Mustafa. Insurance underwriter, Manchester.
"There's always struggles. But what makes it easy, is to see so many people be part of your life, changing it and making it better; and always giving you hope and pushing you to move forward and helping you; supporting you to achieve what you want in life."
Saranda Bogujevci. Director Culture, Youth, Media and Sport, Municipality of Pristina, Kosovo. Saranda Bogujevci went on to become an M.P. and Deputy Speaker of Parliament in Kosovo.
"Saranda and Fatos were the first Albanians to give their testimonies against Serbian forces. They opened the door.
Many family members got their courage, by those kids, to give their testimonies in Serbian court.
Their testimony has built collective memory about the past based on facts. We, as human rights activists, do appreciate very much their decision and braveness to give testimonies."
Bekin Blakaj. Executive director, Humanitarian Law Centre, Kosovo.
"The welcome was magnificent, unexplainable. Not just our first steps off the plane at Manchester airport, but also then the processing of all of the refugees.
And yes, it's true, the English removed the rags of oppression and truly brought smiles for the first time to our kids faces - our kids, who had seen nothing but violence, burnings and killings."
Bedri Hyseni. Former lawyer, teacher, Kosovo.
© Fahredin Spahija
"As a young person I just remember it being fantastic, I loved all my teachers, I got on extremely well with all the other pupils.
I just thought they were very welcoming and yeah, very loving as people in general. So I like the UK for that reason."
KALTRINA GJATA. Lecturer in English, Kosovo.
"Peace, through justice and truth."
Natasha Kandic. Founder, Humanitarian Law Centre, Belgrade.
"Even though I didn’t know the language at one point in my life, now I’m so strong about it. I’m going to teach my kids, my little sister, and make sure everyone in the family knows how to speak it.
I do like to keep the Kosovan culture. I don’t know why but I just don’t want to lose it."
Fatime Gashi. Bio-medicine student, Manchester.
"And there are bitter memories every time you look back to that period of time.
Each family had its own tragic story. Everybody tried to assist us starting with the hearty welcome that they had prepared for us. We simply cannot forget that: the kindness of ordinary people."
Amir Lamaxhema. Interpreter Kosovo Police, Kosovo.
© Fahredin Spahija
"Journalists need to know that sometimes you’ve got to follow through on a story. If you make a promise, especially to five kids to find the killers of their family, then you’ve got to step up to the plate. It’s a matter of self respect.
You should do it, even if it takes fifteen years of your life."
Paresh Patel. Investigative journalist BBC News & Current Affairs, Manchester.
"In the early years, we heard some
horrendous stories. I would sit there, a grown man, with other grown men and I would just cry, you know, my face streaming. And I said to one guy, one chap, ‘I’m so sorry. I’m crying.’
He said, ‘Don’t be sorry. All our tears have dried up now."
Paul Guest. Convoy paramedic, former chairman of Manchester Aid to Kosovo
"I was with this beautiful 13 year old little girl who’d been shot so badly - holding her hand. She had to stand in the prison as this group of body builders came out. I think there was two-way glass, so they couldn’t see us."
Pam Dawes. MaK leader, Manchester.
"I phoned my Chairman of Governors. I said, ‘I think we should take them. They’ve been in serious trouble and we have the opportunity to help.’ He said, ‘If as a Catholic school we can’t accept refugees, we shouldn’t be in business."
Lou Harris. Former head teacher, Blessed Thomas Holford RC School, Trafford.
"I think the stories are very, very inspiring. They are definitely about life. They’re about people moving on, despite difficulties; people having really good lives and, incredibly, not being bitter about things... not holding onto the darkness but moving beyond that."
Naomi Hamill. Oral histories manager, writer, teacher, Manchester.
"This should be recorded. But then at the same time, it shouldn’t be needed to be recorded because we should have learnt from Anne Frank’s diary. That should have been enough. Again I don’t… I can’t comprehend how other children are having to educate people, again."
Kelly Bücher. Oral histories transcriber, Manchester,
"I think everybody deserves opportunities and life chances.
I was given life chances. When I see inequalities and vulnerable people and vulnerable communities and where I see conflict, you want to try and change that. What drives me is where I can do things, I will do things."
David Acton. Former leader Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council, Trafford.
"When Kosovo happened, I was asked whether I would be willing to go into Kosovo on the back of NATO to help re-establish the health services. I said, ‘Well, the principal I want to establish is that nobody will bleed to death unnecessarily: no woman will die in labour unnecessarily; nobody will who needs an urgent
abdominal operation; or anyone who has had a landmine injury."
Prof. Tony Redmond. Consultant in international emergency medicine. CEO, UK Med, Manchester.
Transcript available in physical archive
Audio available in physical archive.
"When the last bullet is fired in a war that does not signal the end of the suffering. When people are allowed to return home to their bombed out villages that doesn’t signal the end of the trauma.
It doesn’t signal the end of meeting people’s needs. Each of the families at Meadow Court were there for a reason."
Rev. Bruce Thompson. Methodist minister, Manchester.
"A summer is a summer... a winter is a winter."
Before the war.
"Everybody wanted to get on that train. But police were getting on that train to find young people to take them out.
Mum was hiding her son under her dress."
During the war.
"As soon as we landed here, my eyes kind of opened. I was not the same anymore. I didn’t need to close myself up anymore. I knew straight away that I was safe. No one was trying to kill us here. We were safe."
"After 5 years, it was amazing to go back and see the country I had left burning."