This is how this article should start. With this statement. With a rather generalized, vague and cloudy premise, just like the very concept of reconciliation – of reconciliation between nations which inflicted on each other violence, killings, destruction, deportation, and unforgettable suffering and horrors (oh, and one side more than the other).
Some of the most atrocious bloodshed in the history of the 20th century happened in the territories of the former Yugoslavia — right at the very end of the second millennium, at least according to the time measurement of the civilized.
If we try to bring forth the culprit and the innocent, the perpetrator and the victim, we will be doing nothing more than what historians and politicians have done throughout the course of history — writing and interpreting it from a single point of view.
It is not that these points of view ought to be criticized. However, these narrations of sublime purity against the unclean, of total innocence against absolute guilt haven’t exactly caused a great deal of well being at national level, let alone at a regional level.
Kosovo, unfortunately, was also one of the war zones of the bloody war, the one which put an end to the bloodshed in the old Yugoslavia. The consequences were dreadful. More than 10,000 people were killed, hundreds of thousands more fled the country, hundreds of thousands of houses were burned, and more than 1,500 people are still considered missing.
(A guy told me once: Kosovo was lucky to have only around 15,000 killed! Look at Bosnia!)
After this introduction, that we might have heard many times in one way or another, with all these generalized summaries on Kosovo in ex-Yugoslavia and Kosovo today, let’s get back to reconciliation.
We started to talk about reconciliation in Kosovo very early.
We started to talk about reconciliation in Kosovo very early. Immediately after the end of the war, this poor country was flooded with thousands of different governmental and nongovernmental organizations. Kosovo definitely needed help, a reconstruction, both physical and social. Many organizations started to give different donations to rebuild houses, and provided the different logistical and technical help Kosovars needed so much, leaving behind the terrors of war.
However, in addition to this, let’s call it, ‘infrastructure assistance,’ many organizations also started providing psychological, social and spiritual support. Here we can also include those initiatives which aimed to initiate the process of dialogue, the process of ‘dealing with the past,’ in order for Kosovars to leave behind the terrors of war and look forward, towards a better future.
But all of this started too early.
(Some of you in your teenage days, in times of exploring identities and acquiring ‘grown-up’ behavior might have started to read ‘deep’, ‘grown-up’ books, ignoring the advice of the grown-ups who said that you should take it easy, and read those books when the time comes, so that once you are actually ready for those books you don’t say: “oh, been there, done that!”)
It takes time for the wounds to heal. Some wounds never heal, but one learns to live with them, like when one suffers from chronic diseases. With proper treatment, with great care and the right therapy, one manages the incurable disease.
This is how it works with the wounds of war. People lost their most loved ones, people were deported, their houses were burned down. People suffered many horrors of the war that will never end. This suffering cannot be measured with words. Nor can it be calculated with numbers.
But, one learns to live with those pains and to look forward after realizing there is no going back. And in order to realize there is no going back, one needs time. More than one year; more than three years.
Those who dealt with reconciliation failed. They failed big time.
The flourishing of organizations which dealt with reconciliation clumsily, made the concept of reconciliation the subject of depreciation, derision, denigration, questioning, and classified as an absurdity of its kind, a foolishness and a mission impossible taking into account the people and the matter to be reconciled. Those who dealt with reconciliation (and some that still do) failed. They failed big time.
They failed because they started too early. They failed because they did not know how to approach the reconciliation between rather complex groups. They failed because their aim was not reconciliation but rather the acquisition of donations. They failed because they did not reconcile themselves in the first place.
This has produced some quite serious consequences for Kosovar society in general, and for the coexistence of different groups, different nations who live close to each other and will continue to live close to each other for a long time to come. It produced consequences due to the failed attempts at reconciliation (if we can put it like that) and because attempts at an unsuitable time made the concept of reconciliation be perceived as impossible, and as a joke.
Now today, almost two decades later, when we dare to take the courage to say that perhaps the time has come to talk about reconciliation, nobody wants to deal with it.
Reconciliation is not cool. Reconciliation is not cool because it used to be cool in 2000, 2001 when it was an avant-garde initiative of some (perhaps) open-minded individuals. Today, the initiatives of these avant-garde open-minded people tackle the concepts of global warming, cosmopolitan aspects of giving up constructed identities, and so on and so forth.
We should all make efforts to strip the concept of reconciliation away from politicization, and the small-minded derision of those narrow-minded people, who in fact never liked reconciliation but rather liked themselves.
We should all make efforts to gain the hearts of those individuals who agree that reconciliation, conditional forgiving, and efforts to find common interests are values which must not be corrupted due to misguided and failed previous approaches. For these are human values, and are beyond national and political limitations.
Feature image: Majlinda Hoxha / K2.0.