Kosovska Mitrovica – Budva – Skopje

A diary for Danas daily – By Tatjana Lazarevic (Translation provided by KoSSev)

Friday, May 10th

From the damaged platform of the new bus station in North Mitrovica, we head for Pristina, then Gracanica, through Albania, while my ultimate destination today is Budva.

KoSSev is gathering a group of female journalists from Kosovo who will discuss and try to agree on a joint declaration by Sunday. It was written by my colleague Milica based on previous research and interviews with 16 of our female colleagues – Serbs, Albanians, Bosniaks and Roma women – on how they see their professional position in Kosovo.

I’m excited and proud of many things – of trying to carry out another important and progressive idea and of Milica being in charge of this project. Nevenka (the director) and I are just accompanying her and this is a new experience in our almost 20-year-old organization – that someone else other than the two of us, particularly someone considerably younger, is taking the initiative and leading.

„Women in media“ is a project supported by UNMIK, and the less than two-years-old bus station is a half-million-euro project supported by the EU.

PHOTO: Jovan Ilic

As I’m looking at the piles of destroyed, broken concrete, I cannot help but wonder how the platforms at the bus station can fall apart. I do not remember seeing anything like this before.

On the way to Pristina, we pass by expensive and large, but empty houses, warehouses, shopping malls and gas stations. Fertile farmlands have disappeared long ago and this is the typical scene in Kosovo. A lot of houses are empty – with their shades and blinds lowered. These homes come alive twice a year during the holidays, when their owners briefly return from the west, where they went in a quest of a better life.

Although I often use this road, this morning is the first time that I noticed a patch of paulownia – right next to the new highway. Paulownia – as I concluded in the latest series of conversations with my colleagues – is currently an idea of our better life. We think about planting paulownia (and lavender beside it) when we are tired of everything, thus we live better than we did before, at least in our minds.

PHOTO: Pristina/KoSSev

I have been worrying about this trip for several days. After the Serbian President’s digs against us – the small media from the north of Kosovo, I felt my Serbian colleagues’ hesitancy to come with us to Budva. Among our Albanian colleagues, on the other side, from time to time I hear certain remarks, such as „you are pro-Serbian“; or I sensed a negative mood, reservation and mistrust towards the fact that some Serbs, from the North, came up with an initiative against which essentially no counterarguments can be found.

This was what one of my Albanian colleagues told me also during the trip as an explanation of why her colleague did not start writing for us.

Why does everything in the Balkans have to be with an either this or that approach?!

PHOTO: Mrizi i Zanave, Albania

All these stressful thoughts disappeared after the third stop, when the chatter and positive energy of 21 women filled the bus. There was also the calmness of my colleague Armend, the translator, the landscapes of Albania, the organic lunch at the famous farm-restaurant „Mrizi i Zanave“ (Dance of the Fairies), all the way to the magnificently blended blue of the Adriatic and the horizon.

PHOTO: Adriatic Sea, Montenegro

Saturday, May 11th

I was awaked by the sun, the view of the open sea, the whiteness of the walls and the beautiful blue blinds. Perhaps it is unfounded but the Mediterranean is something that strongly defines me. That is how, in the simplest way possible, I imagine the beauty and peace of life. This is where I had a happy childhood.

The sun followed me all the way to the conference hall. Milica presented a draft of the joint declaration.

It was no longer cheerful. It was a heavy category in the ring, a real female category, and all of our plans, as the organizers, to spend time by the waterfront or by drinking cocktails after a maximum of three hours of work – failed.

PHOTO: Budva, conference of Kosovo female journalists

While we, more or less, constructively agreed on concrete demands and actions in the field of security, representation of women in the media and access to interlocutors and information, my and Milica’s favorite and the most important introductory part of the declaration was massacred. Fourteen descriptions about what the environment we work in is like and what we are dedicated to are quite a lot… It had to be shortened to five!

The generation gap is immense. A few young women are an integrative and the more progressive and sophisticated part of the group. They greatly understand semantics and are sovereign in their expertise. Several of us – the older ones, are struggling with our vanities, personalities and exchanging harsh words, hard tones. I am not quite sure that these are bitter experiences speaking from us, as my colleague, also one from the older generation, described the reasons for the hour-long discussion, or knowledge, as another one described it. It seems to me like it is a sensitivity of our age or the fact that we belong to the generations that brought the war to the Balkans.

Sunday, May 12th

It’s raining, and I am with a grumpy Nevenka in our room. She blames her bad mood on the Xyzal she had previously taken and is accusing me of being anarchic… whatever, I do not pay attention to her, as I’m worried about the bad impression from last night, and I am pretty sure that this is the true reason for her bad mood.

I thought about how I greatly believed in a joint statement and the confirmation of the values ​​on which true professionals easily identify each other.

Talking to one of the participants, I developed a theory that this region was not f#%ked…. by the Serbs, Albanians, Croats… but amateurs; that the region was not shattered by ethnic hatred, but it was shattered by the de-professionalization of institutions, by the time when individuals stopped being professionals and became thieves of working hours, the abductors of their social obligations and the executioners of the system of values.

It seems that I went negative too early because we all quickly voted for a joint declaration. We thanked each other, called for the expansion of networking, further advocacy of the declaration in order to help ourselves and our society.

We can finally go to the beach, even if just briefly before starting our journey home. Warm raindrops, a sun-less sky, and the calm sea calm me with their purity and the alignment of colors. The macchiato on the beach is divine. Life is simple and beautiful again.

Monday, May 13th

I am in Skopje today. I love this city and its inhabitants. It reminds me of the former state (if I exclude the entrance to the city on the north side).

I buy Belgrade press and our chocolates, it does not matter whether they are Pionir or Dorina. I do not look silly here when I imagine those old good times – our years. I find an insane number of statues over the Vardar, lions and sphinxes around the city to be a sort of cute kitsch.

I missed the reception with the Macedonian minister, but I did not miss a walk around Skoplje in the rain and dinner at the Senegalija.

Tuesday, May 14th

I am speaking at the Think-Tank forum „Strengthening European Integration of the Western Balkans“, organized by the Polish Embassy in Skopje and the Institute for Democracy ‘Societas Civilis’.

I surprised myself when I, probably for the first time, used only five out of my eight allotted minutes for my first address to announce my three points on the topic – How to overcome bilateral issues: that I do not believe that the leadership present in the region for three decades is still making decisions, that they can bring stability, dignity and security – on the contrary; that for long-term quality peace, bilateral issues cannot be overcome, but that both they and the relationships – have to be built and developed.

As a third point, I took the one from the outset – a discussion with my colleague from Budva – I believe that, before ethnic hatred, the region was shattered by amateurism and the abandonment of professional discipline and ethics – the moment when we stopped worrying about hard work at our workplaces, when we stopped adopting new skills and knowledge, when we gave up on our professional integrity, systems and our society.

I managed to have another coffee on my favorite boat before returning home.

The rain followed me all the way to Kosovska Mitrovica, where I was greeted by almost storm-like weather.


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