The Mejzimi Family

Kosovo refugees photograph by David Turnley
Naile Mejzimi, 23, Daughter
Kosovo refugees photograph by David Turnley
Femie Mejzimi, 26, Daughter
Photograph by David Turnley
Merjeme Mejzimi, 17, Daughter
Photograph by David Turnley
Mexhit Mejzimi, 27, Son

RealAudio: The Mejzimi Family

Leaving the hell in Kosovo, the Mejzimis creep down a pastoral road into Albania, one of the poorest countries in the modern world.

Riding alongside, in the wagon, I have been another piece of an unknown puzzle. As I produce a picture of my son Charlie--I too take on a new human face.

We arrive at a field outside of Kuces, the first of a series of temporary way stations in this family's unraveling life.

Hurry up and wait is a refugees mantra, and a radio becomes their lifeline to what has been left behind.

These farm women are resourceful: their reflexes - to clean house, create a sense of order, and care for their children - reflect a dignity that no one can strip away. The biggest challenge will be finding a toilet. There are none.

After thirty-six hours, Dizar eats his first biscuit, brought back from town by his father. No one else has come with assistance or information.

For the grandparents, with the passages of life understood, and a legacy to leave behind, the realities of war are too devastatingly clear.

The family's wagon becomes their new salon where they receive a visitor from their village. A small car becomes the kitchen and bedroom.

Samir's cousin is overwhelmed with depression. Her stomach in havoc, we take her to the hospital--a new window into the misery being suffered by the dispossessed. Two young brothers sit in a foreign hospital, their faces ripped open and maimed by shrapnel, their tender hearts seized by fear.

As night sets in, the rain begins to fall. The strong faces of sleep-deprived men fade into a vulnerable gaze--it is a gaze I have seen many times before, in Somalia, Rwanda, and Bosnia.

With a plastic tarp, the women cover some 15 beings who will attempt to sleep in the back of a hay wagon.

For the men, the night will be a few winks under a tractor--the first they have had in more than three days.

As the curtain of a shivering, rainy, mostly sleepless night lifts into day four on the road, the realities of being out of control, fatigue, fear, and hunger prevail.

Seeking a roof becomes the priority, but the Mejzimi family still has no idea where they will go.


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