Talking Stone Film

Film Reviews & Headlines


Dramatization of the events in
the film is based on testimonies of those who participated
in the Battle of Kosare. RTS and Zastava Film
present It was Good Friday.
We were fasting. We set out towards
the borderline. Soldier Dragan Grubic
went to get some water. SLADJANA ZARIC
FILM WAR STORIES
FROM KOSARE They spotted them first
and engaged in fighting. They resorted
to tactical deception yelling “Zaric, bring on
the First Battalion!” or “Second squad forward!” They managed to confuse
the enemy that way. There must have been two
to three hundred of them, and there were six of us. Initially they sustained
heavy casualties. We realized that the area
was swarming with terrorists. State border between
former Yugoslavia and the Republic of Albania. The most rugged terrain
along the border. Mountain range that
both Serbs and Albanians call Cursed Mountains
or Prokletije. Kosare outpost was located on
that stretch of state borderline on Junik Mountain at the
altitude of over 2000m, between Pec and Djakovica. Frontier sentries
have been guarding this volatile border zone
for decades. Over the years it has been
exposed to numerous attacks. Soldiers have been dying here
in the past during the royal rule and at the time of the Socialist
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Conflicts continued
during the 1990’s as well. Story of Kosare and the
biggest land offensive on the territory of Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia started in 1997. In 1997 there was an insurgency
in the Republic of Albania. At the time, all the outposts gravitating towards the
territory of Kosovo and Metohija were pillaged,
destroyed and torched. Close to million and a half
shotguns and millions of bullets ended up in the hands
of civilians. The plan was to transfer those
weapons to Kosovo and Metohija. For the 53rd Border Battalion
entire 1998 was a war year. That year there were
over 60 border incidents. In March of 1998 in the
area of Morina outpost we confiscated a large
amount of equipment: new uniforms, weapons,
ammunition… On April 23, 19918, enemy
suffered first losses at Kosare. We set up an ambush position at the right place
at the right time. In 1998, frontier sentries at Kosare
were flanked by enemy forces. The outpost is in close
vicinity of Junik village which was a KLA stronghold. In summer of 1998, this village
was visited by Richard Holbrooke, American special envoy
to the Balkans. He met with the leaders
of Shqiptar terrorist forces, as they were branded at the time
by Yugoslav officials. This meeting was unfolding against a backdrop
of antiterrorist operations conducted by Serbian
army and police forces. 63rd Parachute Brigade took part
in one such action in the vicinity of Junik,
in July 1998. They were sent as reinforcement. On the 28th, at 6:45am
we set out on an assignment. We were to seize
the Bunovac elevation. A battle group headed by Snake
was sent to the location. Paratroopers encountered a group
of KLA fighters in the forest. Battle group commander Goran
Ostojic decided to call retreat as we were far outnumbered. We didn’t want them cutting
off the route to our base. Paratroopers abandoned
the conflict zone and headed towards
the base at Kosare. They were informed
that KLA soldiers were waiting in ambush
by the road. Goran Ostojic decided we should approach them
from rear and surprise them, and thus secure
the passage to point 502, a position that is much
easier to defend. When we reached
the edge of the forest there was a ledge there
covered in thick fern. A barrage of bullets ensued. I saw Goran get shot,
he rotated and collapsed. I managed to activate the
hand grenade I had on me, and I threw it at them. Janicar headed to
our rescue with his team, but on the way he encountered the rest of the group
that had attacked us. They were on the run,
but they didn’t know our group had split as well,
so they ran right into them. Fellow soldier with the code
name Cowboy called out to me. When I got there I realized
Goran was dead. The rest of the group was there, so we shifted his body
into the Pinzgauer and we pulled out of there. But Shqiptars were deployed
along the entire road. We were under fire. Bullets were flying above
the first Pinzgauer, we opened fire, but when
our truck entered the bend, we were caught in
a machine gun burst. Rados Cerovic who was standing
besides me was shot in the head. Dusanic, who was behind me
was shot in the chest, Ljubisa Bukovic sustained
arm and chest injuries… The truck was on the move, and when they shot me
I fell out. I fell to the ground. I jumped off the truck
and ran towards him. The third Pinzgauer
was approaching. We saw a body on the road.
He was covered in blood. We picked him up. There was nothing I could do
as a medic at that point, we had to get him out of there. We threw him on top
of Goran’s dead body and pulled out. When we got to the base,
we realized that Dragan Dusanic and Rados
Cerovic were dead as well. Also, two other servicemen
were missing: Srdjan Stanicic and Turtle. Turtle was in the battle group
that stayed at the fire position to gather equipment. He didn’t hear the second
commander issue a command to board the truck
and he was left behind. No one even noticed
he was missing. He remained there for two days
without any food or water. Shqiptar extremists were passing
by, twenty to thirty of them. As he said, at one point, a Shqiptar was standing
just five meters away. On the third day he decided
to head towards the base. He was going in circles
for a while. It was easy for him to find water because there were
lots of springs around. He survived
on wild strawberries. At one point he reached
an elevation and from there he could
see our outpost. All of a sudden everyone
started yelling, rejoicing. I got out of my tent
and I saw Touche Turtle. We then celebrated his return. After the hard moments
we experienced, it was a great relief for us. We assume that when
the vehicle stopped, Stancetic jumped out thinking
his help might be needed. On the other side of the road
there was a steep slope. As it was already dark,
it is possible that he slipped. Later, when we were
combing the terrain, we found his body some
30m below the road. It was riddled with bullets. The hardest day for me
was July 28, 1998. We lost four paratroopers
in a short period of time. They were my friends.
That was the worst day for me. Goran Ostojic was a paragon,
tall, striking, fearless… He was always in the frontlines,
paratroopers trusted him. It was a major loss for us. This photograph is considered the
symbol of the Battle of Kosare. Those are the members
of the 63rd Parachute Brigade who took part in the action lead by lieutenant colonel
Goran Ostojic. After a large-scale operation conducted by our army and police
forces in summer of 1998, there were no more
KLA soldiers in Junik. International peacekeeping
monitoring mission that was monitoring
the border at the time banned the presence
of special forces in the area. Only border units
of Yugoslav Army were allowed in the crisis area. In September 1998, the frontier
sentries got reinforcement. The support came in the form of
Nis Reconnaissance Company. Reconnaissance Company
arrived on September 29. When they arrived
I was on my way to point 502 to set up an ambush position. Two soldiers ran up to me.
They were from Belgrade. They wanted to know
what the situation was like, whether it had settled down. I told them that the shooting
had subsided, that they were going
to be fine. It’s nice here.
The food is good. I’ve made friends already. No, I haven’t. I went to the ambush position.
It was early morning. I heard two detonations
in the distance. We took hand grenades,
ammunition, automatic rifles, and we headed out. We approached the Pinzgauer. We saw bodies tangled
in the back of it. They didn’t even have time
to jump out. I recognized the two fellows
who approached me as I was heading for the
ambush position 502. I remembered how I told them that the situation
had settled down. That the winter was coming and that I wasn’t expecting
any more skirmishes. At that moment I felt bad.
I was sad, distraught, angry. One body was on the ground
to the right, the other one was to the left. The driver pretended he was dead
and that is how he survived. Officer Goran Loznica,
sergeant major Dobrislav Drazic, and Goran Simic, the driver
survived the terrorist attac. Although gravely wounded captain Loznica managed
to reach the nearby brook. Later he admitted that he had
suicidal thoughts at the time. Captain Loznica was wounded.
He fell off the vehicle and rolled down a slope
that was covered in fern. Luckily, my dog found him. Otherwise,
he would have bled to death. Sergeant major Drazic
was also there. He was critically wounded,
but he survived. Unfortunately,
others had lost their lives. Among those who died were soldiers of the Nis
Reconnaissance Company: Vladimir Radoicic, Ilija Pavlovic
and Miladin Gobeljic. They enlisted just
three months earlier. On that day, KLA soldiers
also killed enlistees Miroslav Jocic
and Milos Pavlovic. After the war,
a video appeared on the net. Agim Ramadani was
the leader of the group that had set up an ambush
on September 30, 1998. They were filming as they waited
in ambush from the early morning. They conducted a terrorist
attack on the vehicle and killed the soldiers. Then they took their equipment,
looted their personal belongings, desecrated their bodies. After year 2000, members
of the Phoenix-Cobra group were sentenced in absence
by the court in Nis. They were convicted of conducting
a classical terrorist act. The group infiltrated the territory
of Yugoslavia from Albania. In the immediate vicinity
of the state border, two kilometers away
from the Kosare outpost, they killed five Yugoslav
Army soldiers. Several months later,
many of these terrorists were in the first combat lines, when a ground offensive from
Albania was launched and the attack on Kosare began. In the early hours of the morning
a large group of KLA soldiers launched an attack
on the Kosare outpost following a massive
artillery barrage aimed at the nearby
Morina outpost. Soldiers entrenched
at the C4 ambush position were on their way to the spring when they spotted an Albanian
soldier with a Motorola. That was the beginning
of the battle of Kosare. We were most fortunate that those
soldiers went to get the water. They discovered enemy soldiers before they were able
to close in on us. We were surrounded
on three sides. They would’ve probably encircled
us was it not for those soldiers. Shqiptars were also attacking
Rrasa e Koshares summit towering over
the Kosare outpost area. On that April the 9th, the summit
was covered in snow. Rrasa e Koshares
is the highest point and from it you could monitor
the entire stretch of the border. From that point they could
provide support to troops at point C4,
at Glava or any other position. Their objective was
to seize that point. Once you are there, you are
in control of the entire area. First they attacked
ambush position C4. Somewhere around 5:15am
Grubic asked for support. We were at the
Rrasa e Koshares summit and we delivered mortar fire. As soon as fired the first mine,
in a matter of seconds we were under
heavy artillery fire from the depth
of Albanian territory. The earth was shaking,
stones were flying around. I was counting the mines, almost
hundred of them fell on us. They were yelling “Surrender!” “Soldiers, surrender!
We will spare your lives!” It sounded strange. They were suggesting we
surrender in our own language. I suggested to a fellow soldier
that we withdraw from there so they don’t capture us alive. Following a massive fire attack, enemy managed to take the
Rrasa e Koshares position. There was also fierce fighting over the ambush position
Kolibice, in Glava area. This position was located above
the outpost, near the border. At one point the enemy fire
got so intense that I thought there were
at least hundred of them. Bullets were flying
over our heads. Luckily, we had already
prepared adequate shelters, we had already dug up gun pits. Situation at Kolibice
was almost surreal. They were blasting our position
with mortar fire. There were ten to twelve
of our soldiers there lead by corporal Sarac. Just when we thought
they were wiped out, someone would fire
from the trench, a soldier would raise his head
and fire at the enemy. They were holding off a large
group of Albanian terrorists, not allowing them
to approach the outpost. That way they were
buying us time. The intensity of fighting
didn’t subside during the day. Fighting was intense
on Maja Glava, Kolibice, near the outpost… Defense efforts were hindered by
unfavorable weather conditions. Snow covered the summits, but around the outpost
there was no snow that April. The reinforcement finally
arrived – 30 military policemen. Commander of the
53rd Border Battalion headed off in his Pinzgauer
to meet the military policemen. I told the driver to drive faster
so we wouldn’t be late, but he told me
the vehicle would overturn. At one point, as we entered
a curve, they opened fire. I turned towards the driver, but we didn’t get to exchange
a single world, he was shot by a sniper bullet. Terrorists were surprised when
they saw me leave the vehicle because they thought no one
had survived the attack. Driver Miroslav Stojanovic,
a 21-year-old serviceman, was the first victim
of the attack on Kosare. He was a member of
the 53rd Border Battalion. Several hours later three armored
fighting vehicles, three BOVs were coming down the same road. They were supposed to bring
ammunition to Kosare outpost. I was in the second BOV
with the sublieutenant. At the last bend before Batusa,
we encountered the Pinzgauer that belonged
to commander Sljivancanin. We didn’t know he was wounded.
The driver was dead. First BOV pushed away
the Pinzgauer and continued towards
Batusa village. As it entered the bend, the second armored vehicle
hit the mine. Sublieutenant, another soldier
and I were in the second vehicle. Then it exploded. I blacked out and
I can’t remember what transpired
in the next 15 minutes. The third armored vehicle came by
and picked up the sublieutenant. I was waving at them,
but they passed me by. I was left alone. Later, our soldiers found
wounded Dejan Agocevic, Kosare outpost commander. Soldier Nikola Popovic from
the 52nd Artillery Brigade was killed in the BOV
that exploded. In the months that followed
KLA members photographed themselves
next to the overturned BOV. They were celebrating the
terrorist act they had committed. But let’s return to the
events of April the 9th at the ambush position C4
where frontier sentries had accidentally discovered
terrorist forces before they were able
to surround them. At the Maja Glava elevation fighting has been going on
since the early morning. Call the outpost,
we are out of ammunition! We were checking out
the stacks of ammunition, and we asked for support
in men and ammunition. Pull-out! We were waiting
for quite a while, and since
we ran out of ammunition we decided to withdraw. We ran out of mortar ammunition
and then major ordered me to assemble all the soldiers
who were there and take them to
the C4 border marker held by sergeant Vasovic
and his team. We went to point C4, but the
soldiers were no longer there. We positioned ourselves and waited to see how
the situation would develop. We set out towards the outpost but we didn’t know they
were under the attack. Lines of communication
were down and they were shooting at us
from all sides. They wanted to surprise us
and make a break through. Their objective was
to reach Batusa and other villages
along that line. By annihilating our troops
in that area they were hoping to cut off the communication
route Decane-Pec and join forces with
Ramus Haradinaj’s troops. That way they would create ideal
circumstances for airstrikes and artillery engagement
on the stretch of land between Junik Polje
and Milanovac Mountain. Why was it so important to them? From the border, Junik Polje can be reached on
foot in just two to four hours, carrying full gear. From March 24th when the
state of war was declared till April 9th when they
launched the land offensive, we had no major skirmishes, there were no problems
on the border itself. As a matter of fact, just a couple of days
prior to the insurgency, Jevtovic and I,
and a few other soldiers crossed the stretch of border between Kosare outpost
and Junik on foot. We were on the lookout
for any traces in snow. But we found nothing suspicious,
there were no signs of scouts. He himself said that Pristina
Corps’ assessment was that we were not in imminent
danger of attack. In the unlikely event, he said, they would send reinforcements
as planned. The task of frontier sentries
was to hold off the first attack, until reinforcements arrive
within an hour or two. There were no indications
to suggest the attack would be launched
at Kosare outpost. There were some speculations
they would attack from the territory of Macedonia,
or at Morina outpost. Morina outpost was passable,
but not only from their side, it was passable
from our side as well making it easier
for us to defend ourselves. However, at Kosare,
their side was elevated. They were in a superior position
all along the border in that area. They were in a position
to dictate the time and the pace of the attack,
the direction… Judging by the way they were
grouping and communicating, we concluded they were
preparing for a blitzkrieg in a matter of days. However, on the first day, and
especially on the second day, and later on, they encountered
strong resistance. That created problems
in their midst. They were not capable
of advancing, and they couldn’t retreat either. It was a cool and quiet morning,
eerily quiet. It was almost ominous. Somewhere around noon
a horrific attack ensued, first at the Glava outpost
and then at point C4. Every minute felt like a year.
We didn’t know what had hit us. They were firing from mortars,
recoilless guns, rifles… At one point you realize that the ammunition chest you
have refilled is almost empty. Lieutenant colonel Dimcevski
and I, and 15 of our soldiers found ourselves surrounded
on three sides. Point C4 was taken, enemy
troops flanked us from the left, and to the right was
Rrasa e Koshares which had fallen
the very first day. From their elevated position
snipers could easily target us. Luckily,
snipers at Rrasa e Koshares were hindered by poor visibility. A mist had descended
at that time. But sometime around 6pm
they started firing at us from all directions, from Rrasa
e Koshares, from C4, and from the territory
of Albania. We were the only ones there,
so I ordered a running flight. The attack was so fierce that I thought no one would
survive such fire. I was in Batusa village and I told them to send
reinforcement right away. One soldier told me they were
attacking them in swarms, there were thousands of them. By our estimate,
some 1500 men attacked along the 5km stretch
of frontline. They were marshalling
in such a fashion that their main effort
focused on the outpost and the area to the left of the
outpost towards Maja Glava. With the auxiliary forces they were going to attack
Rrasa e Koshares. Our forces included
115 frontier sentries and 8 to 10 soldiers
with 82mm mortars. With the commanding staff,
it was 130 men in total. When I served
as a young frontier sentry, I was told that it is fear
that protects the border. They didn’t know how many
of us were there and where we were located. Also, the intensity of fire
from our side at the time of attack
had diverted them. With what they had,
they could have crushed us. On the 9th and the 10th of April frontier sentries
at the first line of defense were backed up by the members
of the 125th Motorized Brigade who were guarding the border
from the background. The problem was
their manning level. 125th Brigade had a large
area of responsibility, like all the other brigades. In the days preceding
these events they were fighting
terrorist forces in the wider area
of Jablanica, Pec, and in the direction of
Gorazdevac and Klina. It took some time for them
to get there and entrench because of relentless airstrikes. That is why it was only
on the third day that we were able to introduce
fresh troops from the Second
Motorized Battalion to the wider Kosare area. KLA forces have
penetrated the border and were now holding some
of our ambush positions. At Maja Glava insurgents
were holding positions 100 to 200 meters
into the Yugoslav territory. When they seized
Rrasa e Koshares they were in control
of 1.5 km of the territory. Their forces also seized
the Kosare outpost which was indefensible due
to its unfavorable position. International media reported
about the fall of Kosare, the outpost located 200 meters
from the borderline. KLA soldiers who attacked
the territory of Yugoslavia from the direction of Albania
in early April, withdrew from Kosovo to
terrorist camps in Albania during 1998 or early 1999. There they went through
comprehensive combat training. Here, we see those
same KLA soldiers taking the equipment
frontier sentries had left behind. In the meantime, frontier sentries were
occupying alternate positions on Opljaz Hill, at the foot
of Mt. Rrasa e Koshares. I set off with a battle group
to occupy a position. There we encountered
Vasojevic and Kovacevic. As soon as we arrived, someone opened fire from
a short distance away. Men who attacked us
were wearing our uniforms. They tricked us. Our fighters
stood up and they shot at them. Vasojevic died there. He fought bravely at C4
inflicting heavy casualties. Soldier Darko Bjelobrk
stood up and started yelling
“Don’t shoot!” But he was shot down
by a machine-gun burst. Among the soldiers who died
that day were frontier sentries Predrag Bogosavljevic
and Milenko Bozic. Frontier sentries suffered
most losses that day. I saw my soldier crying.
I asked him what was the matter, and he told me
that he had seen them. “How did you see them?”
I enquired. I saw them half an hour ago. He didn’t tell anyone because
they were wearing our uniforms. They were behind us so
he didn’t suspect anything. I am the one who saw them last. I spent the entire night
with them and in the morning
sergeant Vasojevic was killed. That was the hardest
moment for me. On April 11, fighting was also going on at
the foothills of Junik Mountain. On the Skoza slope that
descends from Morina outpost, members of the
125th Motorized Brigade encountered a group
of KLA soldiers who have crossed the border and penetrated deep into
the territory of Yugoslavia. Captain Ralevic and I flanked
them and attacked. Captain supported us
with mortar fire. We annihilated
that terrorist group. When we approached
their trenches we noticed there
was lots of blood there, there were also parts
of people’s scalps left behind, lots of equipment, ammunition. They were obviously
well prepared, and we didn’t expect that. We surprised them. On April 11,
Agim Ramadani was killed. He was the commander
of KLA 138th Brigade. According to Albanian sources,
he was killed by a mortar shell in the vicinity
of Kosare outpost. Agim Ramadani lead
the terrorist attack on Kosare in September 1998, when five Yugoslav Army
soldiers were killed. Further advance of
KLA soldiers was halted. Yugoslav army launched
a counter-offensive to reclaim the occupied
parts of its territory. A group of soldiers was heading from Morina outpost
towards Kosare. Mobile platoon of the
53rd Border Battalion received an order to recover the C 4 border marker,
ambush position Maja Glava. Leovac suggested to the Battle
Group commander Kotur to deploy experienced volunteers
instead of the RA soldiers of the 53rd Border Battalion
Mobile platoon. He thought that people with
some experience in battle should be sent to that position instead of the inexperienced
young soldiers. Some 300 meters away from
the C 4 border marker I spotted two Shqiptars
and alerted Leovac. He remained at his position
and I heard him fire a shot. At the same time,
I heard a shot coming from the direction
where the Shqiptars were. His head collapsed
at that moment. I said “Give me your hand!”
He said he couldn’t. He couldn’t move. Shqiptars opened heavy fire. When we set out
on that assignment we were told
by the intelligence staff that we could expect twenty
to thirty Shqiptars up there. However, at that point, there were at least
200 to 250 of them. Four men took the stretcher
and headed towards the Morina outpost
that was 2.5km away. We were running,
trying to save him, to save the life of an officer
who was a real hero. He took the volunteers with
him to spare active forces. We were informed that they
weren’t able to save Leovac, that he had died. It was a great loss for me,
and especially for our troops. It was a heroic deed by
sublieutenant Leovac. That young man
was an example to others. I have to say that prior
to that assignment he was wounded by a mine
and was still spared duty. But when the aggression started
he returned to his unit although his wounds
hadn’t healed properly. Yugoslav Army started
attacking from all directions. On April 14, they attacked
Rrasa e Koshares. Members of the 125th
Brigade set off to reclaim this strategically
significant ambush position. I fell into the snow. It was so high
that it reached my chest. As I was getting out of there
I noticed some tracks. I warned the captain
and the others. As we came closer, we spotted a Browning machine
gun pointed in our direction. Fortunately, there was no one
by the machine gun. Two sentries were standing
close by and talking. They were not expecting us. Our people opened fire
and neutralized them. They regrouped quickly
and opened fire at us. Soon, they were delivering
mortar fire as well. We were caught in crossfire. At one point captain
Krunoslav Ivankovic suggested we make a move and
help our men who were wounded. Negic took the mortar… In the meantime Vojvodic
was shot. Unfortunately,
he was the first casualty. I followed Negic uphill and
then I heard a loud shot. Negic cringed and said
“I am finished, bro.” Captain probably wanted
to use the opportunity to approach Branislav Negic
and get him out of there. At that moment captain
was shot in the stomach. I ran up to him and
asked him how he was. He said he was finished
and gave me the field radio and a little bag
with the documents. He asked me to tell
his daughters that their father had died
defending the homeland. I couldn’t get to soldier Negic
because of the heavy fire. He was on the front ridge
which made it harder. Body of Branislav Negic
was never found. We don’t know where it is. Soldiers Branislav Negic
and Danilo Vojvodic died in battle that day, and so did the Yugoslav Army
officer Krunoslav Ivankovic. Yugoslav Army was now attacking KLA
terrorist positions on a daily basis. 125th Motorized Brigade was
advancing towards Maja Glava, the C 4 border marker. It wasn’t easy recovering
taken positions. Enemy had seized the positions
that were overlooking ours. In Kosare area there
is a battle going on… Down! Just 200m away. They spotted us and soon we
were subjected to mortar fire. Volunteer Josip Sich from
Subotica was in front of me. At one point he twitched
and fell down. We were calling his name,
but he didn’t reply. His body twitched
on the ground several times and then he became motionless. I had an icon of the
Mother of God with me. I took it out and venerated it. I was grateful
that my life was spared. It might have been me. Josip was in the front and
in a way he died for me. In the first place we were
looking after each other, and then after the country. Josip’s body remained there. There are some videos
of him on YouTube posted by the Albanians. Several other men
were left there. Several volunteers were
making headway, terrain in front of them
was clear. They didn’t realize they
had crossed the border line. They didn’t get lost,
they were just advancing. At one point they stopped and
enemy troops surrounded them. Some of them managed to bail
out, but three of them didn’t. We didn’t know
what had happened to them. Later we found out
that they were dead. One soldier from Zablace
village near Cacak… His name is Predrag Bojovic. He was crying out for help as
he was seriously wounded. We could hear his cries clearly. I have to say I still hear
them from time to time. Several of our volunteers
went down to help him, to dress his wounds, but the bleeding was
too profuse and he died. When the volunteers returned,
I first inquired about Bojovic. They told me
that he had died and that they had to leave
him there when pulling out. I sent men to find his body,
but they couldn’t find him. I have unofficial information
that six of those soldiers whose bodies are missing are in a mass grave
somewhere in Albania. I remember that day clearly.
The weather was awful. Soon after the action was
launched a thick fog descended creating mayor problems for us. That day I lost a few friends. They were not killed, but captured alive
because of the fog. They got lost in the forest
and fell into enemy hands. April the 16th was a difficult day
for the 125th Motorized Brigade. On that day, eleven soldiers
and volunteers were killed, and four are missing in action. Posthumous remains of soldiers
Dejan Kostic and Dejan Mitic were exhumed after year 2000. Bodies of Zlatko Acic
and Sasa Ivankovic, who disappeared on April 16,
were never found. Special Forces, the elite units of
Yugoslav Army arrived at Kosare. Some 1,500 members of the
Yugoslav army were now at Kosare. The sixty-third parachute
brigade was assigned the task of seizing the C4 border marker,
that is, Maja Glava. We were marching 14km carrying the equipment
weighing some 50-60kg each. We spread out in line,
everyone knew their position. Element of surprise
played a key role. We practically ran into them. People were yelling,
bullets were flying by… It seemed to me that the
crossfire had lasted for hours. We didn’t know who was
shooting from which side. There was our artillery
support, their mortars, and the familiar sound
of Chinese rifles. They were shelling our first
line intensively with grenades. It was clear to our commanders,
and it was clear to me that it wasn’t Shqiptars
who were shelling us. Only experienced
professional soldiers were capable
of something like that. It’s a well known fact that they
had mercenaries among them including Croatians. I saw them running by, we were discussing
our plan of action, and instinctively,
I turned to the left. I spotted a large yellow circle
with a black dot inside. Next moment
I felt a strong sharp pain, and I fell on my knees. His left eye was full of sanies.
He was delirious. It was obviously a shock trauma. I put my hand
under his left armpit and I realized there was an open
wound there of at least 20cm. I dressed the wound
and when I got up to put on my backpack on,
I was shot. When I looked at the sky,
it seemed like it was on fire. Bullets were flying in
all directions, bouncing. I was still conscious and I realized we were
in a hopeless situation. I told the man who
was second in-command that our only option
was to withdraw. Paratroopers lost their chief
of staff at Kosare in 1998. They didn’t want
that to happen again. Under heavy enemy fire, they managed to pull out their
seriously wounded commander. On April 19th, members
of the 72nd Special Brigade together with the soldiers
of the Military Police Battalion set out to reclaim
the seized territory. KLA forces were
slowly withdrawing. The front line moved forward
several hundred meters. A great battle fought by
the 72nd Special Brigade occurred in the beech forest on
the slopes of Rrasa e Koshares. There was a protruding
rock on the slope. Enemy troops had flanked
the Special Brigade unit determined to surround them. Reinforcements for the
Special Brigade arrived. We were approaching our men
and reinforcing their positions. That is when I heard that
Tomislav Kostic, Zoran and Miroslav
had died in action. Four members of the 72nd
Special Brigade died that day: Zoran Filipovic,
Miroslav Marinkov, Tomislav Kostic
and Zoran Milojevic. They told me that Kostic
was shot in the chest, and Zoran and Miroslav were shot
in the head, probably by a sniper. In a clash with special forces
enemy suffered heavy losses. On that day, KLA 138th Brigade
lost another commander. Albanian media reported
that commander Salji Ceku was killed at Rrasa e Koshares
on April 19. That day terrorist forces
were also targeted by our howitzers from the
area of Batusa village. The Battle of Kosare could also
be called the battle or mortars. It was this weapon that caused
most casualties on both sides. On the average, I was throwing
1200 to 1400 mines a day. In total, I fired somewhere between
40 and 45 thousand mines. We were providing support
to the troops on the first line, whether it was the First
or the Second Squad. I was on the watch 24/7, prepared to provide
support when needed. From the 16th to the 20th
the front line had stabilized. It was the second part
of the Battle of Kosare. The first part
ended on the second day when sentries stabilized the
front on alternate positions. On April 20th the area of Rrasa
e Koshares was stabilized. On the line of advance
we defined as Kosare, although it is
a much wider area, officially two Shqiptar terrorist
brigades were attacking. Those were the 131st
and 138th KLA brigades. In total some
1500 to 2000 men. Forces that were in the battle
range were taking turns. Their grouping varied. There were parts of the Albanian
Army 2nd Infantry Division, NATO special forces units
including SAS special forces, American Green Berets,
and others. French artillerymen were also
creating major problems for us. So, in total, some 1500 men
were operationally engaged in the wider Kosare area. If we exclude the aviation,
force ratio was 1:1. The front line at Kosare
was stabilized. Soldiers of the 125th Brigade were approaching Rrasa
e Koshares position that was taken by the
members of the 72nd Brigade. That part of the mountain
was covered in snow even in late April. In the coming days the famous
rock at Rrasa e Koshares became the death trap for
many Yugoslav Army soldiers. I had a machine-gun and Stanoje Jovanovic
and I were told to take the position by
the rock, on the right flank, because my weapon
was more powerful, so I could shoot from there. The rock was important because
it was on the right flank and was our last
protection point. Stanoje noticed a Shqiptar moving
across the meadow in front of us. He moved towards
a little platform to the left and took aim at him. As he was walking towards me
I said “Stanoje, get down!” “No one’s going to shoot,”
he said. I warned him again, but his body turned at that
moment and he fell to the ground. He yelled
“Help, I’ve been shot!” Stanoje was 19 or 20 years old. He was born in 1978
in a village near Pozarevac. The second day they
intensified mortar fire. A grenade fell ten to fifteen
meters away from us. He fell over me and I felt
this awful pain in my chest. Next to him was Bogojevic. I was tearing the uniform in
order to see where he was shot, but there was no blood. I was holding him in my arms and I didn’t know
how to help him. At one point he wasn’t
reacting at all. I thought he was kidding, I even slapped him in
the face saying “Get up!” I couldn’t accept the fact
that he was gone. Soldier Bojan Bogojevic died
as a result of a detonation. It was the same explosive
device that injured me and another two soldiers. He died instantly. The second day I was
alone by the rock. Stanoje was dead.
I haven’t slept for three days. The fourth day I couldn’t
hold my head up. I lay down into the snow,
covered myself with the ground sheet over
my head and fell asleep. After a while I woke up
and I heard voices. I removed the sheet and got up.
The two of them were in shock. “What’s the matter?” I asked. They said they thought
I was dead. “Why would you think that?”
I enquired. “Look at the snow around you”
they said. It was black. I asked what had happened
and they said it was the fiercest
mortar attack so far. And I slept right through it. After seven days on
the mountain I got frostbites. When the shooting stopped, I took off my boots and
started massaging my feet. As soon as I took them off, I had this awful
burning sensation. I could no longer put my
boots on. My feet were purple. They attacked again. They were shelling
my position with a mortar. The fourth mine
fell right onto the rock. My entire life was fleshing
before my eyes. I thought the fifth one
would be fatal for me because they were getting
closer and closer. But then again, shooting stopped
as if someone had intervened. Volunteers arrived
at the position by the rock in order to replace
young soldiers who have been fighting in
the first line of fire for days. Volunteers came to replace me. I told them to refrain
from long fire, to shoot in short bursts. I told them that as soon as
I’d start firing in long bursts, they would throw a mine. But when they transferred
me to the base, I heard that the three volunteers by
the rock were hit by a mortar. The fifth mine killed them. Mortar bomb killed Vladimir
Nestorovic, Dragan Petkovic, Zoran Stajic
and Novica Stankovic. We were some 500 to 600 meters
away from the first line of fire. After two days they sent
volunteers to replace us. Cerna’s position
was by that rock. He got really mad. The bastards killed them! He wanted to help
the volunteers, to take that position because he thought
he was in charge of the rock. He wanted to reclaim that
position and prevent Shqiptars from penetrating deeper
into our territory. Cerna Tibor was
the squad leader. He was a positive person,
good at boosting the morale. He was always sprightly,
a really good man. It is not a good feeling,
having to take a position and pull out the dead bodies
of your fellow soldiers. But that is your assignment and
you have to take it in stride. You can’t just decide you don’t
want to be there anymore. You can just say
“I don’t want to play anymore”. You friends are there, the ones that are alive
and the ones who died. Life goes on,
at least for a while. No one was afraid
of death there. We knew it was the war.
We were not afraid. That was our job. We were doing our job,
defending our homeland. It wasn’t easy at first, seeing someone dead,
his leg torn off by the grenade, or someone without his arm,
or a decapitated body. But eventually
you get used to it. Had we not been determined, was it not for the sense
of solidarity among us, things could’ve taken
a different turn. When you tell people about
it, they don’t believe you. My family though
I had gone bonkers. It wasn’t fear. What bothered
us was the uncertainty. Once you got into
the thick of it, things would just
take their own course. The worst thing
was the uncertainty, knowing that something
was bound to happen but not knowing when. We would test the sniper the
way it’s done in the movies. We would put the helmet
on a tree branch and he would start
shooting right away. He was annihilated
on the 14th day. To the left of Rrasa e Koshares,
from the direction of point 601… I have a friend from Zvornik,
but I doubt he’d talk about it. He still keeps watch…
I’ll tell you the way it was. Enemy soldier kept
shouting “Chetnik!”, referring to us as Chetniks. We could see the enemy side.
I remember vividly. He was wearing glasses
and he was almost bald. He was provoking us. Our sniper said
“Wait till I find him”. It was a matter of seconds.
He had a steady hand. He was an exceptional marksman.
We never heard “Chetnik” again. They had Chinese rifles,
they couldn’t shoot in bursts, just in single shots. Those were automatic rifles,
just like ours. They sounded like chatter. We would make fun of them
mimicking the sound. We would go like this… In the early morning Radic
gave me a call. He thought we could attack
their machine-gun nest that was at the end
of their holding line. Bullets were flying around us,
but luckily no one was shot, no one was injured. We approached him from behind.
He was in shock. The way he looked at us… I don’t know whether
it was fear or hatred. We then returned to our positions
with the machine-guns. After a while, I am not sure how
many days we stayed there, we were taken to the base
for a day or two. Guys from Pec came
to replace us, and afterwards we were
deployed to the left flank. A soldier from Valjevo
was crying. He said he couldn’t
take it anymore, that there were too
many Shqiptars around, that he could hear them. I thought he was just scared. I told him there was no way
he could hear them. I told him it was time for
them to return to the base, that we were there
to replace them. He ran off rejoicing. Darko Milosevic and I
were in the trench. He was from Ljig. We were there for half an hour
when I decided to go pick some branches so
we could camouflage the trench. As I picked up a branch
and looked down I realized the place was
crawling with them. 40 to 50 meters from my trench
there was an entire platoon. They were entrenching.
I could hear them talking. The young man
wasn’t imagining things when he said
he could hear them. There were six of us.
We made a plan of attack. We were in a better position
because they were below us. We fired three Zolja
grenades at them, we were throwing bombs
in the direction of the creek, we were firing from
machine-guns, automatic rifles… It was fierce. Shqiptars were running
around all confused. Then I took a machine-gun
with 600 rounds and I placed it on
a chopped beech tree and I discharged it. I left it there so I could
run faster back uphill. Just as we jumped
into our trench they appeared and we
annihilated them too. The lull lasted half an hour.
I went to my trench. Darko was there and he suggested
we have something for breakfast. He opened a can and
I went to the trench where we kept the weapons
to get the Kalashnikov. Then I heard a detonation
and my friends shouting “They killed Darko!” Shqiptar had thrown a bomb
into the mortar pit. Shqiptar started running
down the hill but the soldiers from the pit
on the left killed him. Darko Milosevic was
nineteen or twenty at the time. He was from Ljig, Sumadija. We just had to
survive that night. We hit them hard,
and they were hitting back. It was quite a feat,
getting through the night. Nights there were strange. First of all, you have to learn what sounds
animals make at night. There were some birds that were making sounds
I never heard before. They sounded so creepy
I would get goose bumps. Not just me. The others
thought it was creepy too. And it was foggy. To this day
I get shivers when I see fog. I try to avoid
going into the fog. That night they were
walking along the frontline with torches in their hands. That way they
were provoking us, hoping we would
start shooting. They were mimicking
the sounds owls make. But even the real owls
sounded weird there. It was like a horror film. All the further attacks by
KLA forces were repelled. Yugoslav Army fierce resistance prevented KLA forces
stationed in Albania from joining forces with the
KLA in Kosovo and Metohija. The Serbian side
had the initiative now. In May Yugoslav Army
intensified the attacks in an attempt to destroy
enemy troops. Members of the 63rd Parachute
Brigade were assigned to move forward the front line
at Rrasa e Koshares, the summit within the territory
of the Republic of Yugoslavia, which was seized by KLA
on the first day of the attack. It was hard to move
the front line forward. No one was advancing
because it was a brutal battle. Not much could be done,
couple of meters back and forth. It seemed like eternity
advancing a hundred meters. We were in the forest where it’s
hard for the enemy to spot you, but it’s also hard for you
to spot the enemy. We launched the
attack successfully, and soon took the camp. They retreated and
we moved into position. The fighting lasted
almost three days. With counterattacks they were
trying to retrieve the position. At one point they even managed
to separate us into two groups. I think they gave up by dawn. Over the night we inflicted
heavy losses on them. I am not sure exactly
what day it was, maybe the second
or the third… One Shqiptar dropped
his backpack, and a 1kg package, yellow
in color, rolled out of it. One of our soldiers risked
getting caught in the crossfire when he went to get it. We were covering him. We all thought it was
plastic explosive. Come back! Leave it! Be careful.
What is it? It is halvah.
-Are you sure? When he opened the backpack we realized it contained
12 kilos of sesame halvah. Was it not for that halvah, we would have stayed hungry
for the next two days. Some fighters refused to
eat Shqiptar’s “explosive”, but most of us did. It got us going. It’s real good. Do you want some? Maja Zez, a summit that lies at some 2,000
meters above sea level. The right flank of Kosare
defense was there. Parts of the 125th Motorized
Brigade were positioned there. It was the night of May the 10th, we lay down in our shelters
to have some rest. We were about to embark on
a major assignment the next day. I woke up around midnight
and then I fell asleep again. I was woken up by
a deafening detonation. NATO aviation was
bombarding positions below us. It woke us up, but soon
we went back to sleep. Five minutes later second airstrike ensued
targeting out position. They were dropping
cluster bombs. We didn’t hear the airplanes,
just the explosions. The explosions might have
lasted three minutes, but to some of us,
it seemed like eternity. It is horrific,
like a machine-gun fire, but with explosions. Then you hear cluster bomb
splinters hitting trees, the cracking of the wood. Then you hear cries
from the distance, and the ones closer to you. When the splinter hits human
flesh, the sound is subdued. It is very hard for me,
talking about this. Believe me.
I don’t know how to describe it. I keep seeing images of
soldiers who died next to me. A friend was killed next to me. Another was seriously wounded,
and so was I. Later, in Pristina, they established
I was hit by over 100 splinters. My injured friend was
begging me to stay with him, not to leave him alone. Hold on, bro!
I beg of you! I stayed with him as long
as he was showing signs of life. He died in my arms. I arrived up there
with a stiff back. I didn’t know what to do
when I saw 30 to 40 young man who had sustained
heavy injuries and were holding
on to each other. As they were walking they
left a bloody trail behind them. I climbed to the clearing to see
whether someone was left behind. Body parts were
scattered around. The forest was no longer there. The trees were ripped
from the ground. Vukoman Tesovic, Milan Kenic,
Sasa Vasiljevic, Dragan Marinkovic, Izet
Colakovic, Vladimir Djordjevic, Miladin Dogandzic, Bojan
Jovanovic, Sasa Skiljevic, Robert Stosic, Oliver Taricic, Milijan Toskovic,
Milan Jevtovic, Petar Mijatovic, Milosav
Milosevic and Rade Milosevic died that day at Maja Zez
summit from cluster bombs. Yugoslav Army launched
a major counter-offensive. They were attacking
from all directions. Almost all of the soldiers
who were at Kosare took part: members of the 125th Motorized
Brigade, volunteers, paratroopers… Out of the blue, I heard this
noise that sounded familiar, but I would never expect
to encounter it there. It was the sound of an engine
that seemed like thunder. It was echoing in the mountains.
We exchanged puzzling looks. It reminded me of a tank, but what would a tank be doing
at the top of a mountain? Then radio-operator
got the information that tanks were coming
to our rescue. Engineer corps deserve
every accolade for getting those tanks uphill. It was quite a feat. We left the mine field
and the tanks followed us. The sound of tanks at that
altitude was daunting. The earth was shaking.
It’s hard to describe. It was a great relief for us and we felt so proud
of the people who did it. It was a great feeling, knowing
that we were not alone. They were there for us. Every positioning on the front
line represented a risk because they were targeting us
with infrared-guided missiles round the clock. With every move
we were risking lives. These tanks had to cross
30 to 40 km, to climb to the altitude
of 1800m and to support us
in our assignment. To have tanks climb all
the way up to support us, it sure boosted our morale. I told him to take out the
beech tree down the road. The tree went flying in the air,
almost 20m up. They started running out
of their pits and shelters. They just wanted
to get out of there, no one was firing back. The distance was short so the grenades where
exploding one after another. We took shelter,
and the fellow next to me started shooting over their
shelter with a machine-gun. He must have cut down all those
who were running away. The loading belt has 250 bullets. He would fire a burst
of 100 bullets. There is no hiding from that.
They were running like mad. They couldn’t believe it. We reached the clearing
and we were firing from there, but we couldn’t advance
any further because they were shelling
us from the hill on the right. The fire was fierce. Grenades were falling at us
from all directions. I was certain it was artillery but I couldn’t see them
from inside the tank. I couldn’t see the entire area. Otherwise,
I would have fired randomly. They were firing from a cannon that was positioned
at the Albanian border, at the attitude of 1070m,
above our lookout post, some 900 m to the north-west. It was regular Albanian army.
They were also shelling us from the depth of the territory
with howitzers 155. I had no one at the right flank.
So I withdrew some 200m. All we could do at that point
was to withdraw. We had young men who had just
finished their service period and were deployed
to the war zone. We decided to bring them in
as replacement because we had suffered
heavy losses, and soldiers were already
exhausted, wet, and hungry. So, those young men must
have copped all the fury caused by the damage
we have inflicted. They paid the price. The older, experienced soldiers
will never forgive themselves for not enduring a bit longer. That’s it.
We feel responsible. When we looked up, the cloudy sky was covered
in thousands of little stars. It went like a wave. They were exploding
one after another. We were hit once,
I heard cries from one pit, then from another. Then the second attack ensued. That is,
the second cluster bomb. All hell broke loose. Sinisa just said
“Fellows, hold on!” He protected us with his body.
We looked at each other, we were fine,
Sinisa was fine. We couldn’t believe
that we were alive. I’ve never experienced
something like that before, and I hope no one will ever have to go
through something like that, to be targeted
with cluster bombs that are outlawed by
the Geneva Convention. Then it got even worse. Cries were coming
from all directions. Sinisa examined us first as we
had sustained serious injuries, my friend from Kragujevac
Zoran Milivojevic and me. He was hit in the arm and
was in a critical condition. Friends came with
a ground sheet and got us out of there. Luckily, there was
a dispensary van nearby. Luckily, doctor Gile was there.
Was it not for him Dikovic wouldn’t
have survived that injury. I spent all the supplies
of infusion solution to maintain his blood pressure. He regained consciousness only after receiving a couple
of liters of solution. Raca and I would only part if it was required
by an assignment. I told him that
the boy would die if I didn’t take him
to the hospital. Zoran and I pulled through,
but after several surgeries I was left without my right leg and Zoran’s has
a serious arm injury. He can no longer use it. Soon I realized that the two
of my men were missing. They were Rade Antonic
and Bojan Radojkovic. I looked for their pit, but
I couldn’t find it in the dark. When reinforcements arrived
the day was breaking. We went back to our positions and we found Radojkovic
and Antonic dead in their pit. Their shelter was probably
hit by cluster bombs first, and then, in the second attack
Antonic was hit directly. Bojan Radojkovic didn’t have
a single wound on his body, at least as far as we could see. It was probably the blast
effect that killed him. After May 13, there were
no major attacks on Kosare from either side. Unfortunately, the soldiers were
still dying in individual attacks, actions, reconnaissance… Yugoslav Army continually
engaged the enemy at Kosare, as KLA have taken the
outpost on the third day. They were using
the outpost as a base, and they were so confident that they brought many
foreign journalists there. Yugoslav army was using
mortars and howitzers to shell the outpost,
and since May 12, they were using
a multipurpose rocket launcher and an aerial bomb launcher
called “Kosava”. Although there were claims
that Kosare outpost was mistakenly hit during NATO
airstrikes on May 21, 1999, our officers claim that it was
us who hit Kosare outpost. I launched four aerial bombs
from Kosava launcher aiming at our outpost. For another half an hour
we were firing from VBRs and howitzers. We spent loads of ammunition
to prepare for the attack. When it became apparent
that the troops at Kosare won’t be able to break through and that land offensive couldn’t
be launched from that direction, by the end of May 1999, KLA troops,
supported by NATO forces, tried to penetrate deep into the
territory of Kosovo and Metohija from a different direction, across Pastrik Mountain
towards Prizren. Yugoslav forces managed
to hold off the attack. Military actions known as Arrow 1
and Arrow 2 have failed. They didn’t achieve their goal, to join KLA forces stationed in
Albania and KLA in Kosovo and to defeat Pristina Corps
of the Yugoslav Third Army. Yugoslav Army left
Kosare and Pastrik only after the signing
of Kumanovo Agreement, when the withdrawal from
Kosovo began on June 14th. Until then, Yugoslav
border was defended, and its army was undefeated. These photographs were taken
in the period 1998-1999 in the Kosare outpost area. This is above the outpost. Border line is here somewhere,
and this land in the background is the territory
of the Republic of Albania. So it is clear whose
position was dominant. This photo was taken
at point 502. Here you can see
the famous creek. This was a rugged terrain
with lots of rocks. These are old beech trees. The next picture was taken from
point 601 at Rrasa e Koshares. In the distance,
deep in the Albanian territory we can see their outpost. I circled it. In the back it says
“Kosare, January 1999”. This is me with Ivan Vasojevic. We would talk all night,
airing out our problems. He confided in me,
I knew all his secrets. He remains in our hearts. Those are the wounds
that never heal. Each of them took
with them a piece of us. This is what saved my life
that day. Automatic rifle magazine
I had on me. I carried it in my flak vest
on the left, below the heart. The first bullet
hit the magazine edge. Had it gone
a centimeter to the left, I would have ended up dead. On impact two bullets
inside caught on fire. Teir bullet got stuck
in one of mine forming a cross. I saw it as a sign, a symbol. This is all I have left
from Kosare. I cannot describe how
valuable this ID tag is to me. It is the most valuable
thing I have. This is the original paper
with my personal details, and these stains are
from my blood. News and Current Affairs
Editor-in-Chief Nenad Lj. Stefanovic Author
Sladjana Zaric Executive producer
Snezana Rodic Sindjelic Journalist
Vesna Ilic Narrator
Nenad Jezdic Cameraman
Milan Stanic Sound designer
Bojan Mangovic Set designer
Snezana Popovic Composer
Vladimir Tosic Director of photography
Zarko Pekez Editor
Bojan Perisic Translation
Jasmina Ristic RTS
2019

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