The owner took us to the other side of the building. In the yard there were two elderly women in traditional dress, two younger women and several children playing. We greeted them. The owner told them why we were there, and we asked whether they would like to talk to us for a moment. I thought we would not be able to talk with them as the two elderly ladies were shaking their heads. "They don't speak Macedonian", explained the owner, "but she does", he said, indicating one of the younger women. Sabilje Sulejmani was a little over 30. It was three months since she left her home in the village of Matejche with her husband and two children.
"In the first month we hid in the neighbours' basement as we didn't have one", says Sabilje. Then we left the village and came to Skopje. We were taken to a house on Dizhonska Street. After a month they told us we had to leave that house. We were left on the street; we didn't know where to go. Some people on the street asked us what was going on and they told us to go to the "Nikola Vapcarov" School. We stayed there for one month as well. This place is our latest residence, but it's only temporary", says Sabilje.
By now, the aid items we brought with us were put away in another part of the house and Sabilje's husband, Isak, now joins us. We ask them whether they ever had any problems with the neighbours in Matejche. "No", says Isak. "Matejche has 600 houses, and ethnic Albanians and ethnic Serbs lived there. We always lived together well, in the café, in the cake shop, in the tea shop... Even when the shooting started we had no problems, we hid together in the basements. I don't know what it will be like when we get back, but we parted with no grievances."
Isak and Sabilje heard that a great part of the village has been levelled in the fighting between the Macedonian security forces and the so-called NLA. "About 80% of the houses are destroyed", says Isak. We enquire whether he knows what has happened to their house, and he says it is still intact, as their house is small, and mainly the larger ones were destroyed.
The family still does not know what happened to the animals they left there, four cows, a calf and a horse. "They probably died in need of food and water", says Isak sadly. "In the village there are only a few elderly people left, all the others have gone. We had a lorry, a van and a tractor. We fled with the tractor, first to Kumanovo, and then to Skopje".
A few nights ago, Isak and Sabilje's unborn baby became
a victim of troubles we are living through. There was some shooting nearby
and Sabilje became frightened and felt sick. They had to go to the hospital
at once. "They told us they could not do much to help. They were
kind to us, they helped us as much as they could, but, unfortunately,
they were unable to save the baby". With tears in her eyes, Sabilje
tells us she was in her fourth month of pregnancy.
We leave Isak and Sabilje in their latest temporary home. We hope that it will only be temporary, and that their next move will be to their own home in the village of Matejche.
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