The real saga of the Kpuzi family begins right after the war, when their father is kidnapped, and they never find him again. The father of this family was a man with a disability, as he could barely stutter anything. He worked in front of the Pashtrik Hotel in Gjakova as a shoe polisher.
His son, Homez, with a few additions from his brother, recounts the day of his father’s disappearance few days after the end of the war, he also speaks about the deaf mother, and their hard life in poverty. Shortly afterwards, while searching for his father, he himself falls hostage to a group of people who wanted to kill him.
I am Homez Kpuzi. We are three brothers and two sisters. We suffered a lot as children. My father’s name was Ismet Kpuzi. Immediately after the liberation, we learned that he disappeared. I thought to myself, “Why did they take my father? My father didn’t even know how to speak.” He drank, he used to drink alcohol, but he never did anything wrong to anyone. They took him immediately after the liberation. I never saw him again.
My mother died in 2004. I have never heard anything about my father to this day. Our uncle took care of us, I am thankful to him. Also, his sons took care of us. He really looked after us. Also, he looked for my father, but we didn’t manage to find him, we don’t know where he is or what happened to him.
Now I live with the children, with four orphaned children. My sisters are married in Peja. They can’t talk, also my father was unable to speak. Father could speak a bit, but he stuttered. And we spoke to our sisters with fingers. My mother was also unable to speak.
I went to school, but I was not interested in it. Because I was sick as a child. Azyl Kpuzi gave me blood and I was not feeling well, I was always thin and weak, I was not feeling well. I was telling my family this, and they would tell me, “You better go and study”. I would complain and they would tell me, “Okay stay home and we will tell the teacher that you are sick”, and so I didn’t attend school and I lost many lessons.
I was enrolled in school, and I started attending the first grade, but I was not good at it, I didn’t go regularly, and I would escape from classes because I didn’t like it at all. Now I have children, three daughters and a son. My eldest daughter Sagita attended eight grades. She was doing well at the school, but I had to take her out from the school because there was no one who could take care of those three children. We were at work. Emra Kpuzi is the name of the second daughter and she has three twins. Then is the third and youngest child, Elmedina.
My children are orphaned because I got separated from my wife, I didn’t have a good relationship with her. My youngest daughter was three years old, and now she is almost eight. I raised four children myself. Also, I raised them with the help of the people from the neighborhood, because they helped me – they brought me food for the children. They helped by bringing clothes, sneakers, socks, and slippers for the children. Most of the people from the neighborhood helped me. They knew that we have bad living conditions, that we were poor. They helped the children get clothes when they go to school. I had to wash the children, put clothes on them, prepare them and send them to school. I raised the children myself. I would put water on a cup, sweeten it and give it to my youngest daughter.
When I had money, I would buy milk and I would give them milk to drink. This is how they lived. Like orphans. But now, they go to school and they are no different from other children. I made a request to give them same homework as for the other children. I complained, and I got no response! Now we are waiting. So, they can study. To study so they can continue going to school. I would like my children to continue studying, and not live like I have lived. I didn’t go to school; I cannot leave my children without school! That’s why I feel sorry for my eldest daughter, she was doing very well at school, but she had to stop attending because of the kids.
My father was a very nice person. He worked at Hotel ‘Pashtriku’, as a shoe polisher. My father was very happy when we got liberated. He went out of the house; he was with his friends and they went for a drink. He used to drink alcohol. One day he left and then after some time the news came to us, “We can’t find our father”. We all went out trying to find him, my uncle, and my brother and me, but we couldn’t find him. We searched for him in the hospital, in the headquarters which were created after we got liberated. The Commanders headquarters, because there were no police then.
We informed the commander, it was a person called Besim Vokshi, he was responsible for Gjakova. We went there and met them, because they knew my father. He would polish their shoes; they would give him money and help him. They said, “No, he is not here. We have people who will find him. He’s a good man”, they praised our father.
My father went out, and he also took his toolbox. He took his brushes, his things, and the cart. He went to polish shoes in front of the hotel. From there, he went to the street, near the Halil Hoda’s bakery. Just before reaching there, they took my father, his cart and stuff and they put him in the trunk of the truck, and they drove away. A friend of my father saw everything, and he immediately came to tell us. My father was drunk but he was muscular.
My father was very happy when we got liberated, because we suffered a lot because of the Serbs. I remember once when I was a child, I saw my father getting slapped and I never forgot how I felt. He went and he saw his friends, he was so happy he cried. His friends told us. My father also worked as a cleaner of the toilets, he used to hang around with some older people from the hotel.
When my father went out of the house, we were at home. That morning only me and my father, and mother were home. Mom was making coffee for Dad. He had his coffee, smoked two cigarettes, took his things and he left. I asked him, “Where are you going?” He said, “I’m going to work. When I come back home, I will give you some money or I will buy something for you in town.”
As far as I remember it was the uncle that saw him. My uncle passed away; he was very old. He saw him near Halil Hoda’s bakery and he wanted to take the cart away from his hands. He said, “Not the cart, I will not give the cart to anyone.” He didn’t like anyone taking his stuff. Not even with us, for example, he wouldn’t give the cart to us to bring it home, he hated it. When my uncle came, he told us, “Go and get your father”, he said, “because he got badly drunk at Halil Hoda’s bakery”.
We went over there, but we didn’t see anyone there. We asked the people from the bakery, they said, “He took some bread, he put it in the cart and then he left for home.” Then they told us that someone put him inside a car, but they didn’t tell us what happened correctly. In the truck. Car or truck, they didn’t know.
When we came home, we told our cousin. We told him, “We can’t find our father anywhere.” “How come you can’t find him anywhere?” Then my cousin went out and started to search for him around.
He went everywhere, but he couldn’t find him. He didn’t come home all night long. Also, my uncle went out and looked for him, he went to the hospital and in the headquarters. We couldn’t find him anywhere, we also reported to the KFOR. There were cameras at KFOR. The Italians were stationed here then. We also requested help from the Germans in Prizren. They also searched for him. Hazyri went to the Italian KFOR, and I went to the Germans in Prizren. There was a translator, I was talking to him, and the German was just taking notes.
My brother was a translator. Ermin. Yes, he used to live here and he was not married. He spoke Italian language, he learned it together with them and after the liberation they wanted to hire him. But my brother escaped, he went to live abroad and now he is currently in Italy. He left because he was afraid that he might get killed. We were also afraid for him. Because someone burned mu uncle’s house and since my brother was working with the Italians, he told them everything. He told them who burned the house, he told them that they burned the house on purpose. As soon as my uncle managed to finish that house, they burned it. My brother told the Italians who burned it and for this reason he escaped. “Brother, it’s better if you go away, otherwise they will kill you. They took our father, what’s the point if they take you or me or the others.” So, in 2000, or 2001 he left, he went abroad.
We were young when our father disappeared, I was 13 and he was 15 years old. Our mother lived with us. Then our mother suffered a lot and she got sick. We took her to the doctors, but we couldn’t save her. After some time, she got very tired. When our mother died, our uncle took care of us. Then, when our uncle also died, our cousin took care of us and gave us food, water, he got us dressed, he washed us, everything. He took care of us. Uncle Haziri’s son raised us, he gave us food and water. He didn’t leave us in the street.
Even when our mother was alive, he took care of us. We lived together, we slept home, we were all family members, we all ate and drank there. My cousin made this house for us. We have two rooms, a bathroom and a corridor. He did not leave us in the streets, and he wasn’t doing well himself either. But the most important thing is that took care of us. He never left us to suffer.
Now, we are doing fine, thanks to him. I have no problems with my cousins, they are trying to help me with the orphans. They help us during Ramadan, Eid or a holiday.
Hazyri suffered a lot together with us, and with our mother when she was alive. Hazyri took our mother all the time in hospitals, they visited different doctors, he provided for the needles, he has done everything he could. He tried hard to help her; he loved our mother very much. He has not separated us from his own children, he had seven children, and plus we were five. We all stayed together. He worked in Qabrat with garbage. He took care of us, he provided food and water for us. I am thankful to him.
Then I got married. I was young, I rushed a bit and I left them. I was staying in a rented house and the conditions were very bad. Sometimes I did not pay for the rent, and they would kick me out of the houses, and then I would go to another place and another place, and that’s how I lived. My cousin helped us get married. Now I don’t know what will happen, maybe God will open the way for us, to make a house, do something.
When my mother died, I felt very bad. She had a heart attack. I slapped her four, five times so that she wouldn’t die, to return her soul. I was crying but nothing happened. My cousin Hazyri went together with my brother, and they took her to the hospital, where she passed away. Don’t cry brother, things will get better. She had a heart attack at the hospital. I was with Hazyri’s wife, her name is Valbona. They didn’t tell me anything, I just remember when the doctors came near me. They put a needle in my arm to calm me down. Then, after some time I see that Hazyri is not feeling well, he came out crying. I asked him, “What’s up? Is mother better?” He said, “Yes, she is better” and my mother had passed away. He cried a lot when we were in the hospital. I started crying as well.
I didn’t see our father when he left the house. He would leave the house early in the morning.
When we went out to look for my father, some people here from Gjakova caught me too. They were from Qabrat, I remember it very well. They took me to a big house, but I can’t remember which house it was. They locked me in. They kept me locked for 24 hours. They were asking me, “tell us what have you done during the war. Did you kill anyone?” I told him, “I don’t know anything. I’m a young boy.” They put in front of me some sticks, pistols and rifles.
I didn’t know who they were, and I still don’t know. They beat me up a lot. I was completely broken. They cut my hair, they kicked and punched me. After some time, they untied my hands. I asked help from Allah, and thanks to him, he gave me great strength and I escaped, I jumped from the third floor. It was an old house. I remember while I was escaping from Qabrat, an old man came to me, I don’t know his name. He saw me covered in blood, and I fell to the ground, I couldn’t stand anymore. The old man grabbed me, brought me inside, gave me water, took care of me, he was asking me questions and I didn’t know what to say. I was scared. Then, Hazyri went out to search for me. I told that old man, “I want to go home.” I didn’t even know how to explain that old man where I live because I was beaten up badly. I managed to come here to the house. When they saw me, I was all covered blood.
I didn’t go to the hospital, and they wanted to take me there. They took me to the headquarters. I didn’t know who those guys were, and I couldn’t remember the house where they took me. They would ask me, “Do you know who those people were?”, I said, “No, I don’t”. Then they said, “No, you know them, but you are afraid to tell.” and I said, “Why should I lie to you? An old man took me to his house when I ran away from them.” I know they took me to Qabrat.
I still don’t know where they took me. I don’t know because I was unconscious, I was in a very bad shape. I was trying to save myself, to escape from them so they wouldn’t kill me and that’s why I didn’t remember anything. I remember when I was running that I was in Qabrat. I don’t even remember the old man. He mentioned his name, but I was all beaten up: my face, all over my body.
They beat me with sticks, they threw me around, they beat me, they cut me. I was beaten very badly, very, very badly. I was unconscious. Plus, they cut my hair, they kicked me, they were even pissing on me. To be honest with you they did terrible things.
That old man kept me at his house for three hours, and I just wanted to leave. I was so much afraid that I thought that also the old man wants to kill me. His family members were wiping my blood. I was afraid of them. I was telling them, “Just let me go home.” They gave me a hood and a t-shirt and said, “Let’s take you home”. I didn’t know where my house was and I escaped also from the old man.
I ran away and I came running home. Hazyri was at home, he asked, “What happened to you?” I told him what happened. It was a Monday when they took me. Hazyri took me immediately to the headquarter. He told them what happened, but I didn’t know the place, and I didn’t remember where it was.
It took him ten to fifteen days to get well again. I was in a very, very bad shape. His hands, body, legs, and face were all black from the beatings. We hardly managed to heal him.
They locked me in a very small room, not even two by three meters. There was nothing there and I was handcuffed. I was handcuffed with police handcuffs on the back and they tied my legs. I couldn’t see who was coming in because it was dark, the lights were switched off, but I could hear when they came in. They were watching me.
If our father was alive at that time, he would come for you. He would have reported, he would have done something to come to me. I think that they killed him, I don’t know. Those were dangerous times. Immediately after the liberation, it was a big mess. There was still no proper freedom. Now we go out, we walk, we work, we live. During those times it was not like now.
I would like to thank you very much for coming here. More or less, you have given us a good thing. I would like to find my father, dead or alive. At least his bones, so we would know that he died, and we would bury him. That’s how I would know that I found him, to have something from him.
The story is extracted from the book “Hijacked Childhoods: Accounts of children’s wartime experiences’ and is published in series as part of the framework of coordinated activities of CSO’s in Kosovo, organized to mark the International Day of Enforced Disappearances – 30 August 2023. The book is published in partnership between forumZFD Kosovo program and the Missing Persons Resource Center, and is supported by funds received from the German Federal Ministry on Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) and the Embassy of Switzerland in Kosovo. Prishtina, 2022.