1999: Massacre at Meja
On the night of 27-28 April 1999 Judah stood on the Albanian side of the border with Kosovo at a place called Morina. Refugees, or rather people who had just been ethnically cleansed at gunpoint were flooding through. They were a group of about 2,000 from villages near Djakovica, Gjakova in Albanian. Judah talked to some of the people on the first tractor-trailers.
They said that they had started their journey with 37 packed on the trailer but that at a hamlet called Meja, the police took ten men off. A 15-year-old boy was then ordered to drive. They told me that, apart from small boys, he was the only male left on their trailer. This was not quite true.
A middle aged man said: "I have a bad leg. One policeman said 'Get out' and the other said 'Stay in.'" They left a blind man too. Then I saw an old man sitting in the corner, still cutting a fine figure in his traditional felt cap and with a curly grey moustache. "What about him?" I asked. "We forgot the old man," laughed Sevdie Rexha, the young woman I was talking to.
The people on the next couple of tractors said the same thing. Many of their men had been taken off at Meja and they had seen them sitting in a field under police guard.
A little later more tractors began to rumble across the border:
A dog sniffed at the first one across. "Did you see the men in the field at Meja?" I asked. The tractor was still moving. These people were in shock, their eyes red from crying. "They killed them, they killed them," shouted a woman as she passed. I ran to catch up. "In a field…in a field…more than a hundred…they took two from us…They're dead! They're dead!"
A hundred metres away Sevdie Rexha, the old man, the blind man, the lame man and the rest of them sat on their trailer. A drunken Albanian soldier was abusing them. "Stop crying, stop moaning…why did you leave your kids behind?" They still did not know what the others now arriving knew. I wondered whether I should say something. I thought not. They would find out soon enough.
Meja turned out to be one of the worst massacres of the war with a final tally of some 300 dead. In 2006 there was a curious coda to this story. A man called Gezim Rexha contacted Judah. "I am the blind man you mentioned in your book," he said. Today, despite being completely blind, he works as a broadcast monitor for the OSCE in Priština.
Kosovo: War and Revenge. 2002, Second Edition. [Yale University Press]