The Mejzimi Family

Kosovo refugees photograph by David Turnley
Sead Mejzimi, 2, Grandson
Kosovo refugees photograph by David Turnley
Dizar Mejzimi, 5, Grandson
Suddenly, word comes - a neighbor back home has relatives in a village 10 kilometers away, and a schoolhouse will become residence for this village in exile.

The family heads towards their new home with the excitement of a found sense of mission in their otherwise stateless lives. Upon arrival, an emptied 20 x 30-foot classroom, with a small wood burning stove is chosen, and the 24-member family spend the day moving in.

As this short term sense of security allows the family to drop one kind of guard, the rumors of atrocities from back home start to drift in, and the acute trauma of the situation becomes more clear.

I have reached the point where I must cross the line between documenter of this family's plight, and my need to help. It is Easter and when I return this morning I come bearing kilos of food.

Overnight, the schoolroom has quickly taken on the life of a home, and all that word entails. The baby is rocked to sleep. The family sits down to eat their first meal in five days. The laundry is washed.

Secured by their family's love and protection, the children adapt to their new home. With the help of his grandfather, two-year-old Sead helps his father shave.

Samir's aunt is distraught at not knowing what has happened to her daughter and eight-month-old granddaughter in a neighboring village in Kosovo. She fears they may not be alive, and I take her to the hospital where she is given a tranquilizing injection.

As I prepare to leave, I sit down with Samir and Bukurea. They tell me about themselves. Speaking about their lives, their village, and the situation in Kosovo I am struck by their connection. They are a sympathetic couple, their story has the charm of two people who seem very much in love.

At the end, I ask Bukurea if she can forgive. Her gentle face becomes fierce and she responds angrily. Does she know what has happened to her father? Bukurea says no.

It is Easter Sunday when I say good-bye, and I am deeply saddened. Word has come that Bukurea's father has died attempting to flee their village. He was buried alongside the road. Samir won't tell his wife. He needs her to help care for the children.

I have witnessed, firsthand, the plight of one family whose lives have been thrown into utter turmoil by war.

I am also afraid that I have witnessed another episode in a cycle where young innocent children will grow up with the mission to carrying out their mother's revenge.


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