Stela LEVI

Condensed Version
From “Jevreji Kosova i Metohije” by Pavle Dzeletovic.

See original text here.


It was a chilly November night in Kosovska Mitrovica, when Germans soldiers and Vulnetari (Albanian militiamen) surrounded all Jewish homes. All were driven out, forming a column of about one hundred, some carrying cradles with babies; two sick people were carried on wooden planks.

Of all the Jews still in Mitrovica that night, the only one who was saved was little Stella Bukic, whom her grandmother Esther gave to a Muslim Gypsy woman, Hajrija by name. She took off for her village at once, taking shortcuts off the main road, to avoid German or Albanian militia patrols.

Approaching her willage, dogs started barking, and three Vulnetari stopped her, asking where she was coming from, at this time of night. The thought came to her of saying that her daughter was ill and that she had brought her to a Hodja, a Muslim cleric and healer in a neighboring village. They asked her if she had observed anything on her way. She replied, she had met an old man returning from the mill on an ox cart, with sacks of flour. The Vulnetari told her to go home.

Her husband was surprised by her arrival--he expected her the next evening--and even more by the child in her arms. He took Stella and placed her on the straw among the other children. Hajrija, having taken a long drink of water, told her husband this story:

"Miss Esther and I had worked until late and had sat down in the kitchen, before going to sleep, when four Germans and three vulnetari appeared in the courtyard. They came in, woke all up, and brought everyone downstairs into the kitchen. One of Vulnetari asked me who I was. I said I was from a Gypsy village and worked as helper for this Jewish family. He told that to the Germans; they told me to go home.

Miss Esther gave me a blanket, saying 'Take this so your Stella is not cold'. I understood, wrapped Stella in the blanket, and walked out."

So little Stella landed in this Gipsy village. The name they gave her was Miradija, Stella was not a Gypsy name. She soon got used to her new name and was growing with her adoptive parents and their six children in their thatched hut. They were all, except Miradija, of dark complexion. Life was very different for Stella now, but Hajrija took good care of her and loved her like she was her own child. Every day Hajrija combed Stella's hair, but now she had lice. She learned to speak Albanian, the language most used by Gypsies in Kosovo.

Stella's parents had been away in Skoplije on the night of the German raid. From Skoplije Stella's mother escaped to the Italian occupation zone, and was taken to a camp for Jews in Albania. Stella's father joined the Macedonian partisans and was killed. Her mother joined the Albanian partisans.

Stella's fate changed one day in December 1946, when Hajrija's husband quarreled with his neighbor about some children's mischief, and the neighbor went to the police station. He said his neighbors had stolen a child five years before. Police investigated, and Miradije was taken from her adoptive parents and brought to Belgrade, where she met her mother and learned a new language, Serbian. In 1948 she went to Israel.

Note: Some details must be imagiary embellishment.

Stela Levi Miradija

Stela Miradija