Tungjatjeta! Si jeni?
As CLARD’s campaign against domestic violence has taken us to several western municipalities over the past two weeks, we have spent a lot of time driving through the region of Kosovo where the fighting was heaviest during the war. The towns are dotted with the wreckage of buildings that were gutted and burned, the highways lined with stone memorials to the Kosovo Liberation Army and those who fell fighting for Kosovo. Maybe some people will say that KLA (UÇK by its Albanian name) is a bit controversial, but I see the impetus of these monuments as a testament to the bravery of countless Kosovars and the pride that their successors have in the history and heritage of Kosovo. During my time here I have heard several firsthand accounts of desecrated homes, of lost jobs and not enough money for food, and of loved ones brutally taken before their time, and every Kosovar has a war story like this be it lived or inherited. The battles gone by remain in the hearts and minds of Kosovars, but they have not let the violence of the past beat them; they do not run from their past, they forge ahead to build their future.
One municipality, Klinë, held many surprises for me this week. I first liked Klinë because it is a smaller, quieter town, and it was nice to spend time away from the bigger city hustle-and-bustle of Pristina. The people in Klinë were friendly and open-minded, and many people stopped to take a pamphlet and talk to the CLARD team about legal rights and resources. My supervisor is from a village not far away so we also saw several of his friends throughout the day, and I was again reminded of how warm and interconnected people are here in Kosovo. In just one day in Klinë, my heart was warmed by love and thoughtfulness, and broken for pain and sorrow. What I will remember the most, however, is the children; let me tell you about three kind boys and two tenacious girls.
Last weekend, many Kosovars across the country celebrated Bajrami i Vogël, or Eid al-Adha, one of the two primary holidays of Islam. My colleagues explained that Bajram is not only a holiday about being thankful for what you have, but also about sharing what you have with the less fortunate, the poor, the needy. Nedzad said that friends and family usually come together to share a big meal for Bajram, kind of like Thanksgiving in the United States. Even though it turned out to be a rainy day on Bajram, the city was not somber as people gathered in their homes to rest and eat and be together.
While we were in Klinë a few days later, I witnessed the spirit of Bajram. Nedzad was joking around with three young boys in the square where we set up to campaign, and he asked them if they would give him five euros. When one boy sheepishly said that was too much, Nedzad asked for one euro, and after thinking about it for a moment, the boy gave it to him. The boy did not have much, perhaps only two euros, and yet he gave what he could gladly. Nedzad returned the euro and touched by the boys’ willingness to share what they had, he responded in kind with money from his own pocket that they might buy a treat. In the open hands and big hearts of my colleague and those children alike, I saw kindness, generosity, joy, and hope personified.
Later in the morning, two young girls ran up to our table to learn. Their hungry eyes pored over the brochures, and my colleague briefly explained we were there to fight violence among families. One girl knew that if someone in her home hit her sister, she could call the police, and after my colleague confirmed it, the girls scampered off. We applauded the girls’ knowledge, impressed by their pluck and encouraged by their gumption. Later we saw one of the girls walking by with a woman who was now carrying one of CLARD’s pamphlets, and when the woman turned to wave at us and say thank you from across the way, we could see the bruises on her face...
That is all for now, friends, but I will be back next week with a look behind the scenes of another project CLARD has been working on this year!