[Music plays]

[Text] Prishtina, Kosovo. 1998

[Narrator] The war had reached my city of Prishtina. I was aged 12. It took us one year to finally be safe and find refuge in Australia.

[TV voiceovers] ...40 to 45 Kosovo Albanians were killed in the village of Račak in central Kosovo... ...the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia asserted the casualties were all members of the Kosovo Liberation Army who had been killed in a clash with state security forces. The international community did not accept this explanation, characterising the killings as a deliberate massacre of civilians by Yugoslav forces... ...security forces. The international community did not accept this explanation... ...were massacred today, including a 6-month old baby that had been dismembered and mutilated...  ...women and children were massacred in Kosovo in recent days. As word of the slaughter spread, so too does the outrage. The civilians were brutally executed... ...expressed their revulsion at this act of mass murder. No amount of provocation could justify it...

[Narrator] When the war finally hit my city I remember large army tanks full of Serbian soldiers wearing balaclavas and holding machine guns. We were watched by a sniper 24/7. If we were to move suddenly or suspiciously we would be shot dead. At this stage, NATO was preparing to bomb the Serbians. So we had to get out of the country asap. We arrived at dark and the warning siren went off that NATO was coming. We stayed in the basement for 24 hours. We were constantly woken by the sound of grenades, exploding army tanks being fired, and the ground shaking. If you were outside your house after dark you would be beaten up, raped or shot.

The next day we boarded a train filled with hundreds of thousands of people desperate to get out of Kosovo. We were stopped every 40 minutes by Serbian soldiers for checkups and to rob us. It was very frightening when a soldier asked my dad for money, phone and jewellery. The soldiers threatened to search my dad and if he was to find any valuables he would shoot him dead in front of us. I was very scared. Whilst passing through stations, army tanks were all along the side. I thought we would be bombed or shot.

When we arrived 15 kilometres away from the border of Macedonia we were forced to walk on the tracks. If we were to step on the mines on the ground would explode. I saw dead people on the ground, but I didn't take any notice.

I was separated from my family and had to stay with relatives and sleep on the floor as the house was overcrowded with people. As this was classified as a safe house for everyone as the war had not hit us.

At this stage I was feeling afraid. Numb, cold and frightened as I thought all my family members were dead. We were separated as I was classed a minor and all kids under 12 had to stay with the ladies at this one particular house. Food was very limited but that didn't worry me as I was more concerned about my family.

One week later my dad and brothers arrived to get me. I felt happy and relieved - they were OK. I asked for my mum, but she was in the hospital, ill.

Not being able to return home because the house was trashed and with the war still going on, we came to Australia.

At this stage we were happy as we knew we were safe. We flew to Australia one month later. 4,000 refugees came to Australia. 400 were first to land. I was part of this 400. The date was May 7th, 1999.

About this Video

A 12 year old child tells how their family escaped from war-ravaged Kosovo in 1998 and found refuge in Australia.
Length: 06:25