Fleeing Kosovo: an Albanian refugee's reflection, 15 years later

This year marks the 15th anniversary since Kosovo was torn apart by war. Arta Rexhepi who is about to graduate from the Nova Scotia Community College, Canada, in broadcast journalism, and currently is interning at CBC Radio’s Information Morning shares her memories about fleeing Kosovo and emigrating to Canada, 15 years ago with her family.

“Fifteen years ago, I never pictured my 15th anniversary in Canada to look like this. I had dreams, just as all children do, but experiencing war in Kosovo perhaps shrunk them. I would need to write a book to tell my full story but here’s an insight.

Late one night, more than a decade ago. Myself and my family were staying in a refugee camp in Stankovec, Macedonia.

I remember staying in a tent. My brother and sister were really sick. Sleep was very short since the crowds were huge and children’s cries were endless.

During the month my family spent in the refugee camp while my country was being torn apart by war, I celebrated my 13th birthday. It was a gift. I was there, I was alive and I was whole with all my family. We were lucky to survive.

A few weeks later, it must have been 10 or 11 o’clock at night, two unknown women in their late 30s came by our tent to find out if we were ready, packing for our flight to Canada in the morning. That news came as a surprise to us.

There was a tent shortage and they needed one for their family. We could relate to that. The men in my family often slept outside in the pouring rain.

We had no idea what the ladies were talking about. We didn’t know we were scheduled to fly to Canada. My dad had signed up to leave for possible destinations in a couple of Western countries. He wasn’t that eager to leave, until my sister and brother started getting sick.

Packing didn’t take long, we had very little with us. Everything we had was left behind in Kosovo. By then everything was probably ash. The next morning, I felt confused. I had a million thoughts going through my mind. I didn’t know what to expect.

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