On March 26, 1999, in reaction to bombings by United States-led NATO forces, Serbian police and army forces made Krushe e Vogel (along with other villages in Kosovo) a killing ground. What occurred in Krushe, located along the Drini River, in western Kosovo, was among the worst of the atrocities. Of the 122 men in the village, 116 were slaughtered. Forcibly separated from their men, the women and children were told they too would be shot, unless they went to the river and drowned themselves. When they finally reached the banks of the Drini, the river was so turbulent from the spring rains that there was no possibility of crossing to safety.
Looking out the window from her hillside house on the other side of the river, Marta Prekpalaj, a 32-year-old school director, had spotted the flames shooting up over Krushe. Below, she saw lines of people walking towards the Drini. Knowing she could not leave them there, she ran to her tractor and headed to the river. With barely 20 to a load, Marta and her brother, Toma, made countless trips through the rushing water until they had carried all the women and children of Krushe safely to her village. Four days later, Serbian police ordered everyone to leave. The survivors from Krushe, along with the people from Marta’s village, began the18-hour walk towards the Albanian border.
I arrived, for the first time, three months later, as the women and children of Krushe returned from refugee camps to find nothing left of the life they had known. Some unidentifiable bones, presumably of their men, had been found along the Drini. Since then, only 12 bodies were recovered, identified, and buried.
I returned to Kruhe often during the four years after the massacre and witnessed the women still living in the throes of grief while experiencing very different lives. The girls had taken over the role of their brothers and fathers—planting the fields, harvesting the crops, repairing the houses, driving tractors and cars and working in a newly constructed pepper factory. Marta became an intimate friend to every person in the village. The women call her their “Angel”. She proves that scars can begin to slowly heal with consistent kindness and compassion after a war.