The Truth of Kosovo
Let me introduce myself: my name is Marijn Mado, I am eighteen years old and still quite confused about what to study at AUC. This trip to Kosovo has been most amazing in any way and I would like to share the parts that particularly overwhelmed me.
Even though I already had felt some sort of shock at the sight of a burnt Serb church in Prizren on our first day, the first time it really hit me was a day later. Elizabeth from The Ideas Partnership told us that close to the place we would visit that day, Fushë Kosova, was the railroad where in the 1990s Serbs had deported Albanians in trains. While the Western world feared that some awful genocide was about to take place, the Serbs dumped the Albanians “unharmed” at the border of Macedonia. On the way to Fushë Kosova we passed a railroad and I wondered out loud whether this would have been the place of the deportation. Unexpectedly, the cab driver answered me and told me his family had been deported too. He was there when the soldiers came into his house in Pristina and told them they had five minutes to pack their backs. The soldiers deported them across the borders and burnt many houses, including those of the cab driver and his neighbors. Too soon, we arrived at Fushë Kosova and I got out of the cab and lost sight of the cab driver. For a full couple of minutes my head was spinning with the thought of the cabdriver, and how a mere history story had just become a shuddering reality.
Next, we took a look at Fushë Kosova itself, which includes the residences of the gypsy-like minorities Roma, Ashkalian and Egyptians. As we walked through the mud, houses in bad repair and piles of garbage, I realized that I had never been in a place that resembles slums more accurately. Small children walked around in the mud all day, and I was devastated imagining one growing up in these houses. I doubted whether a kid twice as intelligent as the average AUC student would ever make it to university under these circumstances. Fortunately, we also took a look at the brilliant initiative of The Ideas Partnership established in Fushë Kosova. The project provides not only education for the children, but also enables them to spend some time in a clean and colorful place every day.
Another initiative that inspired me was initiated by Kosovo Women’s Network. After the Kosovar war in 1999 the Women’s Network immediately hired a Serbian interpreter, even though they had only Albanian employees. This idea was implemented to make space for Serbians who might want to join later on. Indeed, only a year after the war Serbians joined their network.
Besides, I would also like to use this opportunity to thank my host family once more as well as our teachers Anne, Erik and Monika and our local guides Bardha and Enver for the great way they took care of us, their openness and expertise, and of course the laughter and gezelligheid. At some point, one representative of an organization we visited called you accidently our mentors rather than teachers. I think you all can be righteously called our mentors, for you have guided us and listened to us diligently. Next, I would like to thank my fellow-student for their bright questions, sharing this experience and the great fun! Last, I owe my thanks to all the Kosovars that have given us a warm welcome and unconditional hospitality. Faleminderit! After this week, I cannot but agree to Anne’s kind words to the Deputy Minister, “We all feel a bit Kosovar now.”
At last, all the people we encountered provide for a variety of different perspectives.
- Opposition party Vetëvendosje: “It is unacceptable that the government of Kosovo is negotiating with Serbia, our enemy. Kosovar Albanians should claim their own self-determination, for we paid for this by blood.”
- Serbian students of North-Mitrovica: “Albanians could just now cross the bridge and slaughter us anytime.”
- A local: “I am very grateful for the KLA fighters that fought for the freedom of Albanians. If they had not done so, I would not be alive.”
- Deputy Minister: “The declaration of independence in 2008 was not to liberate Albanians, but to protect human rights.”
- Kosovo 2.0: “Human rights are not vertical. We cannot prioritize reconciliation over gender issues, as we need to talk about various issues.”
- UNMIK: “Nothing equals peace. Peace is better than whatever is not peace.”
- Serbian guide: “Serbs are afraid to cross the bridge leading to South-Mitrovica.”
- Vetëvendosje: “Serbians are way better off in Kosovo than Albanians in Serbia.”
- Serbian students of North-Mitrovica: “We don’t see Kosovo as a state at all.”
- Vetëvendosje: “We cannot just create an identity and say: this is your identity just like that. Identity is created historically.”
- Deputy Minister: “While the nation building is finished in other countries, we are privileged to shape our own country. We feel part of history as we are doing things for the first time.”
- And the pictures of the missing people on Pristina’s grand square.
This trip has been very confusing. For me, qualitative fieldwork research is acquiring uncertain pieces of an immensely complicated puzzle. Everyone tells you something different, which is not uncommonly contradicting with previous statements, and it is difficult to grasp the structure of what is really going on.
The truth of Kosovo – you think you found it, but you really haven’t.
And we keep on searching.