By Rachael Liss
During the trip I really let go of everything related to stress and AUC work and just tried to take everything in as much as I could, and, as Anne always says ‘trust the process’ – there couldn’t have been any better advice! Spending ten days in a new place might not seem like such a long time but we met so many people and experienced so much in this time, I feel like I have lived in Kosovo for years and the city of Pristina feels like a second home. If I had done anything else than just sit back and ‘trust the process’ I think I would have exploded or gone crazy! There is simply much too much to take in to be worried about trying to understand it all or make sense of it all or organise it all …. So, even though it felt unnatural at first to not try and organise and structure everything that was happening to me (as I usually do), I let myself go with the flow and enjoy all of the craziness.
I have to be honest, I ‘partied’ a lot more in Kosovo than I had expected to…. But going out and spending time with the young Kosovars was eye opening and really helped bring another side of the country to light – it was a perfect addition to the more academic/serious aspect we got from all of the international organisations, where we kept talking about the problems in Kosovo like unemployment and visa liberalisation and segregation of communities – going out with young people just showed me how ‘normal’ a place Kosovo was! We do all the same things back home on a night out as Kosovars do! And we didn’t spend the evening talking about how frustrated they were with their country or how some people hate one another… we just drank and laughed and danced! and I think this is really important for people to understand: on the rare occasions when Kosovo is mentioned in the news or on social media, it is usually portrayed in a typical western perspective of an unstable post-conflict society with huge issues of ethnic hatred and a bad economy – what they don’t see is what my friends and I were able to see when spending so much time with these people and becoming friends with them: they are literally just like us!
I was thinking about what advice I could give to Kosovo, and of course, it is much easier said than done and, of course, it is much easier for an outsider to come in and pin point the issues… However, I felt like sharing a couple of my thoughts with everyone:
I know it is difficult, and history and the past are a huge part of one’s identity, BUT I believe that reconciliation cannot fully take place until people forgive and let go of what happened in the past. At the end of the day, the people we spoke to all wanted the exact same thing, whether they were Kosovar Serbs or Kosovar Albanians, women or men, Roma or LGBTI: to live in a peaceful and prosperous Kosovo. The only way this will be achieved is if people work together and put their differences behind them. One of the main things that kept coming up all over Kosovo was the issue of unemployment. SO, a priority for the country should be employment! When you are unemployed, you get bored and frustrated; with frustration, you want someone else to blame for what you are going through and it is just so easy to point fingers at each other, and eventually, frustrations can even lead to violence.
I have so much faith in Kosovo: mainly due to the huge young population that we got to spend so much time with. Everyone we spoke to during the interviews we conducted were so full of energy and enthusiasm and all stated that they were willing to become friends with the ‘other’. They are willing to take the steps, but the issue is that there is no place for these two groups to come together as they are not integrated together in society – this needs to be changed! At the moment there are two systems: these systems need to be moulded into one. They will not stop seeing each other as ‘others’ if they are not actually integrated into one, into the same. When people cooperate and start to share common stakes and interests, they start seeing eye to eye.
Things will get better, this takes time, like all good things in life, and with time comes peace and forgiveness. And I believe it is in the hands of the youth to bring forward this change.