The plane landed at the airport of the capital of the Republic of Kosovo Pristina late at night, and immediately I got the feeling of something familiar, which was hard to explain since it was my first time in this country.
People living in Kosovo are kind, open and childishly credulous. They go to work, do their studies, celebrate big noisy weddings, give birth and raise children, walk the streets, build new towns and villages, pave the streets, and live a normal life. Although, in spite of all these usual things, a visitor to the city, and also the country as a whole, cannot avoid some tension, anxiety soaring in the air which must be caused by a terrible, ruthless war that these people endured just a while ago.
Several years of Kosovo conflict entailed massive repressions, killing of civilians and ethnic cleansing from both sides of the conflict. Today, it is pointless to ask who was wrong: the Serbs or the Albanians. The tragedy of Kosovo is very deep and probably understandable only by those who went through something similar.
In Kosovo, we are a group of women from the South Caucasus, a region torn by “frozen conflicts”: from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georga and break-away regions of Ablhazia and Nagorno-Karabach. We are here to meet local women who put a lot of effort to reach reconciliation between the two peoples – Serbs and Albanians.
In which price they do that? This only these women know. Each of them had its own tragedy, grief and pain, fear and despair. All of them still cannot keep tears recalling those terrible years, they try to avoid memories filled with grief that would never heal in their hearts. Despite all this … they live, work for peace, try to restore trust, rule of law and justice. Each and every one of them in their own way.
As Kosovo women told us, during the whole conflict 13500 were killed, 4000 people disappeared without a trace, remnants of 1,700 people were still not found.
This is a great tragedy for Kosovar women who are trying to help the families of the missing, the hold actions of solidarity, forcing the government to take action on their search.
On 8th of March, women walked together the main street of Pristina, to the Parliament building, demanding the restoration of justice, decisive action to search for persons missing. They also demanded that women raped in the conflict would get a status of victims of war, according the latest data they were no less than 20 000. Albanian, Serbian, Georgian, Azerbaijani , Armenian, Abkhazian – that day we didn’t know any borders, nor nationalities, or religions. All of us were untied by our common effort for a world without wars and conflicts, violence and deaths, the desire to live a happy safe life in which there is no pain and suffering.
One of the greatest experiences was a visit to the city of Mitrovica. Once a mining town full of life, it is today almost devastated. It only works 10% of its total capacity. City is divided into two parts (Albanian and Serbian ones), which are separated by Ibarsky bridge. The only acting Orthodox Church happened to be in the Albanian sector. Under a heavy guard, believers from the Serbian side go there once a year to pray. Same with Mitrovica cemeteries: Serbian one happened to be on the Albanian side, and the Albanian one – in Serbia.
Talking about Mitrovica, women recalled their city as a center of arts, and they were considered the most sophisticated fashionista in the region. The city today is in the complex political, economic and social situation. The level of unemplyment is extreme. Most of all, these problems affect women. And despite all the difficulties, the city, and the whole country are being restored. We see construction work everywhere, new buildings are popping up like mushrooms.
On the day of our arrival in Mitrovica, it was a big event at the local stadium for the first time in 30 years, a football match between Kosovo and Haiti.
Passing through Ibarsky bridge in the Serbian part of the city, one of the Albanian women shared her feelings with us. It was first time in 20 years she crossed the bridge.
After visiting the Serbian part of the city, it is difficult to imagine how these two people can come to reconciliation. But women do not give up and continue to pave the road of peace. I remember one Bosnian woman from Mitrovica who said: “We are women, we make up half the world’s population, and the second half we gave birth to! We should just have to make this world better, because we have so much and we have to have all this”
One can agree and disagree with the methods that Kosovo women use in their struggle, which is never simple and always full of risks. But one thing is for sure … this fight is needed and absolutely necessary, because without creating security and peace, there is no future for any of us, no matter you are Albanian or Serb, Georgian, Ossetian, or Abkhaz , Azeri or Armenian.
And finally I understand the feeling upon arrival in Pristina … in fact, it is the same, these are the same tension and anxiety that soar in the air in our region, the conflict-torn South Caucasus.
Nino Modebadze, from Women’s Information Centre, Georgia