Mr TK survived torture and the massacre of his village in Kosovo. When you have endured horrific violence and witnessed the murder of your family, how does one recover?
Editor’s Note: Rehabilitation works and is a torture survivor’s right: this is the theme of this year’s 26 June campaign for the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. During the next two weeks, we shall be posting testimonies, stories and experiences from torture survivors themselves. Their testimonies explain clearly – rehabilitation works and is a torture survivor’s right.
Ongoing armed conflicts, such as the Balkan conflicts that resulted from the dissolution of Yugoslavia, can create such deep collective trauma for a society. Rehabilitation becomes necessary for not only the individual’s process, but a society’s emergence from conflict and community trauma. Read about T.K.’s experience from Kosovo during the conflict with Serbia and about his rehabilitation with the Kosova Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (KRCT).
This is the painful story of Mr T.K, who survived and witnessed the massacre of 47 people, 12 of which where close family members and other relatives.
In 14 May 1999, the Çyshk village (Peja region, Kosovo) was surrounded by Serbian police forces with camouflaged uniforms. They gathered civilians in the centre of village and ordered them to empty their pockets and put gold, money and personal documents in front of them. Men were then separated from women and children and divided into three groups. The three groups were ushered into three houses of the G. family estate.
Police officers first tortured them physically and psychologically by insulting and beating them with hard devices. They then shoot them inside the house. After that they threw in an incendiary device that set the house on fire.
Mr T.K managed to escape through the bullets and fires by jumping from a window of the house and hiding. After killing 47 men, the women and children who had gathered in the centre of the village were ordered to form a convoy and were directed to the Albanian border. When the “people from horror movies”, as Mr T.K. called them, left the village, he and three other survivors removed the dead bodies from the burned houses and hid them; they did so because they were afraid that the police forces might return and take the bodies away in an attempt to cover up the crime.
A few days later, the witnesses and his neighbours buried the bodies of the men who had been shot and burned, including eight in a single large grave.
Experiencing this traumatic situation and killing of loved one caused Mr TK several psychological distresses. He felt detached from others, withdrawn from social activities and unable to re-establish family relationships. Psychological and social wounds of war plagued him for a decade and have interfered with his ability to live a normal life.
He sought psychosocial treatment at KRCT in 2010 and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. After the treatments provided by psychologists and psychiatrists at the centre, his psychological state improved; he started to accept the traumatic experience and to return to his future life with other family members. The frequency of flashbacks of the traumatic events and feelings of anxiety and fear has reduced. He has started to involve himself again in daily activities.
As his psychosomatic complains reduced, and he decreased the level of medications. Concentration thus improved, and he started to read the daily newspapers – a common activity, but one that he could not do for more than a decade.
“I will never forget what I experienced,” he says, “But I’m trying to rebuild my destroyed life.”