As it is the case with most women activists in Kosovo and the region whose story is partially written, also for Drita Luri Vukshinaj, an activist for the rights of persons with special needs, it is written very little.

Drita Luri Vukshinaj was the second child of Rabije and Haki, born on October 3, 1954, who lived in Kurilla, an old neighborhood of Prizren, a small family with few cousins but with much love from friends. At the age of six she falls from the mulberry tree and gets a serious ankle injury that was impossible to heal during that time in Kosovo. So, she went to the Hospital in Skopje, who recommended her to stay there, but due to the mentality of her dad and many other relatives – he did not allow her mother to stay with her at the hospital. Thus, they returned to Kosovo – at the place where doctors recommended to amputate the leg.

& When she was 10 years old her mother passed away and ever since her grandmother (the mother’s mother) looked after her and her siblings, as her father was from Tetovo, Macedonia, and they had no other family member in Kosovo.

After the seventh grade, Drita met a woman she had not previously known, who recommended the Bajnica hospital in Serbia. In secret, without telling anyone, she prepared all the needed documents. “When I prepared all the papers, I told my dad, let us go to the Bajnica hospital, because I want to go there,” refers Drita the rebellious moments of her childhood.

Of course, her father’s mentality had not changed so quickly and he was still against the idea for his daughter to stay in Serbia for medical treatment. But Drita threatened him that she will jump from the window if he did not sign the hospital stay permit. There she stayed for a time where she finished eighth grade, learned the sign language, and the foot began to be healed. She always said that she was born for the second time, when she returned to her birth place after four completed surgeries in Serbia.

When she reached the age of High School, her father forced her to attend the school for minute recorders in Pristina, but Drita was against it, she dreamed of becoming a machinery engineer. She cheated her family that she was allegedly attending school in Pristina, while she attended classes in Prizren’s technical school without anyone knowing about it. And moreover, she was the only girl in the classroom.

When she met Akik (her husband), she firstly rejected his marriage proposal because of her ill leg, but in 1977 they finally got married. Prior to marrying Akik, Drita was one of the first girls of the city to go to Prizren’s first discotheque along with her great brother, Iliaz. At that time, it was a shame for a woman to have fun… In 1974 she worked as a manager in Progres, a synthetic fiber factory in Prizren.

From 1994, she worked without ceasing in order to bring forth more dignity for the people with special needs. That very year, the office of the organization HANDIKOS was opened in Prizren, where there were only 200 members registered. After the end of the war in Kosovo, where humanitarian aid began to come and many people with special needs were registered. Drita along with the team went out on the ground, working day and night to identify and register people with special needs. Many of them had never left home because they were condemned by family members – because – it was a shame for them to be seen by others with such a child at home.

& She worked for several years as coordinator and manager of programs at HANDIKOS, and later in 2008 founded one of the first sports association for people with special needs called “KBK MARSI” – Basketball Trolley Club. This organization also established women’s groups in sports such as table-tennis, darts, chess and swimming, as well as courses for women in the use of wheelchairs during athletic competitions. In 2011, she co-founded the “Women for Women with Disabilities” organization aimed at the economic and political empowerment of women with special needs and equal opportunities in health.

& Drita with her organizations was the first one that enabled 20 women with special needs to obtain driving licenses, organized anti-illiteracy activities, training courses for jewelry, tailoring and computer training. With her organization, for the first time, she enabled many people with special needs to be rehabilitated during the summer in the Adriatic Sea in Albania. Drita was also very active in the Kosovo Women’s Network since the foundation of the organization. But Drita’s dreams went down in half when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. By the end of her last day, when she closed her eyes on March 8, 2016, with so much passion and love she fought for the rights of people with special needs. Her friend and associate Mybexhel Zhurri remembers her with these lines: “We often feel that our light or feeling is reduced to be revived by someone else. We are very grateful to her that she helped returning this feeling to us again. After the loss of a dear friend we realize how valuable they were and how rich we were by having them. Drita taught us that regardless of non-recognition or non-assessment of the struggle we must continue with dedication to certain goals, that is to say that we are satisfied and fulfilled. Drita Vukshinaj left this life leaving behind a tree full of tweets … her three daughters: Sherife, Fjolla and Filloreta and her husband. Rest in peace, Lady Drita!

Activist