Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dancing to a song only we can hear

By Simona Zagoricnik

Being an only Serbian person on this trip mean I am often confronted with a lot of questions, mostly along the line of: “How does it feel for you?” And yes, it does feel weird. It feels weird when you have a group of open, liberal people talking about your region. Sometimes, even though you don’t want to, you start wondering why they are talking about it when they cannot understand it completely. But then you realize that it is truly beautiful how much people want to know and understand. And we all do it for different subjects so why should we feel so defensive when it hits so close to home? Shouldn’t we then do our best to offer our personal sentiments and experiences to help everyone who is interested get the deepest understanding possible?

Those, in a lack of a better word, nationalistic feelings made me realize another thing. I can never have absolute understanding either. Sure, I know what it means to be from the Balkans and why we sit and drink coffee for three hours. I know what it means to be from the Serbia and how we are perceived as loud, wild and avid drinkers. I know how people from the Balkans have negative feelings towards each other but are still brothers. And I know how people in my country feel like Kosovo is the heart of Serbia but are also slowly starting to understand that it is an independent country. And even if I know and feel all of this I do not know what it is like to be marginalized for decades, to suddenly be weary of your neighbors, to be forced to leave your home, to be prosecuted because of your nationality or to feel like you don’t belong. And this is how people in Kosovo feel if they are Albanians and if they are Serbs.

As can be deduced from the previous two paragraphs, this trip has made me think about identity more than anything else. Who do we see ourselves as, what shapes our personality and where do we feel most at home? I still remember our first day, when we embarked on this journey. We have traveled for I don’t even know how many hours from Amsterdam to Istanbul, and then some to Pristina. I’ll admit I did feel quite out of place among such a large group of people I barely even knew. But that day, the first thing to make me feel better, to make me feel happy and at home was the bus we climbed on at Pristina airport. You could instantly tell that it was one of those old, perhaps even Ex-Yu buses by the ashtrays still present at every seat – something very common in the Balkans. The overly-bright colors, scratchy seats and the smell that makes your lungs scratch with dust made me feel welcome.

I guess that I do like to identify as a person from the Balkans above anything else, despite all the negative stereotypes that surround our countries. Yes we are stubborn, but we are also proud, we are inappropriate at times but also always honest, we are wild and loud but it means we enjoy life like there is no tomorrow. I have found that wherever I go Balkan people just gravitate towards each other. There is just something about our identity that makes us become best friends after just one beer, whether it is in Serbia, Kosovo, or Amsterdam. Because after everything that we’ve been through - all the wars, all the conflict and all the violence - we have been through it together, even if on opposite sides. And in the end, nobody can understand you like a Balkan brother can.

I am not naïve. I don’t know if the Albanians and the Serbs in Kosovo can live together in an independent state, I don’t know if Serbia will ever accept the loss of Kosovo and I don’t know if Bosnia will ever forgive Srebrenica. I cannot say if we will ever be able to get past all the wrongdoings we have inflicted upon each other. All I do know is that there is something special about the Balkans that only we understand. It’s like we dance to a song only we can hear. And I do hope that we will be able to come together again and celebrate both our differences and the things that make us the same. Preferably over a cup of Turkish coffee, a sip of rakija and maybe even a cigarette or two. 

No comments:

Post a Comment