Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Diaspora returning home

by Reeta Outila

Today marks one week since we arrived in Pristina. Our time in Kosovo has gone by so quickly, but it also feels like we’ve been here forever. Our daily routine of visiting various organisations and ending the day with a massive dinner all together has been very rewarding and a great way of reflecting on the day that just passed. Through this blog, we are able to represent our journey through Kosovo and its many perspectives.

As we learned during our first week of Peace Lab, while studying Kosovo’s complex history, there is a large diaspora of Kosovars living outside of Kosovo. In total, the diaspora amounts to around 700 000 - 800 000 people. I knew this from before as well since there are quite many Kosovo Albanians living in Finland whom I have met in school and otherwise. It was extremely interesting how already at the airport when we arrived to Pristina there were two girls in front of us speaking Finnish. What are the odds of this happening immediately as we arrived in Pristina? These girls were visiting some family and friends in Kosovo for the summer. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to live in between two countries, as members of the diaspora do. The two Finnish girls at the airport spoke fluent Finnish, had Finnish passports, and had lived in Finland for most of their lives and as long as they themselves could remember. Their parents’ stories of Kosovo and their yearly visits were their way of keeping in touch with their roots and their parents’ identity. When we arrived in Pristina on our first day, I was not yet absorbed with the idea of interviewing and asking questions from everyone we met, and I wish that I had talked to these girls longer. In retrospect, I have so many questions: what does Kosovo mean to you; how would you describe Kosovo; what is your identity? These are the questions that we have asked during this trip to many of the people that we have met, and we’ve heard many different answers.

Thankfully, my regret of not talking to these two Finnish-Albanian girls was made up for today during our visit at the Kosovo Women’s Network. One of their interns is also a Kosovo Albanian who was born in another country, Norway: part of the diaspora. I asked her about her identity, and she said it’s impossible to separate her identity from Kosovo, but also from Norway where she grew up. Every summer, however, she returns to Kosovo. Bardha, one of our hosts, also told us that during the summer months when the diaspora returns, the city comes alive with all locals enjoying the presence of their friends and families whom they haven’t seen for a year.

Interestingly, today we also visited the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) who has a programme on diaspora engagement in economic development. Many members of the diaspora are highly educated, and could offer a lot for economic development and growth in Kosovo.

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