The former political prisoners in Kosovo during the Yugoslav period were mostly charged for irredentist and nationalist activities, and considered internal enemies of Yugoslavia. They were identified as Ilegalja, a blanket term for the underground groups organised in threes. The movement still remains obscure due to their form of activism that acted in secret. The political legacy of Ilegalja is discussed within different historical contexts. Contradicting narratives about this movement calls for new ways of mediating this difficult-to-approach heritage.

Shazije Gërguri Hasangjekaj


In ‘65, at the end of ‘64. Adem Demaçi was on trial, I took some friends with me. I didn’t take them to organize something, because I didn’t have the power to organize anything. I said, ‘Does anyone want to come with me? I’m going to watch Adem’s trial.’ I know I went with Elhame.

[…] And Mejrem [Berisha-Sema] was there, actually I don’t know if Mejrem was with me that day. Because Mejrem was a great activist. The next day at around 4:00 in the morning, a police car appeared in front of our door. Bam, bam, bam {onomatopoeia} to tell you the truth, I was very scared. Because we were traumatized by [what had happened with] my brother, they took him away around the same time. They would come and make our house a mess. And they said to me, ‘Get dressed and come with us.’ I didn’t remember anything. Who could have betrayed me, no one because no one knew, hardly anyone knew.

I went, they put me in jail. They kept me for two days. They fired me without any documents or anything. I didn’t even dare to ask why I was here. But I thought maybe they wouldn’t do anything if I asked as I was leaving. I said, ‘Excuse me, why was I here?’ They said, ‘You had intentions of organizing a protest because Adem Demaçi is on trial.’ They gave me some paper to sign, who dared to read what they were signing. I signed it and only God knows what I signed (laughs).

Hasan Abazi

Political activist

We talked, ‘What do you think? Are you up for a demonstration tomorrow? Do you support us?’ Most of them supported us, but there were also those who did not know what a demonstration was. Because there were no demonstrations until then. Then I had to explain to a group of two or three what a demonstration was. ‘When protested for Vietnam.’ Back then there was the war in Vietnam. Same with the slogans and that’s how we went over it. ‘Now we know what a demonstration is.’ So around 6:00-6:30 at the corner of Hotel Ljubeten we met with the rest of our friends. Some of them came later, but most importantly, we, the friends of the organizing group of the demonstration in Ferizaj, met.

[…] The demonstration continued until 3:30 PM. The time… our goal was for the workers who leave the factories they worked at at 3:00 PM, to see what their children were demanding. We did not want to implicate the workers in the demonstration. Our goal was to save them because they were being fired from their jobs, and if one worker lost their job, it would be a problem for their family. So we talked all the time with my friends that there should be no workers at the demonstrations, but that the main ones carrying it should be the students of Ferizaj, of course also the pupils who were in Ferizaj.

So at 3:30 PM, up to five thousand demonstrators gathered in Ferizaj. They also reported this on the radio from Ferizaj, but they also asked me several times during the investigation, ‘How were you able to gather five thousand people in two days? When we have to spend three months propagandizing for one gathering and barely bring five thousand people to the gathering?’

Skender Muçolli

Political activist

I was wounded by a weapon and someone took me to the hospital wounded like that. […] I was admitted there to the hospital. The next day, directly, without an investigator, the investigating judge came and told me, ‘You are under arrest.’ With no interrogation or anything. I was admitted to the hospital. They brought me a guard there and he watched over me the whole time I was in the hospital. I was in the Pristina hospital for about three weeks. They didn’t operate on me, they couldn’t remove [the bullet] in that sense, that was the doctor’s statement. Then they took me directly to prison. The arrest was directly from the hospital… I was arrested in the hospital, when I left the hospital they took me to the investigating judge, the investigating judge sentenced me to prison.

Zyrafete Muriqi Lajçi

Political activist

They put handcuffs on me, they were some plastic handcuffs, not like the other ones, metal handcuffs. With Mirvete, they tied us all two by two. They put us in a van, there were inspectors with us. Maybe I forgot, Demë, Demë Muja and Jakup Llonqari were with us. I could’ve forgotten, I don’t know, maybe the other girls remember better. They took us to Mitrovica. On the way, because the van behind had an open space, there were benches around it. […] We looked at each other, but we didn’t have any opportunity, for example, to give any information to each other about what the investigation procedure was like so far. Except that once, you know, Hava gestured to me that they hit her on the hands and to ask if they also beat me with a baton, you know. Just to let them know how the investigation procedure went. But it was already known because they deliberately left the door open so that we could hear each other screaming. It was known how the whole situation went.

Zelije Kryeziu Ramadani

Political activist

There I was surprised by my mother’s stance, Zelfie, without a single day of formal education. But she devoted body, heart and soul to the cause of Kosovo. When she got up [there], I saw that my mother was brave, like many other mothers from Kosovo. My mother wore a headscarf, she was covered when she went out on the street. I don’t know, but it was surprising to me. When she got up to get ready, she tied her scarf around her mouth {describes with hands} and filled it with onions. She filled the scarf with onions. Then we all went out. I was there in the frontlines. There were many other women, there were many others. We began the demonstration, ‘Independence, Democracy, Republic!’ The slogans of that time, ‘Freedom!’ The first teargas was thrown in that neighborhood. You have no idea. […] When the first teargas was thrown in front of the demonstrators, my mother had layered dimia, she opened those layers and sat on top of the teargas canister. We all yelled terrified, ‘Don’t, don’t, don’t!’ She managed to get that teargas before exploding. Because it was making that zzzz {onomatopoeia} it made, before releasing the gas. […] And my mother threw [the teargas] back at them. The whole crowd began to mobilize and throw them back. That was the last straw which revolted the policemen when they saw how we were mobilizing quickly.

Saime Isufi

Political activist

It was sometime around 10:00 when Ibrahim Kelmendi called me. He asked, ‘Did Kadri come back?’ I said, ‘No, he didn’t come back.’ Of course Kadri would come back that night because it was Sunday and he had to work on Monday. He didn’t come back. […] They didn’t have a phone at home, the Gërvalla brothers, so they would go out to call from a payphone at the time. On their way out it happened because they were ambushed. They waited. They just wanted these three to come together and to kill them. That was UDB’s task. […] And then, Ibrahim Kelmendi called again and Hasan Mala picked up the phone. He said, ‘I want to let you know,’ he said, ‘that there was an assassination in Germany. Kadri Zeka,’ he said, ‘Kadri is dead,’ I heard that because it was, the night was quiet. I heard that. It was  not known about the other two yet, because [it was thought that] Jusuf was wounded. […] When we got there Jusuf’s wife came out and said, ‘Come on young bride,’ I was recently married, not even two weeks. She said, ‘Come on bride, three dead.’ It was a bomb. Despite that the pain was great for Kadri, but at least if someone survived, it was very difficult. So that was it. And then, the people there, fellow Albanians all stood up because they were, how to put it, the heads, their leaders. It was a, a shock for everyone. Everyone came to me for condolences, for material help. They tried to return them to Kosovo, but there was no way, the embassy did not allow it. So, the burial took place after three weeks, so to say, in Germany, because they didn’t allow us to return them and so on.

Sami Dërmaku


One of the days I saw a photocopier that they had placed in the hall. Actually, he gave that statement, Isemt. And I asked him, ‘Ismet,’ I said, ‘what is,’ I said, ‘this mimeograph,’ I said, ‘why did you put it here?’ He said, ‘We got a new one and we put it there.’ I thought to myself even if we took it won’t cause you trouble.

I passed by it with Rexhep Malaj, I told him, ‘Rexhep, here in the hall there is a mimeograph, but I just have to break that light there,’ because there was that public light. I said, ‘And get it done, steal it.’ He said, ‘Listen to what I’m saying, don’t dare to do that because you come here often,’ because in Electro-Kosova, electrical engineer, of high voltage. ‘Leave it, I will get it done,’ ‘No, no.’ ‘If you want,’ he said, ‘to go to prison and send your friends to prison, do it. But you shouldn’t, you come here often and they will suspect, they will suspect anyway.’ When one day passing by, I saw the light was broken and I thought Rexhep has done it, Rexhep Malaj.

Sabri Novosella

Political activist

The second imprisonment happened like this […] I think this was in ‘70. One of our friends from prison, Hyda Dobruna, got married. He was a member of our organization, [together] with his friends. He got married in Gjakova. He invited us friends to go to his wedding. And in the wedding it was proposed, actually here Meriman Braha, he is here, he works here. I know, he proposed from someone to go up, there were more than 200 wedding guests, and to ask for a moment of silence for Fazli Grajçevci and as a sign of respect for the prisoners who were in prison. They found it reasonable, they suggested me, so I got up. I greeted the wedding guests, I congratulated the wedding and I asked for a moment of silence for Fazli Grajçevci and as a sign of respect for our friends who were in prisons. That was done and the situation immediately got messy. That’s when they imprisoned me, they imprisoned me… I was sentenced to two years in prison. And then, what Meriman Braha said, there were investigations and everything, everything, I didn’t accept any names.

Xun Çetta


When the demonstrations of March 11 [1981] broke, I was not the one to organize them, though I was here. I am not the one to say who started it, though I recently discovered something. Because members of our organization, part of the sentence, because the accusation included 21 students, with Ali Lajçi at the helm, Bajram Kosumi, Musli Kosumi, Merxhan Avdyli, Gani Vlana, let’s not mention names, Gani Koci and others. We were all included in one accusation, 21 students, not all 21 of us were part of one organization. But their politico-legal strategy lumped us together as one organization to portray us as a terrorist organization and include 21 of us. They were like there are three here, four, five there, six of them worked in groups of two, three, four and they lumped us together and made us out to be the organizers of ‘81. I don’t know how they organized, four people organized it. I also mentioned the names in other places, but I won’t get into that to waste time. I was sentenced to 13 years.

Remzije Januzi Limoni

Political activist

The demands were mainly political. ‘Self-determination!’ ‘Free the political prisoners, Adem Demaçi, Rexhep Mala!’ They mentioned all those prisoners by name. ‘Trepça works, Belgrade prospers!’ ‘Kosovo Republic!’ ‘Either through peace or war… Constitution, either through peace or war.’ […] Hydajet spoke, he spoke as a worker, with his hat on, he was wearing simple clothes, he was a worker and we didn’t know him at all. And that day, Teuta… the moment didn’t let you, that situation didn’t let you be passive. And I said, ‘Teuta you climb up, climb up as a woman. Why should only men climb up? Let the women climb up too’ (laughs). And, ‘No, you climb up Remzije’ I don’t know how it happened, ‘You climb up, you climb up,’ before even climbing, my brother wrote those demands {pretends she’s writing something} what to say, what to… on someone’s back, I think it was Teuta’s brother. And he gave me those [slogans] and I was wearing a skirt, it wasn’t exactly easy for me, and then Hydajet Hyseni asked me, ‘Do you recognize me?’ […] And I chanted them and the shouting was even louder because it’s a little different as a woman, and I climbed down and continued until the evening, it became very dark, it lasted until late. There they dispersed us with tear gas, there we scattered and didn’t see each other anymore. I lost my shoes and I saw a guy running through the street, I don’t remember what street that was. And he gave me one of his shoes and I was left with one shoe, the other one was lost, and that guy gave me a shoe and I kept it until, I had it until recently. I don’t know if someone threw it out recently, because I wanted to keep it as a memory (laughs). As a memory and for it to be at a museum, that shoe, to tell about where it happened, what they did, what we did at that time.