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three kla soldiers

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J. is an 18 year old KLA soldier
J.

Why did you decide to fight with the soldiers of the KLA?

The reason why I joined the KLA was the terror that happened to my people from the Serbs. Especially after the massacre in Prekaz, where people were massacred so bad, women children and old people. I just felt that I had to do something for my people.

Tell us about your life as a soldier.

My first battle was in L. We went all together, and we waited them [Serbs] to come.

Tell us how you fight, what weapons did you use?

Because I was young, they didn't want to let me fight, but I went by foot up in the mountains, with my friend, who was killed. I was not afraid. We fired at tanks that were coming to us.

Tell us about the conditions. Was it difficult?

We didn't have much food, the conditions were terrible but it was war. We were prepared for it.

Tell us about your commandant.

He took care of us, he was always in front of us. He didn't put us in risk, because we were so young and without experience. The most difficult moment there was when [he] brought his daughter after all his family was massacred and told us, "This is all what is left from my family." We took care for her after that. She is so small. We looked then for the bodies. We found them, it was terrible.

What was the most risky day for you?

It was in A. Some friends were killed there. Serbs were coming after us, fired at us with snipers. We were only 20 meters away from them. When the night came we saw the dead Serbs left there from our shots. We laughed then. Serbs came from Belgrade and left their heads here. . . .

What did you do before you joined he army?

I was in high school. I had to stop it to join the army.

Can you tell us what you plan to do in the future now that the war is over?

I plan to continue my schooling, in military academy. I like to be soldier.

What did your parents tell you when you joined the army?

They were proud of me. I told them even if I die at least I die for the honor of my country, for freedom.

What did you do when you heard the NATO bombs falling?

We were happy for that. We saw the tanks exploding. It was a good feeling. . . .

What is your message for young people everywhere in the world?

I know that young people elsewhere do not have these problems, but I would tell Albanian young people that when our country needs us we must be there, fighting for its freedom.

You saw the houses burned from the hills. Did you think about your family?

From the first day we knew that everything else but fighting for freedom is irrelevant. Every soldier knew that his family might be in danger. I felt terrible when I saw houses being burned.

How did you feel when you knew that you might kill some one?

It was my aim to kill the enemy and it is a beautiful feeling.

Do you want to tell us something that we didn't ask about?

Yes. We were in P. village when the grenade fell and killed some children. People were killed and 15 injured. We helped them. The child was hit. He was dead, but because the parents insisted, I gave the first help, though I knew he was dead. We saw lots of terrible things, massacred people.

What do you think about your commandants?

They were very good. They respected us. They were like parents with us.

T., a KLA soldier who took part in the battles at Ludovic and Prekaz, the incidents in 199? that first brought the KLA to the public's attention
T.

What were the reasons for Albanians to start an armed conflict?

The systematic repression against Albanians, especially the last ten years, ,,Albanians could not stand any more. They understood that the only force that could change the situation is themselves. The first steps toward this consciousness were the 1968 protests, this continued and in the end, eighties, when Serbia took everything from Albanians, they had to do something. This was the reason why in 1993 people started to think about this. We had a policy which was not appropriate. It was a passive movement. We decided to form an armed force as the only way to achieve our aims. KLA was formed in 1993 with the first concrete actions against the Serbian police. This was the year when KLA formally was born. . . .

One of the most important actions was the one in Drenica on 26 November 1997. Can you describe the case and the reaction on that?

We had different actions, but the ones who gave the reputation needed to the KLA were actions 25, 26 November in Vojnik and Ludovic. . . . The success can be considered no one of our soldiers died, only one civilian was injured and a child too. This date was a big step towards the legitimating of the KLA, and this way we were able to mobilize the great part of our people. This was the first action of the frontal war fought by KLA against Serb forces.

Tell about Ludovic.

25 November is connected directly with the action of [a man who] overtook the action with only three men against many Serb police and two armed vehicles. He managed to resist, he damaged the cars and killed some Serbs. We knew then that they would come . . . . So we blocked the three entrances, and wherever they would come we would be waiting for them, though we had not many forces. Our forces, I confess, were not many. We were young. The next day everything we foresaw was becoming true. A helicopter was flying over the sky and stopped upon Ludovic. Purposely or accidentally, we couldn't tell. The Serb column that was coming from Skenderak was prepared for a tough war. We knew that if they entered in Vojnike they would make massacre. The war was going on in the night after 2400. We fought, attacking them in surprise and in all three places. They retreated.

We didn't choose the war, we didn't want to die, but it was the only option left. We couldn't afford to lose this last chance. .. It was a difficult, unfair war, but it is worth it to die for freedom. Because they lost, they were so angry, that is why they started shooting everyway. A teacher was killed this way. Thne people were ready to join KLA. The funeral of the teacher was the same day accidentally with the day of the Independence of Albanian people. (28 November). We considered that the day had come to go in the open and tell the people who we are and what aims we have. It was very simple, despite the danger from the Serbs. . . . We took all the safety measures. People made the corridor to let us pass. The people welcomed us so good. I took strength, though it was the fourth day without sleeping. People started talking--they met now the KLA. They all touched me to see if we were real. This date is very important because we cleared the identity of the KLA.

Ludovic was important, but the fight in Prekaz and especially the massacre that happened there was a step forward to a recognition of the KLA by international media and opinion. What can you say about that battle?

When we mention Ludovic we do it because it was the first one, but when we talk about Prekaz, this is the most important battle in this early phase. We were very proud for it, though it was tragic as well. We were proud because we saw there a resistance never seen before, and tragic because innocent people were killed. The war in Prekaz was a bind between the KLA soldiers and the population itself. That is why Prekazi fight is the heart of the KLA fight for freedom. . . .

Do you think that the massacre in Racak was revenge because of the KLA army being successful?

Massacre in Racak and the other massacres are a part of the known and well-prepared plan to ethnically cleanse Kosovo. It may have been a frustration for them and revenge, but mainly it was a part of this plan. . . .

NATO bombardment. How do you feel about Serb engagement to move all Albanians out of Kosovo?

It was very painful, all the time here. I never went out of Kosovo. Never in my life. But the NATO bombardments, were not expected that day. But when it started I knew it would not stop until they win. . . .

We were in the land and NATO in the air. Serbia was faced with two different allies. . . . NATO as a powerful alliance and KLA as a very stable army attacked them supportively and strongly. These two factors, exchanging information, achieved success. . . .

How did you start making relations with the international community and especially with the Americans?

Unfortunately we had to convince the international community and the Americans that KLA had nothing to do with terrorism. We gave them the facts about that in order to clear the impression that they had about us. We talked with Gelbard, Holbrooke and Hill, and tried to explain our side. It was just a beginning, to establish contacts with the international community.

Do you think all this was worth it? All that the Albanian people have been through, many of them killed, do you think it was worth it?

We didn't choose the war, we didn't want to die, but it was the only option left. Time goes by, we couldn't afford to lose this last chance. We paid a triple price. We paid for the generation before, for us and for the generations to come. . . . It was a difficult, unfair war, but it is worth it to die for freedom. . . .

C., a KLA soldier
C.

How did Albanians decide to fight against Serbs?

Albanians decide to fight after they all the other hopes and possibilities. The so-called pacifist way failed, and finally Albanians were convinced that they had to organize armed resistance. . . . From 1996 we had some movements or groups who didn't approve any more Rugova's peaceful way. This was the first sign for the KLA, which was born by this kind of movements. . . . Under the permanent repression of Serbs, Albanians protested in a civilized way by protests . . . conferences, cultural events and etc, but it was not enough to resist Serb repression. It had to be more than that, which is why KLA had to be born.

From your perspective how do you see, what were the conditions that made KLA to win?

The first condition was the will of our people. The second element is that all the people in the world won their freedom only through armed resistance, no other way. In the Second World War 125 nations won that war only because they fought. I don't see any reason why Albanians wouldn't have to do the same. . . . Albanians had the potential to make the war; they had the political potential and the physical one--we know how many young people we have who are ready to fight. . . .

Was the independence of Kosovo the main objective to be reached?

KLA had for the main objective the freedom for Kosovo through its independence.

What was your role in this?

My role was as everybody's in the KLA; according to our qualifications we had to give our contribution and our sacrifice, to win freedom. . . .

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