Şükrü Zeynullah

Pristina | Date: November 10, 2018 | Duration: 88 minutes

Many things happened back then. We had famous people, there was Doctor Tefik Raşit. He was a doctor. There was a Cabir before him, Cabir the Robber, Burglar we used to call him. However, he was an honest man, and he was misunderstood. He just masterfully robbed the rich, he had an old two-wheeler, he would steal and give those things to the poor. He would take it home and give it away. He was a robber, a burglar but a good man. When he would enter a shop or a café, everyone would stand up. He was very honest. […]

[He lived during] First World War, in that period. Then. Also, they still talk about him as an honest robber from Pristina to this day. Honest, no lies, he was very humane, he used to help. He would starve in order to give food to the poor.”


Ebru Süleyman (Interviewer), Donjeta Berisha (Camera)

Şükrü Zeynullah was born on August 5, 1932 in Pristina. As one of the first graduates of the Pedagogical School in Skopje in 1953, Zeynullah became a school principal and a member of the first cadre of teachers of education in Turkish. Later, he was the director of the Pioneer Center in Pristina. Later, he served as the trade director of the Tan newspaper from 1975 to 1981. Zeynullah passed away on March 5, 2020.

Şükrü Zeynullah

Part One

Ebru Süleyman: Uncle Şükrü can you tell me your name, surname, the year you were born in, and the place where you were born?

Şükrü Zeynullah: My name is Şüçri, but of course Şükrü. Zeynullah is our last name. My great grandfather’s name was Zeynullah, it became our surname since then. I was born in Pristina. In childhood, I spent two-three years in Skopje. My father was going to go to Monopol for duty, they took him from here [to] Skopje, tobacco factory, we stayed there for a while, few years. However, we came back to Pristina again. I spent most of my childhood in Pristina. Like that.

Ebru Süleyman: You said your great grandfather’s name was Zeynullah right?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Zeynullah was my great grandfather’s name.

Ebru Süleyman: What was it before that?

Şükrü Zeynullah: That…

Ebru Süleyman: Surname.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Surname, before that… I do not know. Previously there was none.

Ebru Süleyman: Meaning there were no surnames.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Look, {counting with his fingers} father, grandfather, great grandfather. [He was] Zeynullah. Before that… of course, with Zeynullah [patrilineal surname system] started officially. However, it is like that ever since, and it did not change.

Previously we did not know each other very well in Kosovo, let’s say people from Prizren, Vushtrri, Mitrovica, Gjilan, Peja not that much. But as I can understand this… communication improved slowly when I was young. It improved a lot and we connected with these cities and even marriages happened. Even when marriages happen, now they do not get married, youngsters, only with people from their own city or town or village but only with those in close contact.

My mother is also from Mitrovica, my father is from Vushtrri. No, not my father, my father is from Pristina but my grandfather is from Vushtrri. They came here from Vushtrri. Kosovo, this is how Kosovo is, later it slowly became united. We became closer with all cities, villages within Kosovo. The oldest settlement of Kosovo is Vushtrri, Janjevo, there was a place Novo Brdo they used to call it, a mine, a mining hill, that one was built very early. Pristina settlement was built after the Ottomans, right after the Battle of Kosovo. Sultan Payazit arrives immediately, for three days to Kosovo, to the battlefield where his father is buried, Sultan Murad.

Ebru Süleyman: Meaning in Gazimestan?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Yes, in Gazimestan. His father is buried and he takes over, he takes over everything, Sultan Payazit. Then they made some quick decisions. What is going to happen to the martyrs, how are they going to be buried, some of them will be buried in their homeland, etc. And one of the decisions was to build a settlement as close to Kosova Ovasi [Kosovo field] as possible. The closest settlement to Kosova Ovasi was Vushtrri. However, Vushtrri by air distance, let’s say is 27-28 kilometers away or 25 kilometers away. Therefore they could not decide to place the settlement there, it is not close enough. This Gazimestan, let’s say the distance from Pristina is four-five kilometers, three-four kilometers. That is why they decided to build a settlement here, a settling place in Pristina. Because it would allow them to be close to martyrs in order to visit them, read  Yasin for them, look after graves, take care of them, plant flowers and other things. This was the reason… this was…

Ebru Süleyman: Pristina is established.

Şükrü Zeynullah: It gets established right after this war. Pristina’s terrain is very suitable, the Roman Empire tried to establish a settlement but our forest is close thus there were many dangers. Meaning enemies can come easily from the forest to attack the settlement. Furthermore, our forest is a rainy, rainy forest. Now we call it Germia shortly. There were a lot of animals; for example bears, wild cats, wolves, snakes, etc. Because they were scared it could not get established. The Roman Empire could not decide to establish a settlement there. And some other things… enemies can get through easy…  also Bizantine [Empire] tried but could not do it.

There are some villages left from the Byzantine times. On the way towards Niš, towards Podujevo somewhere there. There is Devet Jugović, I do not know, Jug Bogdan, there were some Serbian villages before the Ottomans. Around the same time, Gračan Church [Gračanica Monastery] was built. They had built it before the Ottomans came, forty years before the war, famous Gracanica Monastery. Serbs lived around that area.

As I said, [previously] this was the biggest reason for Pristina to be established here. For one reason, one cause. Meaning everything started with the Turkish [Ottomans], with time, with work, for one cause. For one reason, one cause which was to be closer to martyrs. The wounded stayed there, they built their houses, they had children, they settled in town. That is why it was named Pristina. From one reason, pir [one in Turkish] and [work/duty in Turkish], the word Priştine gets formed and it stays as Pristina to this day.

Here as we know an official place, a building that was established after the Ottomans is a masjid. That masjid still exists today. However, it is called Nameless Masjid, without a name. Because its founding started at the same time as Sultan Murat Mosque. At the same time, because people have to pray somewhere until the mosque was completed.

Ebru Süleyman: Where is this masjid?

Şükrü Zeynullah: This masjid still exists to this day in Pristina. However, people from Pristina do not know its name, they do not know that it is “The Nameless Masjid”. I told some of them, I also wrote it in a book. That is the building where the boxing club is now. Nameless Masjid.

Ebru Süleyman: So the nowadays’ boxing club now was a masjid before?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Masjid, it was a masjid. Look how strong the building is, it is still standing. It was also a gym, gymnastics.

Ebru Süleyman: Uncle Şükri, I had heard that that building was a building used by the Jewish community.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Not there, around it, Jewish people built houses around it, around that masjid. The Jewish community was located there but also in different parts of Pristina. The Jewish people came from Europe. Europe would cast out the Jewish people and the Ottomans welcomed them. There you go. We remember these kinds of things from childhood, but we did not know the background of it all. Pristina’s history is rich.

When Ottomans arrived and passed through a place close to Janova, when they passed Janova they saw a big valley in front of them. This was Kosovo valley. Soldiers themselves were in that valley. They saw lots of birds in that valley, birds, birds {looks around astonished}. There are not only lots of different types but also lots of species to this day in Pristina. Thus those soldiers, talking, conversing, looking around, they even forgot that they are at war. They liked the birds so much and they named it the Kuş Ovasi [Bird’s Valley]. That place, because of that today its name is Kuş ovasi or Kos ovasi, Kosovo.

Ebru Süleyman: Uncle Şüçri do you remember when you were a child, what did you use to do, where did you live, which neighborhoods were there, who was around? Your mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, do you remember?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Yes of course. Pristina was quite capacious back then. There were very beautiful houses, stunning houses. Their facades outside all crafted, wooden, everything was handmade, beautiful, I remember it very well. Some of them stood [standing] for quite a long time. There were many neighborhoods. If I count neighborhoods it would be nineteen. Nineteen big neighborhoods. From Tophane to Divan Yolu or should I say Panayir Ovasi [Panayir Valley], many different neighborhoods.  

Ebru Süleyman: Where, where is this Panayir Valley?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Panayir Valley, you know the theatre? Right behind the theatre on the way up.

Ebru Süleyman: Meaning towards Dört Lüle [Katër Lullat] right?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Excuse me?

Ebru Süleyman: Towards Dört Lüle right?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Yes, towards that way. You would go a little up toward the city park. That street would lead to the park.

Ebru Süleyman: So you were living on this side of the city. In the old part that extends to the park and on the other side to the Divan Yolu.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Until the park and Divan Yolu and towards the gardens. Where the stadium is now that part was all gardens, vegetable gardens. Two rivers used to flow there. Two big rivers, those became creeks. Veluşa, in Posderka neighborhood, Pos-dere neighborhood or creek neighborhood or some other name, the names used to change sometimes. Its first name was Oniçi Kavak Deresi [Twelve Poplar River]. Because it would stretch from the poplars. It would pass from Divan Yolu bridge towards the gardens where it merged with the Veluşa river. The wheels were working, water wheels for watering those gardens. The gardens would stretch up all the way to the buffer factory, maybe you have heard of it or the school; there was a high school there. Vegetable gardens left and right. Us children, we knew. We used to go to school in Serbian, Serbian.

Ebru Süleyman: In what year, which years?

Şükrü Zeynullah: ‘37, I started in 1937, ‘38, in ‘37-‘38. I remember the late Ataturk’s death. When he died the news came from the announcements. Back then I was a young boy, I was together with Tavukçi, we heard these announcements from the Rexha’s, from the radio. Those people, our elderly, they used to listen to the Ankara radio. There were around thirty radios of Rayon brand, old brand. Wherever there were radios, people used to gather and listen, if Mustafa Kemal’s health concerned them. Sometimes we would cheer up when he was doing better, sometimes he got sicker and would become worse.

We heard the news of his death on the day he died. This man named Ziyadin. Ziyadin used to have a business with chickens and roosters, that is why we called him Tavukçi [Poulterer], also others did as well. He notifies the mosque. Goes to his coop, takes three chickens or roosters, sells them on the road right next to the bazaar and with the money he earns, he gives them to the imam and gets three mosques to read notifications regarding Ataturk’s death.

Back then people were different, Pristina [suddenly] changed, no sound, no nothing, everywhere is crowded, doors of the shops are open but no one goes in or out. Shopping stopped. Parents gathered around and made decisions on when and where to gather for commemoration. Mevlüt will be ready for the funeral and so forth. Stops, shopping stops around those times. Women at home, mothers, sisters hang  the Turkish flags at half-mast. I remember they would dress up little kids, little girls more with black dresses and red and white dresses on the streets. I also remember they would name newborns, every newborn either Kemal or Mustafa. Many parents would give these names to children. Later on, some kids got [his names as] additional names to their own, when they were two-three years old, before going to schools. For example, if the name is Ahmet it would be Ahmet Mustafa, if it is Mehmet, Mehmet Mustafa. Kemal was also an additional name. Now, just one of these days actually our famous artisan died, he had a Kemal name, Ali Kemal was his name since childhood.

Many changes happened. This boy, this young boy who notified people, he goes to Skopje by train, at the official invitation of the Turkish consulate. Three people waited for him at the train station there. They thank him because of this beautiful gesture. Made people read the notifications. He stayed there for two days, and they offer him to come to Turkey and be among others. Also, Turkey gave him a farm as a gift. With that farm, also 60 sheep and many other things, such as a house and a place to stay. This kid starts to think, he has a mother and a father. He cannot decide to go and he declines the offer. He gives a statement, “I am sorry, my country is Kosovo, my homeland is Turkey. If we go to Turkey what happens to our history here? What happens to those beautiful artifacts, monuments, architectural work?” Because here there were 17-18 mosques, nine masjids etc. Many dervish lodges. “To whom do we leave this Ottoman heritage? If I start [leaving], my friends will also want to leave.” So he thanked them a lot and left. He declined.

However, I remember even though we used to go to school in Serbian, there were Quran schools with Hadji Ahmet in Dört Lüle neighborhood and some other neighborhoods. I went to that school and I even did three cover-to-cover readings. At Hadji Ahmet’s, lots of kids used to go there.  We used to like it [the city], we loved it a lot and we called Pristina a town even though it slowly became a city. But still, even to this day, people say town, Pristina town etc.

Ebru Süleyman: Do you remember what was your father working, you told us he went to Skopje?

Şükrü Zeynullah: My dad took the craftwork of my grandfathers. Baker, baker. Baker Ragip Aga. Our house was at Çeklik neighborhood. He helped a fountain to be made there, Çeklik fountain, meaning “partridge”. There were many partridge birds there thus the place was named like Çeklik.

Ebru Süleyman: Where is that neighborhood?

Şükrü Zeynullah: That neighborhood is right behind Aladin Mosque. Even, in fact, Aladin Mosque is in that neighborhood, in Çeklik. Many things happened back then. We had famous people, there was Doctor Tefik Raşit. He was a doctor. There was a Cabir before him, Cabir the Robber, Burglar we used to call him. However, he was an honest man, and he was misunderstood. He just masterfully robbed the rich, he had an old two-wheeler, he would steal and give those things to the poor. He would take it home and give it away. He was a robber, a burglar but a good man. When he would enter a shop or a café, everyone would stand up. He was very honest. Also…

Ebru Süleyman: When was this? Was it during the Kingdom of Yugoslavia?

Şükrü Zeynullah: This was before Ataturk died. From Ataturk’s first time [when he came to power]. This is from those times. Also, this story becomes known slowly by the whole world.

Ebru Süleyman: Meaning around the First World War?

Şükrü Zeynullah: First World War, in that period. Then. Also, they still talk about him as an honest robber from Pristina to this day. Honest, no lies, he was very humane, he used to help. He would starve in order to give food to the poor.

Pristina’s history is rich and wide. There were many people. There was a craftsman Salih, Salçe. He lived for more than 90 years. He died 55 years ago. He was a great craftsman, a great artist. All those lords, generals from England and France, they came here and ordered phaetons from him. They made the most luxurious, the most beautiful phaetons for those rich people, for Europe.

Then there was Bayram Kovaç and his family. They used to make swords for admirals and soldiers. Swords, knives and other things. Meaning he also was a known man and many more. I cannot remember now, I am getting excited, excited. I do not know where to begin, which example to give first. We had many famous people, many. Later on…

Part Two

Şükrü Zeynullah: Look, we used to speak old Turkish. We used to say ‘c’ instead of the letter ‘g’, ‘ç’ instead of ‘k’ etc.

Ebru Süleyman: Is it like we are talking right now, did you talk like this before?

Şükrü Zeynullah: No, now we talk more official Turkish [standardized Turkish]. We did not know anything back then. If you said, geldim [I came], gittim [I went] no one would understand. Coldum, cittım [I came, I went]…

Ebru Süleyman: No, I am saying the way we speak now.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Excuse me?

Ebru Süleyman: The way we speak now.

Şükrü Zeynullah: No, it was not like that.

Ebru Süleyman: The way you and I speak right now?

Şükrü Zeynullah: No, it was not like that. Was not like that. It was not. There were no schools.

Ebru Süleyman: What was the difference?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Cittım, coldum [I came, I went]. Vushtrri citizens speak a different Turkish, Mitrovica different. There are just six kilometers difference with a straight line. They used to go to Mitrovica by foot. Vushtrri-Mitrovica right? Turks in Mitrovica spoke Turkish differently, people from Vushtrri differently. For example, people from Vushtrri would say isteymisi [do you want], cideymisi [are you going], oynaymisi [are you going to play] you know. People form Mitrovica would not understand them. People from Mitrovica would say dermuga [to tell], almuga [to take], citmuga [to go]. Do you understand? People from Pristina coldum [I came], cittım [I went], like that.

Ebru Süleyman: We still say, coldum, cittım [I came, I went].

Şükrü Zeynullah: Yes but let’s say Peja is different, Prizren is different, Gjilan is different. However, all in all, Gjilan spoke the most proper Turkish. Look, this is a big deal. If you ask why? According to me, the closer you are to…

Ebru Süleyman: To Istanbul Turkish.

Şükrü Zeynullah: The closer you are to Anatolia, meaning Istanbul, meaning to Turkey the better the Turkish. For example Kaçanik, Kaçanik. Whoever committed an illegal act used to escape there [to Kaçanik] . They used to call those hills Kaçanlık [Escape place]. Now they call it Kaçanik, it used to be Kaçanlık. Behind those hills, people spoke better Turkish. People would say geldım [I came], gittım [I went], iki tane [two pieces] instead of içi tane [two pieces]. Gjilan was closer to Macedonia that is why they used to…

Ebru Süleyman: It sounds more like Istanbul Turkish.

Şükrü Zeynullah: It sounds more like Turkey’s Turkish. Turkish of Turkey. A little bit different.

Ebru Süleyman: Does it mean that this old Turkish was spoken by everyone, that was how people spoke in town?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Everyone, everybody spoke. Then when Pristina settlement starts to form slowly, Serbians come, Bosnians come as well. Jewish people from Europe, not too many but (incomp.). Albanians from the south. Albanians used to come and settle around the city because they were farmers. However, the townsman worked more with crafts, with craftsmanship.

Ebru Süleyman: Which crafts existed?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Excuse me?

Ebru Süleyman: Which crafts used to exist?

Şükrü Zeynullah: There were crafts starting from the jeweler, shoemaker all the way to tailor. There were very well known tailors, well-known barbers. Barbers were like doctors. For example Ahmet Kırna. He used to make medicine for people. For rheumatism, what have you, for asthma or… I have many things in my mind but they are messy, I do not know what to say.

Ebru Süleyman: We have a lot of time.

Şükrü Zeynullah: There were doctors as well. But there was only one Doctor Tefik. Doctor Tefik he was very well known in Europe. When he went to Europe. Here Doctor Tefik would care for people…

Ebru Süleyman: Did he study in Europe?

Şükrü Zeynullah: No. Yes in Europe, of course in Europe.

Ebru Süleyman: Then he came here.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Yes here. Tefik, his last name was Raşit. He used to live close to Kacalar towards the city from Çeklik neighborhood. His house was there, it is still there, an old house.  He went to Europe. They have requested him. They have heard of him and invited him to Europe. He stayed there as a guest. He goes back and forth but not that much.

European doctors used to ask Tefik’s advice for many things. Doctor Tefik used to look after some patients of some families, rich families and tell them what to do about the disease or which medicine to use. However, because those families were rich they would send their sick to Europe for medical examination in order for European doctors to take a look. To France, to Austria. When those doctors asked him, “Where are you from? Where did you come from?” “From Pristina.” “Do you know Doctor Tefik?” “Yes.” “Did he examine you?” “Yes.” “What he says is what it is. We cannot know better than Tefik.” The doctors [would say] back then.

There were many events in Pristina, many big happenings. But none of those were written. Unrecorded. We had great craftsman. Our own barbers were doctors. Tailors were fashion makers as well as shoemakers. We had a covered bazaar, there… they demolished that bazaar, most of the things got destroyed, most of our things.

Ebru Süleyman: Uncle Şükri do you remember, maybe after the First World War life was hard here? When you were a kid when you used to go to school. Then it started, after Ataturk died, the Second World War started right after. Do you remember these things, the way it was?

Şükrü Zeynullah: I can remember the Second World War but not the First World War.

Ebru Süleyman: Did you hear about it from your grandmother, grandfather?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Yes, the First World War left Pristina in ruins. Left Pristina behind. Pristina could not develop back in those times. Before the Second World War, some big changes happened here, the city became more modern, more modern buildings. It slowly made the transition from a la Turca towards a la Franga. The buildings started looking even more beautiful, European style so on and so forth. However, those buildings also got ruined after the Second World War. When the War of Independence [People’s Liberation War] happened, those buildings got ruined, everything got destroyed during communism. Communism did many wrong things. Nations got scattered, Pristina locals could not resist, they did for some time but then they could not anymore and they migrated to their homelands to Turkey.

Ebru Süleyman: Can you… do you remember when Bulgarian soldiers and Italian soldiers came here?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Yes of course.

Ebru Süleyman: Can you tell us a little bit about those days?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Germans came. Italians were allied with the Germans. However, Germans were not located here in Pristina, mostly Italians. Between the years ‘41 to ‘44, there were not many conflicts, disagreements, small clashes here. Although, a youth organization gets formed here. They were young partisans. They used to work on programmes under Tito’s name. Meaning something like socialists, like communists. Thus our young ones [went] there. People like Meto Bajraktari, Selimler, Kocadiş, Raşit many youngsters. Later on, even small children used to go there, our Süleyman, with Süleyman surname…

Ebru Süleyman: Şerafedin.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Şerafeddin Süleyman. Even he had a partisan mission. Older brother, the older one…

Ebru Süleyman: Remzi. Remzi.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Yes. They used to fight against local enemies and, how should I say, against Germans. The conflicts used to happen in Keçekol, they used to clash there. Meto Bajraktari died, some others died and everyone else died. But after the War of Independence [People’s Liberation War], here every nation got their rights: Serbians, Albanians, others, only Turks, Turks did not get their rights recognized. Thus the city started to crumble, people started to migrate to the motherland.

Ebru Süleyman: Townsmen?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Townsmen, citizens. Townsmen.

Ebru Süleyman: Do you remember when they were migrating with trains?

Şükrü Zeynullah: What was it?

Ebru Süleyman: When they migrated to Turkey.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Of course. We have pictures. Those tears, those separations. Every day we used to wave people goodbye, send them on trains. They would leave their homes, belongings.

Ebru Süleyman: Why did they leave after the war ended?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Communism, communism times. It was like that.

Ebru Süleyman: Why did your family decide to stay?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Why do they stay now?

Ebru Süleyman: No, back then. Before.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Oh, why did they decide. Their sons spilled blood in Gazimestan, in the battle. They… they… from their [lineage] new families were formed here, [from] their children. [For example] His father died but the child stayed [alive] and then lived in Pristina. They are still here in these neighborhoods to this day, the descendants of martyrs. Still.

Ebru Süleyman: You did not want to leave.

Şükrü Zeynullah: We did not have the heart to leave. My mother [left] in 1938-37, in ‘37. I was three-years-old then, during my circumcision, she had a big family in Mitrovica. Crowded family, everyone decided to migrate. They were of the opinion that my mother would also want to go but my father could not do it, he could not leave. My father did not want it. They tried [to convince] with my aunts, my older aunts, two older aunts. They begged and my mother wanted to go, but how could she leave her people like that? So, they end up leaving.

We used to live in Skopje back then, they came and took [her] with phaetons from Mitrovica. I realized [something was going on] even though I was three-years-old and it was my circumcision day. I run downstairs. Our house was close to the river, and there was a bridge in five-six meters distance. As soon as I open the door, I tumble into the river, then they pulled me out.

Ebru Süleyman: Was this in Skopje? İn Skopje?

Şükrü Zeynullah: In Skopje. They used to go there. I saw my mother after ‘51. I think in ‘51, when I was twenty-years-old. I went to see my mother when I was twenty-one years old.

Ebru Süleyman: So your mother went to Turkey, right?

Şükrü Zeynullah: She went, she went. My father stayed here.

Ebru Süleyman: You stayed with your father?

Şükrü Zeynullah: My father stayed, yes. My father got married to an artist from Budapest, from Hungary. They came to Skopje as a theatrical company, she was an artist. They liked each other there, then she stayed here and got married. When we came to Pristina I was going to school then, to Quran school. She looked after me, looked after me very well. They used to get along very well. However, I came home from school, from imam one day; she took my backpack, pulled the Quran out of my backpack and threw the Quran away. It was crowded in front of the door, we used to live in Çeklik, no in Dört Lüle. When my father came home and heard about this, they could not get along anymore, and they divorced. Then he married her grandmother {gestures towards his daughter who is in the room}… Fahriye was her name. For a long time…

Ebru Süleyman: What language were they speaking among themselves?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Who?

Ebru Süleyman: Your father and his wife from Hungary.

Şükrü Zeynullah: They slowly spoke Serbian, Serbian language, afterward they started to learn Turkish because most people learned Turkish. Even Serbians used to speak Turkish. For example, a Serbian spoke Turkish to his friend, to his Turkish friend and a Turk replied in Serbian. Do you understand? In order to be kind. We got along well. There was understanding.

Ebru Süleyman: Together with other nations?

Şükrü Zeynullah: We had Serbian friends, they were not different at all. It was very interesting, you cannot talk about these things easily. We yearn for those days, so much so that I would prefer living three weeks back in those days than living now and here for three years. However, when you see your children, your grandchildren, their children, you start to think differently. What can we do, life is like this.

Ebru Süleyman: Then you went to school. Liberation War after the Second World War then Yugoslavia times began. New Yugoslavia.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Yugoslavia began. New Yugoslavia. Everything changed there then.

Ebru Süleyman: How did your life change, what changed in your day-to-day life?

Şükrü Zeynullah: They gave rights to all the nations, to all the minorities. But for Turks, there are no Turks here, no Turks here… none. You cannot wear a fez, you cannot speak Turkish on the street. We used to go to Albanian schools, we did not know Albanian. Some people went to school in Serbian, what can they do, there are none.

Ebru Süleyman: So when did Turkish [education] begin, after ‘55-‘57 right?

Şükrü Zeynullah: In ‘57, in ‘57-‘58. However Turkish schools started only after ‘51.

Ebru Süleyman: In ‘51.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Then until ‘51, meaning from ‘41 until ‘51 for ten years there were no Turks here. A Turk cannot declare he/she is a Turk. We could not speak our language on the street. Ten years you are absent. After that, when they conducted a census, Turks had  bigger numbers more than Serbians, more than Albanians more than them.

Look what nationalism is. In general, there are no faults from Albanians but among Albanians, there were some bad, some wrong-minded nationalist people. For example, when I went to Albania, I went there a couple of times, they would cheer up. Some Albanians knew how to speak Turkish. I went there fifteen-twenty years ago, twenty-five years ago. In times of Enver Hodja, I was with Enver Hodja he spoke Turkish with me. When they saw me they went, “Erdh qeky prej Prishtine, ky turku” [Here comes this one from Pristina, the Turk] they all stood up. When you say Turk in Albania, Albanians stand up.

However, if you say you are a Turk in Kosovo, then you are out of luck. Look now, Albanians in Kosovo too advanced so they do these things? But what can we do, this was meant to be. Now it is getting better slowly. Some things used to happen here and there but they are quick to shut those nationalists’ mouths. Because Albanians are slowly starting to think. If those bad Turks did not exist, Albanian name would not exist in the world today.

For years they [the Ottomans] did not retreat from Balkans. Based on the agreement, they were supposed to leave but [they stayed] until they formed a country for Albanians. They said, “Here Albania is your country and God help you and well done!” Meaning they formed Albania, signed at the Berlin Congress and then they started to retreat. While they were leaving these lands, when they left Pristina, they called Hasan Prishtina and some other Albanians and told them, “Look, we are leaving, plant your flags here. You will have lands in Kosovo as well.” They said, “No, we will make an agreement with the King of Serbia easily.” But look what happened, after all those years they managed to make a country and it is not even properly functional yet. We went to politics a little, it is not good.

Ebru Süleyman: Let me ask you one more thing. Do you remember Jewish people in the city before the Second World War? You told us a little, you said there were Turks, Serbs, Albanians, Jewish people, Roma. Where were they in the city, what did these mixed nations do? How did they work, where did they live? Before the Second World War, when you were a kid.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Roma for example used to live in two neighborhoods: Aşarçi Mahalle [Lower Neighborhood] and Yokarçi Mahalle [Upper Neighborhood]. Lower Neighborhood was a wide center in Divan Yolu. River passed through it. There they were, they were not brown-skinned, they were white, they were different. Most of them spoke Turkish and they were white. When schools had opened, they went to school in Turkish.

However, the bigger part of the Gypsies, Roma used to live in Mor Ova [Purple Valley]. Mor Ova meaning Morava. Moravska, it is up there. You know the park, above the park. That was their area, they were crowded there. They were browner. They spoke Romani, but of course Turkish as well. They used to work as porters, hauling things. They had intellectuals as well. They worked as waiters, in restaurants. Those did exist as well.

In Aşarçi Mahalle there were artists, known musicians. Clarinet player Şükrü Tonar we used to call him, Abdullah, İbrahim Peçevi, violinist. Hüriye Telleyici, she was a singer, she had a band. No, not Hüriye Telleyci, Hüriye Telleyici was a different person, Hüriye violinist she used to play the violin, had an orchestra with women. Also, there was, I told you Savçe, who made phaetons. Bayram Kovaç, with his family, they made swords and knives, good things.

Ebru Süleyman: Where did Serbians live?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Serbians. In one street there were two-three houses, the fourth one was Serb. Then some more houses then again Serbs in a different neighborhood. There were ten Serbs in one neighborhood.

Ebru Süleyman: Together with who, Turks, Albanians?

Şükrü Zeynullah: And Serbs, no other. Jewish people, Germans gathered Jewish people and took away from here a lot of them. There were no Jewish people left. We saved just the kids, we put them into our cribs like our own kids. Grown-ups were taken by Germans.

Ebru Süleyman: Can you remember it, when it happened?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Of course. How many people we saved, some grown-up people as well, “No, this is my brother, no this is my relative, this is my relative…” We saved as much as we could. There was an understanding, we did not have hostility against each other. Albanians, we share the same faith, Albanian-Turk the same. We loved each other, there is nowhere to go. We gave daughters to Albanians, we took brides etc. But we did not want to have anything to do with those hurtful Albanians, those nationalists. They were wrong.

Part Three

Ebru Süleyman: Artisans, there were artisans.

Şükrü Zeynullah: There were more artisans. Albanians used to come from Albania because we did not have [teachers] after the war. Some Albanians graduated from primary schools in Serbian but very rarely. However, teachers and professors came from Albania and schools opened, teaching and pedagogical schools.

Ebru Süleyman: So you went to primary school in Serbian right?

Şükrü Zeynullah: First grade of primary school in Serbian. When I came, when we came to Pristina in ‘41-‘42, in ‘41, I went to second grade in Albanian.

Ebru Süleyman: Meaning there were [schools] in Albanian back then.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Back then Albanians came here. This region became The Great Albania, Shqipnija e Madhe do you understand? Albanians were [allies] with Italians, Italy, and Albania. Also, this, what was his name, Ahmet Zog… what was I saying?

Ebru Süleyman: Continue, please.

Şükrü Zeynullah: From ‘41 until the end of ‘44, until ‘45, that is approximately five years. For five years every child, almost every child went to school in Albanian. Serbian, Turk, what have you, Albanian, all of them went to school in Albanian. There was no other language. We could not speak Turkish loudly on the streets. Only at home, indoors. That was it. However, this Albanian population has no faults, only some harmful ones inside the Albanian population.

Ebru Süleyman: Then, the Liberation War happened, Italians left, Partisans came, everything changed. You told us a little about those times. Then until ‘51, Turks were not recognized [as a separate ethnicity]…

Şükrü Zeynullah: No, no.

Ebru Süleyman: After ‘51, schools started to open.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Schools opened.

Ebru Süleyman: What were you doing back then, how old were you, did you graduate already?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Then I was working at the National Song and Dance Ensemble, ensemble, of the state.

Ebru Süleyman: What were you doing there?

Şükrü Zeynullah: I was a performer there. I was performing there. They had it in Pristina also. There were people from Pristina there, there were Albanians, Serbians, Turks. I was there for a year, and after a year I became the assistant manager.

Ebru Süleyman: Which years?

Şükrü Zeynullah: This is ‘50, in the 50s. In ‘49-‘50. In ‘49-‘50. I was really young when I became an assistant manager. The manager was a Russian man, but then his true colors came to light, he was a Bolshevik. Back then , his father was an enemy of communists and what not. He left afterward and I became the manager for a year. I was really young. However, in ‘51 schools opened, we heard that they were going to open. Then I left everything and went to Turkish at ‘51, Turkish schools. We used to go to Skopje for four months in the summer, finish one grade and come back.

Ebru Süleyman: Who were your teachers?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Our teachers.

Ebru Süleyman: When it first opened. First?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Turkish schools you mean?

Ebru Süleyman: Yes.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Süreyya, Süreyya Yusuf at the top, you have heard of him.

Ebru Süleyman: Yes, I have heard of him, of course.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Süreyya and two other people came from Skopje.

Ebru Süleyman: So you were studying at Skopje and then come back here?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Look, there are Turks in Macedonia, meaning Yugoslavia all of us. There are Turks in Macedonia, Turks in Serbia, Turks in I do not know where, everywhere in Montenegro, there are still some in Tivar, but not in Kosovo. There were [Turks] in Serbia until recently. Viran Yer, Vranje they say. Or Bilaç, Biljača an old Turkish place. There were Turks in Serbia until recently. However, there were no Turkish [schools] here until ‘51? {gestures that he is puzzled}. But this place belonged to Serbia in Yugoslav times. See how unfortunate it was for us. Then the migrations began, people started leaving. Otherwise, they would be here, all of us would be here.

Some professors came from Skopje, either Skopje or Gostivar until we were brought up. We used to study and come back here. There were no spaces to place the kids. They gave us an old rug-making school building. In front of Elena Gjika, there was a small school, they gave it to us. There were five-six rooms, we used to hold classes there, in Globoder’s house, in Ahmet tailors, Abdullah tailors’ houses.

There was the Aladin Mosque, there were three empty classrooms there, not classrooms but rooms. We made those into classrooms. Thousands of children, six classrooms, only six classrooms. Six classrooms, meaning six rooms. But hundreds of children.

On the other hand, the Albanian classes were diminishing. Albanians did not stay in classes. For example, from thirty kids… teacher or principal would come and notify the class in Albanian that Turkish schools were opening and if their parents decided for them to go there they should let them know. Let them know by Monday. We came on Monday and told them that, “My father wants us to go to Turkish school.” for example. Then the Albanian speaking teacher said, “Whoever wants to go should leave the classroom”. For example, from thirty-thirty five people only seven stayed in Albanian. Like that. The most crowded classes were Turkish classes from ‘51 until ‘62-‘63. Then they became even bigger…

Ebru Süleyman: You were a teacher in those years?

Şükrü Zeynullah: I was a teacher in those years. Teacher, principal. I managed Turkish schools, culture, and fine arts association, Turkish choir, Turkish theatre. I founded the theatre, how did they call them Hacivat and the other…

Ebru Süleyman: Karagöz.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Karagöz. I founded it when I was still going to school in Albanian, in secrecy at home. I founded it for children in our language. For example, the stories of Nasreddin Hodja, in ‘48. When I was a kid. Many kids would go and watch, and then go back towards the evening. We renovated a barn, new wood, new windows, they watched it there.  

Ebru Süleyman: So, you were at school until ‘63. You were a principal, a teacher, what happened after that time?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Hold on, did I say until ‘63?

Ebru Süleyman: Yes.

Şükrü Zeynullah: I do not know. When there were enough teachers, Turkish teachers, I went to the University of Belgrade to finish my college courses. There I stayed for four years.

Ebru Süleyman: When did you go there?

Şükrü Zeynullah: ‘60-‘59 I think, there in ‘60. I graduated in ‘63.

Ebru Süleyman: So you studied in Belgrade.

Şükrü Zeynullah: In Belgrade and also in Novi Sad.

Ebru Süleyman: You studied also in Novi Sad, what did you study?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Biology, chemistry, physical education. I had no say in that. We had no teachers in biology, chemistry, physical education so I had to study (incomp.). However, I would have liked to study geography or history or something. Like all of us.

Then I founded a children’s newspaper with the name of ABC. Then after schools had enough teachers I got appointed as manager of Pioneer Center, Pioneer Center. There I founded the United Nations Children’s Club. It is still valid today. Children were there…

Ebru Süleyman: Representatives of countries of the United Nations.

Şükrü Zeynullah: How did they say? Ambassador. Do they say ambassador? There used to be [representatives] of Serbia, Russia, Albania.

Ebru Süleyman: Countries of the United Nations.

Şükrü Zeynullah: The United Nations General Secretary came officially from New York just to see us. They would take the exams there.

Ebru Süleyman: Which year?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Which year… I have a picture but which year, in ‘50-‘60, in ‘64-‘65. It was U Thant. U Thant?

Ebru Süleyman: Yes, U Thant.

Şükrü Zeynullah: You have heard of U Thant?

Ebru Süleyman: Yes I have heard, I have heard.

Şükrü Zeynullah: U Thant, we have pictures, it was a big deal back then.

Ebru Süleyman: So, he came to Pristina.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Which other United Nations General Secretary came to Pristina? Only because of the officiality of the United Nations Children’s Club, a United Nations General Secretary came to Pristina. And the kids were with uniforms, passing exams, becoming ambassadors.

Ebru Süleyman: How did you go about establishing this club?

Şükrü Zeynullah: How? That was my duty. How did I think of forming the choir? I formed the first Turkish choir. How did I think of forming children’s newspaper? I did it. Same with Pioneer Center. Pioneer Center do you understand? We formed ABC, published the newspaper. The first newspaper, then Tan came about. Then they took me to Tan, I became the manager there, trade manager. I brought books from Turkey on wagons. I brought books from Turkey, sedges, what have you, novels, atlases; history, biology, geography atlases all in Turkish. We had no books. When we opened the schools we did not have a single book, anything. We brought them from there, even before we did…

Ebru Süleyman: How was it at Tan those days? I think all intellectuals were gathered at Tan those days, citizens, people from Pristina.

Şükrü Zeynullah: I also worked at Tan.

Ebru Süleyman: Yes, you all worked there. How was Tan? What did you do? It was more active back then right?

Şükrü Zeynullah: It was wonderful, wonderful. We were so good and we were producing a serious newspaper even journalists from Birlık were envious. Imagine we were surprised when late Necati Zekeriya came to Tan. He came from Skopje to Tan. But before Tan started, before Tan happened we had people from Skopje. For example, we had a Naim Şaban, a Nusret Dişo in Birlık. However, people like Necati Zekeriya, Hasan Mercan came afterward, we gathered them all. We opened selling points everywhere, even in villages. Tan newspaper dealerships. We opened bookstores in Prizren. We did, not a gallery but I cannot remember {pauses to thinks}. When you make a fair, book fair. In Serbian, they call it sajam [fair] I think. How was it in Albanian?

Ebru Süleyman: I do not know.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Books, people used to come and look at books. It was like a gallery, gallery.

Ebru Süleyman: Yes.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Big gallery. A gallery is a different thing but a big gallery. Those books that we brought from Turkey, we displayed them in Gjilan, for example, Gjilan people would buy the books. Very cheap just symbolic [amounts of money]. I remember the display in Gjilan. There were many people, they would look and buy those books.

Ebru Süleyman: It was Tan back then…

Şükrü Zeynullah: It was Tan back then…

Ebru Süleyman: Were there other newspapers as well? Can you tell us about those?

Şükrü Zeynullah: No, no. There was only Tan in a place like a booth. The newspaper building did not exist back then.

Ebru Süleyman: The newspapers building.

Şükrü Zeynullah: No, it was Rilindja there.

Ebru Süleyman: Where was Tan at first?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Tan’s newspaper was, how should I say, I cannot remember… you know where the Committee used to be?

Ebru Süleyman: Yes.

Şükrü Zeynullah: It was right behind it, adjacent to the Committee. Large building. Now, as you know, the square is there.

Ebru Süleyman: Oh, yes.

Şükrü Zeynullah: You know that big building, the shacks right behind it. It is still there.

Ebru Süleyman: Still there.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Tan was there. However, when that building Rilindja (incomp.) Tan also moved there. Moved there.

Ebru Süleyman: You moved there. Meaning three newspapers were there.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Three newspapers, Rilindja most powerful. Yes.

Ebru Süleyman: Uncle Şükri, when you were a kid, when you were little, how did you spend time in the city? What did you do?

Şükrü Zeynullah: In the city, in the city, we were constantly thinking of creating some stuff, making something, creating something. We also loved to go out for recreation, there were many places in Pristina. For example, you have heard of Sofalia, Sofalia. You know what Sofalia is?

Ebru Süleyman: No, I do not.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Sefali-yer [Place for Entertainment], Sofalia.

Ebru Süleyman: You went there.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Sefali-yer. Young people liked that place very much. However, men, the elderly used to go to Taukbahçe, it was closer. There was a fountain there, two-three days ago… there was a fountain in Sofalia that made everyone envious of its beauty. That green stone, that ornamented spout, longley beautifully carved wooden basin. Wildflowers all around, a hill behind it. Ornamental trees and fruit trees. You could not wait to go there and spend your day. There were many good recreational places. Not only Germia but also Sıktaş area. There was Taslixhe, there were vineyards also. Vineyards in Sıktaş as well. There was a rock mine in Germi, it is still there.

All the mosques, army buildings were made from those rocks after the Ottomans. Mosques or churches or something. There is still a rock mine in Germia, but vineyards towards this way. Pristina is very valuable and big. There were many dangerous, wild animals in Germia. Bears, wild boars. There were some cats; they used to climb the trees and hop {onomatopoetic} jump on you. It would scare you but not dangerous, just wild cats.

What else is there to say. When the Ottomans came… why did I say the Roman Empire did not form a settlement here, where did they do it? They did it in Ulpiana, twenty kilometers further away. They founded Ulpiana. Why others did not do it? They had to make kilometers-long borders, walls, castles against  enemy invasions and against wild animals. But what did Ottomans do to those wild animals? Great minds! They went where the wild snakes were and take their offspring and brought them to houses right after the war. They gave the snakes to a third or fourth house in the row. They made some drawer type things next to their wells. The snake would grow, there is water there. When it got bigger, Ottoman soldiers, officials would take it back where they first took it from.

Also wolves, there were many wolves. They would take young wolves and tame them and send them back. Those wolves would grow and other wolves could not attack people anymore. Thus I swear after all that time not a drop off blood spilled from  attacks by those wild animals. There were many wild animals. Because of the intervention of the Ottoman soldiers.

When the winters were long and cold, those wolves got hungry and they used to come and eat food off of the windows of people who lived on the first line of houses down at Germia, at the church neighborhood. They would open the windows and take the wolves in to not let them freeze. They fed them, and wolves went back. All the wolves were tamed. Those wildcats, those snakes did not bite people anymore. I sat down next to a huge snake for hours. I swear I stand next to it, I moved from one side to another, it was just looking at me and I was just looking at it. I swear. It was this thick {gestures with his hands}, rolled like a tray. I sat down next to it, it was staring at me and I was staring back in Germia.

Ebru Süleyman: Uncle Şükri let’s get back to present times. Can you remember when the turmoil began, the politics around the 1970s, ‘80s when the protests started? Those two decades before the war, when disarray was happening, can you remember that? How was the atmosphere in the city, what was happening?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Is this in the ‘60s?

Ebru Süleyman: No, in the ‘70s, the ‘80s.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Oh, no I was not here. I went to my mother, she got sick, I lived there for around 20 years.

Ebru Süleyman: You lived with your mother for 20 years.

Şükrü Zeynullah: I lived with her.

Ebru Süleyman: When did you come back here?

Şükrü Zeynullah: I came back 17 years ago.

Ebru Süleyman: So after the war.

Şükrü Zeynullah: After the war. Thus I do not know enough to tell about that condition, that situation. Even though we heard it, we knew but…

Ebru Süleyman: You were not here.

Şükrü Zeynullah: I was connected in Turkey with, they printed most of my writings in Ankara. For example, there was a Balkanlar magazine, right?

Ebru Süleyman: Yes.

Şükrü Zeynullah: The one in Ankara.

Ebru Süleyman: Yes.

Şükrü Zeynullah: Whatever I sent them, my poems, my writings, they all wrote [printed] them. They never turned me down. Just the other day I wrote a poem… I do not know if I was helping a little or not?

Ebru Süleyman: Yes, you were very helpful.

Şükrü Zeynullah: A bit messy. How did I not know, I regret it a lot because I did not list these. When you told me…

Ebru Süleyman: The things I wanted to ask?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Its order, before you came, I wanted to put everything in order, to make a list. We would be done quicker and maybe better. Do not forget to say hi to your father.

Ebru Süleyman: Thank you.

Şükrü Zeynullah: He was my friend. He liked me also. But we did not have time to talk. I had some friends, however. When I went to the army I only did ten months, it was like that for the graduates. Instead of doing eleven months, I did not take vacations because it was far. There were seven people from Gjilan there.

Ebru Süleyman: In the army. Where did you serve?

Şükrü Zeynullah: Sinj, Sinj. That is also a Turkish name Dalmatia. Sinj, you have heard of it. There was Drnić. Drnić town, it was also close. There was, in Turkey times, dervishes there, dervish monasteries, but they call it Drnić now. Dervish. Turks in Croatia. I saw the Turkish signs everywhere in Croatia. Along the coastline. Back then Dubrovnik also belonged to Turks, to Turkey. But they made the Republic of Dubrovnik, the Republic of Dubrovnik it became do you understand? Soldiers were guarding the pharmacy there. The first pharmacy in Europe opens in Dubrovnik so soldiers guard it against robberies of medicine etc. Again Ottomans were taking care of that place. It was like this. What can I do, I hope these could be useful.

Ebru Süleyman: Many thanks, thank you a lot for the chat.

Şükrü Zeynullah: I have made you tired as well? You were tired of listening. You did not understand also [addresses the cameraperson]. You have to know, one language is one person. You know there are officially three thousand Turkish words in Albanian. The most beautiful Albanian songs, popular Albanian songs, love songs were made during Turkish times. Today they are not sung, why? Every other or every third word is Turkish, they removed them. Can you imagine? The whole world sings those melodies, but Albanians, the creators of those do not. The Albanian radio plays it, but not the Kosovo one, why? Because there are some Turkish words.

Do not do that, there is no one closer than Turks. Neither Turks have no one closer than Albanians (incomp.). With religion, with everything you know. For example, “Gjemb mbi gjemb këndon bylbyli”. Have you heard of this song? No. “Vaj si kenka bo dynjaja”.  Dynja means the world [botë in Albanian] “Vaj si kenka bo bota”. It doesn’t sound right, you ruin it if you translate. “Mos lufto boll me kanë gjallë, punon njeri fukaraja paska ndodhur pa igball”. Or the other sayings (incomp.). That song is to cry for. Or “Karanfili që ka Shkodra, me ditë sa t’bukra janë ”. You won’t hear these songs anymore. It’s really bad, I like them. If you turn on the Albanian [radio] you hear them. Look at what kinds of mistakes we make. Songs from Albania, we have our heads like this {gestures with his hands}.

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