Every day, thousands of people in Kosovo and the region wake up with a relentless sense of yearning. They carry out their day-to-day chores in an oppressive hush once filled by the bustle of others, they eat with unfilled spaces at the table, and they question, constantly, what happened to their nearest and dearest.
This is the plight of the loved ones of the missing.
Friends and relatives of missing people are exposed to an intensity of perpetual trauma that is hard for others to fully comprehend. The disappearance of their loved ones can have psychological consequences; feelings of insecurity, guilt, abandonment, anger, obsession, anxiety, depression and despair.
Inevitably, such trauma manifests in practical ways, from family problems and issues with community relations to the challenge of preserving the memory of those who have disappeared with little trace.
In this monograph, “People Missing,” we set out to shed greater light on the missing, as well as the day-to-day realities for those who are left behind.
Given the systematic repression and wars that took the lives of tens of thousands of people in the region, a large number of those who are missing disappeared during and immediately after the wars of the ’90s. In Kosovo alone, more than 1,640 people remain missing from that period.
Despite more than two decades having passed since the last war ended, local institutions have done little to prioritise the issue of missing people, allowing family members to live in a state of suspended animation. People’s lives have been reduced to numbers, rolled out carelessly for political expediency, with little attempt to meaningfully engage with their stories or the experiences of survivors.
Through oral history testimony, podcast discussion, conversations between loved ones and feature stories, we look at how a failure to deal with the past is impacting individuals, communities and wider society in 2020.
Wars have not been the only notorious events to cause the disappearance of people — whether physically, or in essence — throughout the region in recent years with limited, if any, official explanations of what happened to them.
This phenomenon has been added to by dictatorships and extrajudicial killings that caused the disappearance of opponents by force. And it continues to this day through the systematic marginalization of minority communities, who all too often find their stories and realities effectively deleted.
It manifests through the misogyny of judicial systems that allow women’s lives to be erased by failing to tackle normalized femicide. And it persists through forced migration along dangerous routes as people seeking a better life vanish with no explanation or official effort to find out how.
We explore each of these examples in more depth, as ultimately, they all have one thing in common: The interminable pain and uncertainty that remains in the absence of knowing.
We dedicate this publication to the missing.K
Feature image: Majlinda Hoxha / K2.0.
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