Women, most of them widows, work in the factory, labeling pepper jars by hand. Valerie Plesch

Women, most of them widows, work in the factory, labeling pepper jars by hand.
Valerie Plesch

Nineteen years ago, Fahrije Hoti, 48, fled her home in Krusha e Madhe to the nearby mountains and then to neighboring Albania. Former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s military forces had descended on this rural village in southwestern Kosovo and separated the men from their families.

A few months later, in June 1999, after 78 days of NATO airstrikes drove Milosevic’s army out of Kosovo, Hoti returned with her 3-year-old daughter and 3-month-old son to find her entire village in ruins, her home burned down.

“For 19 years, I still don’t know what happened to my husband,” Hoti says.

Hoti’s husband remains on the list of missing people from the 1998-99 Kosovo Warthat left more than 10,000 people dead. In fact, none of the men from the village returned. Over 140 women lost their husband or sons, some both. Krusha e Madhe was later discovered to be the scene of one of the worst massacres of the war. And it’s now known as the Village of War Widows.

Today she runs a pepper cooperative, Kooperativa Krusha, which employs about 50 women, many of whom who are war widows. Given all she’s accomplished, she’s more optimistic about Kosovo’s future than many people in this young nation, which just celebrated 10 years of independence from Serbia on Feb. 17 this year.

Read the complete article here:
https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/02/26/588835459/pepper-co-op-helps-kosovo-s-war-widows-reclaim-their-lives