By Béibhin Gallagher
So, we have been home from Kosovo for more than a week now, and I really think that everyone really needed that time to just digest what we took in there.
I've been thinking a little bit about what I really wanted to say in this last blog post, with the idea of offering something back to Kosovo; based on what the trip and everyone we met there has given to us.
For my project I tried to reflect on what the trip had meant for me in terms of identifying and facing up to my own biases and what Kosovo has helped me to recognise about my own identity.
I realised that it was too much to ask of society in Kosovo to try and out their differences behind them and get on board with building the new Kosovar identity, when it was something that I myself was sceptical about in my home country:
"Now, I am acknowledging the fact that in Kosovo
and in Northern Ireland, there is no one correct take on identity. Just as
there is no one story of the nation around which to form it. Identity is a
subject, personal, malleable thing; formed by personal experiences, which is
what makes it so tender in a post-conflict area."
One thing being in Kosovo has taught me is that these societies need time. The Kosovo War is, which I think we often overlooked when we were there, so painfully recent. But time is the one thing that the international community is not able to throw at it to try and make the problem go away. Kosovo needs time to heal and to grow, and reconciliation will come as the process plays out; just like falling asleep, very slowly and then all at once you will realise it has happened and you missed it.
Albanians, Serbs, Roma, Egyptian, Ashkali - Kosovo wants to open its arms to all of you. War divided your country, in ways that we as outsiders can only try and understand, but that experience comes with a choice - to let the legacy and memory of war continue to divide; or to take the opportunity to recognise that war is something that everyone has in common - Something tried and tested in Northern Ireland where the country simply got so sick of violence that peace became the last available option. This is one thing that everyone in Kosovo, even the Balkans, can relate to.
Kosovo, you and only you have the power to emulate this example; and perhaps, in making an attempt to emulate a real example of peace-building, a real peace and nation can begin to be built. In time. Real peace, in time, will come.