The Massacre | The Investigation | Bloody History | Putting Names to Faces | Lightning Strikes
From Prison to War
| "Her Face Tortures Me" | Justice for All? | We Need Justice

"We Need Justice Like a Wound Needs Medicine"


The graves of victims in Pavlan, a village neighboring Cuska that was also attacked on May 14.

(Photo: Stephen Smith)

Across the river in Cuska, Akif, the Albanian farmer who survived the execution, hauls material to rebuild his house on a clattering horse-cart. We now know who shot Akif and the 10 men who died at his side. We know who led the assault on Cuska and the chain of command behind it. We know the fighters were motivated by vengeance, greed, duty, and fear.

There remains a question of timing. Why did the attack happen on May 14 and not earlier in the Kosovo war? Only Slobodan Milosevic's top police and army commanders know the answers. One possibility: Cuska's name finally came up on a list of targets.

Akif's bullet wound is now healed and a Western aid group is helping him build a new roof. Akif hopes the West will also deliver justice. "I truly think they will go to The Hague," he says of the men who conducted the Cuska massacre. "Those who are guilty, the ones who have blood dripping from their hands, they will be punished."

Other survivors, including a 35-year-old geography teacher named Ali, warn of the consequences if the executioners and their commanders are not caught and convicted. "We need justice like a wound needs medicine," he says. "If you leave a wound open, if you never close it, it never heals." Ali fears another generation will grow up in hatred.

Lule, the woman who survived the attack to bury the bones of her father and dozens of other men in two communal graves at the village cemetery, recalls the story of a 3-year-old girl whose father also was murdered on May 14:

Every day, the girl calls for her father. She asks her mother, "Where is daddy?"

The mother replies, "Just go outside and call his name three times. Soon he'll be here." The little girl tells everyone else her daddy is away in Germany buying her a bicycle.

One day she goes with her Mama to the cemetery to learn what happened. The little girl asks her mother, "Is this where my father is?"

Her mother admits, "Yes, daddy is buried here."

The little girl is crying and says, "My daddy is here, killed by the bandits and the Serbs." Then this 3-year-old girl starts digging at the grave with her hands, saying, "Let's get my daddy out and take him to the hospital ... maybe he'll get better."

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