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Remembering the NATO bombing of Kosovo and Metohiya, Serbia

I remember, around half past one in the morning, the whole village was awakened by some unnatural light, suddenly it was day and a terrible sound was heard. First once, then the second time, the third. It seemed to me that the country had opened up, everything around me was moving – they were bombing us.

It was the night between May 10 and 11, 1999. Staro Gracko, a village in the municipality of Lipljan, is on the list of targets of NATO bombers. In a few minutes, my family and all our neighbors were out. One part of the village was burning, the screams of women and children were heard and we all headed towards the burning houses. In the dark, shivering with fear, throwing ourselves to the ground every time planes flew over, we stepped over something, kicking something that sounded like a can. No one stopped to check what it was. We hurried to help our villagers. When we arrived, we had something to see.

„My sister has no head“

Jevrosima and Bosko Jankovic, a 60-year-old married couple, are lying dead in front of their house holding hands, while all the buildings in their yard are on fire. It also burns near Seslija. The family houses of Markovic and Rocenovic were destroyed. You can no longer live in them, but we see people on the street – they are alive. We are all in a hurry towards the yard where the Dimics lived, because crying and calling for help can be heard from there as well. Dimici was not well known to all the inhabitants of Stari Grac, because they came to the village a few months before the bombing began. They fled their village in fear of the Albanians, and I know from the story that they were satisfied. They came to a Serbian village and felt safe. Their children, Dragana and Bojan, immediately found friends and played all day. The Rocenović family, that is, their children Petar, Jovana and Milutin, shared everything with little Dimic. Dragana was four and a half years old, and her brother Bojan was three. I remember the children from the street – they were cheerful, noisy and carefree. It never occurred to Dimic, nor to the other citizens of Stari Grad, that they could become an important strategic and military goal of the powerful NATO and that they, the village of 80 houses, would be bombed. There were no shelters in the village.

We were in our houses, already used to falling asleep to the sound of bombers. That sound put the children to sleep as well. Little Dragana also fell asleep that night in the room with her brother, while her parents slept in another room with a nine-month-old baby. It is interesting how many thoughts go through a person’s head, when he is scared. I even remembered the bikes they rode down the street. We enter the yard, and in front of us is a horrible sight! Leaning against a tree trunk, a woman with a baby in her arms begs to help her children. Little Bojan repeats without interruption: „My sister has no head, my sister has no head…“, and his father Siniša holds little Dragana in his arms. Suddenly, women men force us out of the yard. I go a little further away from home and shoot something again in that darkness, annoyed that it is everywhere. I ask myself, did I see well that Siniša is holding the body of a child without a head? I hear Siniša shouting: „Let someone take me to the hospital to save Dragan.“ Neighbors can’t convince him to put his body down, not to approach him. He begs someone to drive him to Pristina and the Clinical Center. The words of little Bojan resound in my ears: „No head, no head…“, while behind me someone says: „His wife ran out of the house with the baby after the first attack, and he went to save Dragana and Bojan, probably he too wounded.

„Djoko Rocenovic, their neighbor, decides to drive Sinisa to the hospital because Bojana also needs help, he is wounded. I hear someone shouting in that crowd: „Okica Seslija is also wounded, and he has to go to the hospital.“ For days, Roćenović recounted the trip to Pristina, remembering little Bojan who asked again and again: „Uncle Djoko, my sister doesn’t have a head, did you see, did you see?“ Sinisa asked her to drive faster, clutching his daughter’s body in her arms. . Bojan asked the same question to all the doctors in the Pristina hospital while they examined him, and in the hallway there was a persuasion that Sinisa would hand over the girl’s body to them. None of the doctors and medical staff could open his hands, and he begged them: „Save my Dragan, save my child.“ They barely overcame him and only then saw that he was bleeding almost all over his body. It’s not just Dragan’s blood on him. He was wounded. Full of shrapnel, and he felt weak. „It was already the day when I came to myself and realized what had happened during the night. The image of the disfigured Dragana was before my eyes, sympathy with her father in my chest. She was his sweetheart, I know because our children were friends. Then I realized that I ran out of the house to help Dimic, completely forgetting about my wife and three children. It was only around seven in the morning that I became aware that I had left them in the yard and wondered what happened to Peter (8), Jovan (6) and Milutin (4).

I don’t even know how I got to the village, and I found my family in the yard wrapped in blankets, sitting next to each other and talking to my mother. They are alive, my children are alive „, Djoko Rocenovic told his drama to everyone. „Forbidden“ bombs At around ten in the morning, journalists, the army and the police arrived in the village. Jankovic’s bodies were still in the yard. There were dried blood stains on his pajamas, and an incinerator around them. I remember that everything smelled of burning. Dimic is sad. Journalists, cameramen, photo reporters enter to see and record the place where one child died – the room where Dragana and Bojan slept. After leaving the house, they either faint or vomit. On the wall are the remains of Dragana’s head, and traces of her brain on the floor and pillow. After a sleepless night, the old citizens, black from the station because they put out the fires, give statements and say: „The child’s brain is all over the room, come in and see.“ Her head was an important military goal of the NATO alliance. Damn them! ” Throughout the village, some strange yellow and orange devices with a parachute on top could be seen for me at that moment.

They were everywhere, and most of them were half buried in the ground. Not knowing what it was, I set out to see people returning home from the surrounding forests, as they had taken refuge there after the attack. The head of the then MUP in Lipljan, Major Nikola Ilic, stopped me with a terrible shout, asking me if I knew what I was stepping on? I said no“. He then explained to me that these were cluster bombs that, if they did not explode when they fell, could explode after 24 hours or even later. He also said that they dropped a total of five containers of cluster bombs on the village and that one charge contains 147 smaller bombs. I heard about them, so I asked, „Aren’t they banned?“ Nikola waved his hand away and said that those bombs were being dropped in order to kill as many civilians as possible, and confirmed that they were banned. He was visibly shaken by what he saw in the village where he was born and raised. That’s how I found out that we hit them during the night and my blood froze in my veins. On the same day, we heard from the hospital in Pristina that the wounded citizens of Stari Grad were out of danger. After leaving the hospital, the Dimics left the village.

Dragana’s father Sinisa never recovered. We heard that he does not remember that he had a daughter named Dragana. In the days when we mark the anniversaries of the March pogrom and the NATO bombing, every memory, every testimony, of both sufferings is important. Serbs from this part of Serbia will tell you that, in fact, it all started on March 24, 1999. The occupation followed the NATO aggression. The alliance hidden behind the KFOR mark closed the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija in the ghettos, fenced them with barbed wire, and restricted their movement. They also fenced off all churches and monasteries. The pogrom of March 17 took place inside those wires of theirs, before their eyes. The crime, which did not end in 1999, and which began after the withdrawal of the Serbian army and police, continued five years later. „The biggest crime was committed in those 78 days. All subsequent crimes arose as a consequence of the same. It is unfortunate that the anniversary of the bombing is almost not marked in Kosovo and Metohiya.

Everything is being done on purpose so that we do not accidentally resent the West, NATO. They are the main occupiers. „Albanians are their puppets,“ my friends said these days. She and her family left Prizren in the 1999 pogrom. Therefore, as long as our memories are alive, as long as we remember and transmit stories about the crimes of Albanians and their mentors who bombed us, as we testify that the pogrom on March 17 was allowed by those mentors under the cloak of peacekeepers – there is hope for us. If we allow – I mean the people, because politicians are ready for anything – to forget this and all other sufferings of Serbs, then we will commit the most terrible crime ourselves.

Author: Janja Gacesa

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