Symbol of War: Picture of Kosovo mother with baby in breast during exodus, here's the girl 20 years after

Sherife Luta and his doughter, Ivaj, Kaçanik, September 3 1998

 It was the time when the war in Kosovo toke tremendous proportions where many Kosovars sacrificed their lives for freedom. There have been many pictures that fluttered in some of the world's largest media that turned into symbols of war and sacrifice.

One of the photos was that of a mother from Kosovo holding her daughter almost dead when she was only six months old.

The war in Kosovo had taken extraordinary proportions. Much of the men had joined the Kosovo Liberation Army, leaving their wives with the elderly and the children. Among them was Sherife Luta, 22, pregnant, shortly before giving birth.

She speaks to Deutsche Wellen:

I had very difficult birth. But the dad health was not the only thing that bothered me. Although doctors told me to go to Pristina, they (Serbian soldiers) did not allow me. My daughter, Besa, was born in the maternity of Ferizaj."

Sherife is now the mother of three children, a girl and two boys.

I was leaving with my baby in the breast.

When Besa was only six months old, Sherife had to leave the house and cross the mountains to escape the Serbian forces approaching more and more in the village. With her husband's family and her family, she travels to Macedonia, a border state with Kaçanik.

He did not had time to take his clothes with her. She left the bread in the oven that was baking for the family, took the girl and hurried out.

The difficulties of the past today seem to be a bad dream for the Luta family, which after the war built a new home in Kaçanik. Besa attends studies in the second year for Political Sciences in Ferizaj.

The story of the girl:

I have heard these stories from my mother. By growing up, I started to understand the reality and challenges of my father and all Albanians. The same difficulties and challenges have been passed on by my friends and friends of my generation. We often talk and confess each other stories. They are so similar and so varied at the same time."

Sherife Luta does not know exactly the date when is shoot the picture that turned her and her daughter, Besa, into the symbol of the exodus of Kosovo's war refugee that got sheltered to Macedonia.

Sherife says:

I do not remember if it was April 3 or 4, 1999. But the moment the picture is shoot is as fresh as today in my mind. That day there were many cameramen and photographers. They even asked me to give an interview, but I did not accepted. I was very tired."

By 2000 she and her family did not know the existence of that photography. Was her husband, Mirvati, who sees in a big advertisement on a Pristina street the photograph of his wife and daughter.

Over the years, they began to realize the great importance of the photography and the cover of the world famous magazine "TIME", which decided that the journey of Kosovars fleeing Serbian military forces to be confessed through this moment. They later realized that mother and daughter were already a part of Kosovo's history.

The girl says:

That picture is everything. Shows the extraordinary sacrifice of my mother, who kept me in her breast for weeks while walking on the mountains. It is a symbol of the sacrifice of all our people."

But the photography captured only one of the tough moments of Sherife's suffering, which with her six month old baby started her survival fight, from March 8th to the first week of April.

The mother adds:

At one point, when we were sheltered in a home with 300 other refugees, Besa was not crying anymore. She had "frozen" because of the cold and had nothing to drink. We were terribly frightened. In those moments, my sister-in-law takes the daughter from me and puts her in the oven.

In fact, we all thought she was dead. It may have been 10 minutes, when Besa suddenly started crying. We pulled her out of the oven and threw a blanket over her, which I still remember as a memory. People's applause did not ended."

20 years later Besa has many plans, the first plan is to complete master studies. She does not care much about politics in Kosovo.

Besa says:

When we are in college, my friends talk about most of the time about politics. I just hear and have preferred not to ever be involved in such debates. I am very eager to travel and to visit other parts of the world, but I see my life and future here."
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