Visit to Roma community in Giljan, Kosovo

“Newborn” it says with proud and big letters, painted with the flags of all the states that have recognized Kosovo, on the monument in the centre of the capital Pristina. For that is exactly what Kosovo is, newborn and on her way forward as a country and identity. The air is filled with vehicle emissions and I can feel a dim smell of lignite from Kosovo’s main energy source, the lignite power plant located just outside Pristina. Dust from the endless road constructions flows in the air as Pristina´s young inhabitants move back and forth between a wide range of cafées and restaurants. The street ahead of me is suddenly filled with laughing, eating, teasing and nonstop talking kids, bubbly of joy, on their way back to school after a lunch break.

The country, with an area of 11000 km², is sandwiched in Balkan between four countries in southern Europe, north of Macedonia and south of Serbia and is estimated to be one of Europe’s poorest countries.

Women at the streets of Gjilan

Women at the streets of Gjilan

As a fresh student from Sweden I moved to Pristina along with my mother and brother after my graduation. I saw a great opportunity to come along to Kosovo and work as a volunteer at a local organisation in Pristina. Through Kvinna till Kvinna I found an organisation called “Rrograek” working with minority groups such as Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians supported by Kvinna till Kvinna. So, I have been here for almost three months now and I must say it has so far been an interesting journey.A couple of weeks ago we unexpectedly got a visit from a group of people from Sweden at our office. Together with Shpresa Agushi (executive director at Rrograek), took the local bus to a smaller city, a two hour bus trip from Pristina, called Gjilan to meet and speak to three people deported from Sweden belonging to the Roma minority.

Hundreds of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians where forced to move abroad during the Yugoslavian war and many Roma houses, boutiques and shops where burned down after the conflict.

Everywhere along the street lays burned down, abandoned ruins of houses and buildings. We are invited to one of the houses that still stands and they lead us in to a little room with bare walls and a couple of tables and some plastic chairs. They explain that the room is normally used as a classroom for children belonging to the Roma ethnicity, who don’t speak Albanian or have gone to school in another country and then been forced to move back to Kosovo and need to retake years in the Albanian school system.

There is indeed much left to improve in this country, not just the standard of living but it is also important to decrease the segregation and create greater social welfare for all the citizens of Kosovo. I do believe Kosovo is in constant development towards a stronger society, even though this change will require both time and political will.

Julia Belcastro

Stöd Kvinna till Kvinna! Vi stärker kvinnor i krig och konflikter för att kvinnors makt och inflytande ska öka. Ditt stöd är nödvändigt för att vi ska kunna fortsätta göra det.

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