A conversation with a barber about people moving away from Kosovo.
It is Sunday and the sun is shining bright, as is typical for an August day. Since I am usually in the village on Sundays, I always use this day to go to the barber. I take my phone and call *Edon, the barber who has cut my hair for the last three years, to make an appointment.
“Hey Edon, are you working today?”
“Yes, yes, come by 2 [p.m.] if you don’t mind,” he replies with a positive and welcoming voice.
Sunday is an official holiday for most people, but for Edon it is a working day just like every other day. He opens the barbershop, which is located in Malisheve, at 10 a.m. since nobody comes earlier and he stays open until 8 p.m.
Edon is the most positive person of all the people I know. He is always smiling and very welcoming, he shakes your hand when he greets you, he calls you by your name and always asks you how your day was, and then starts telling different stories. Living in a small city where developments are unimportant, he is interested in what is happening in the big city [Prishtina].
I don’t mind sharing stories or important events with Edon. Most of the stories are boring, even the ones from the big city, and no matter the conversation, we always end up talking about politics. Last year, I travelled abroad and every time I met Edon I told him where I had been and how my time there was. He always listens to me attentively, and every time I finish my story, he tells me about his plan to visit Berlin.
The story of Berlin, which I always hear when I go to cut my hair at Edon’s, reminds me that I used to tell myself that I would not share my travel stories with Edon anymore. Not because those stories are not important, but because I always feel guilty when I finish my story and he tells me about his dream of visiting Berlin.
“Move your head a little higher,” he said.
I raise my head slowly — trying to avoid direct contact with Edon through the mirror — and there goes the story of Berlin.
“You are having so much fun,” Edon told me.
“You are travelling everywhere. I saw a program about the Berlin Wall last night, those Germans are some really smart motherfuckers, they unified their country after 45 years, whereas we have such a small country and we can’t do anything.”
Edon continues with his story about the squares and museums, parks and mountains, companies, cars and the dark spots of Berlin. One time, he told me how there are some underground tunnels in Berlin so wide that they contain shopping centers and how they do not close until late at night.
"Hey, do you know how I can get the visa faster, they told me you have to wait around 16 months until they call you?"
“Once a friend of mine told me that the underground in Berlin is better than the surface,” he said. He also told me about the beer festival in Berlin and how his friends had the best experiences of their lives there.
“I have never been, I don’t know about it, but don’t worry, you will go there too,” I replied.
“Keep your head straight,” he replied with a smile.
“How are you today? what have you done, how is your family?” I asked him, trying to change the subject.
“Fine, they are all fine. I can say I am fine. Isolated here, maybe it will change someday. Hey, by the way, I finally applied for a visa.”
“Congratulations,” I told him, with half a voice. “How did it happen?”
“Do you remember when I told you about my sister in Germany? Her husband sent me a job contract and yesterday I went to make an appointment. I had been asking her for a long time to bring me there since there is nothing left in this place, but she was always telling me to wait. So, it finally happened. I have to admit I am really happy.
“Hey, do you know how I can get the visa faster, they told me you have to wait around 16 months until they call you?” Edon asked me.
“Congratulations, you are finally going to Berlin. You were thinking about it for a long time and thank God now you can go!” I responded, trying to avoid his question with a broken smile.
Watching him in the mirror, I notice that this is a decision he did not really take willingly. “I had no other choice because there is nothing left here, all my friends have left there.”
“So now you can go and see them.”
“Yes, that’s true. I tried so hard to stay here but one does not know what to do; it isn’t that I didn’t study enough, my father sometimes tells me ‘you should have studied more,’ but even if you finish university you will still need to get out of here because there is no perspective here,” he said, adding that some of his friends who finished their studies also moved away from the country.
“I can’t even buy a phone with this barbershop that I opened. All my friends are coming here with cars after working for one year abroad. Did you see someone who came with a white Mercedes one day? He left two years ago with a contract and now he has returned with a new fine Mercedes.”
Edon’s parents did not take the news about his visa application very well.
“My mother cried when I told her that I was planning on applying for a visa, whereas my father didn’t bother, since he has never thought they would send it; today his eyes were full of tears when I told him. I have never seen my father like this!” Edon confessed. “He did not talk to me or call me all day today.”
Continuing with my shave, Edon told me how he, a 30-year-old, is unable to finance himself.
“Even if I get sick, I don’t have a health insurance, I can’t even buy my own apartment because I don’t have a contract and the salary that I have is not stable, I have nothing. Come on, tell me how to live here. It’s better for them too if I settle down somewhere else, because I am only causing them stress like this.”
“I entered the field and I went to a corner and I started crying loudly. I do not know why, but my tears were falling down ceaselessly. At that moment I realized that none of my friends were here anymore.”
“Who will stay at home now?” I asked.
“Nobody will be here, only my father, mother and my brother who lives in Prishtina. He is full of debt, he said that he will also get out of here if only he can find an opportunity,” Edon said, adding that his parents will be left alone. In that moment his voice changed and he was about to cry, but immediately wiped his tears away.
“Are you playing football? I know you really like it,” I asked him, trying to change the subject.
“Not so much.”
“Why? Don’t you have time or what?” I asked.
“No. I have plenty of time, since I close the barbershop at 8 [p.m.]. We always played at 9 [p.m.], but now I have no people to play with!”
“How come you have no people to play with, when the whole municipality is full of young people?”
“Where?” he replied. “I swear, there is no longer anyone left of the people I used to play with.”
Edon recalled that they had a team of 5 members and they used to be the best. “Eh, in the last year, Rrezarti went to Denmark. He travelled through Croatia illegally and he paid 3000 Euros. He passed through Croatia though the mountains and the snow, and then they went with a van to Italy. His brother waited for him in Italy and sent him to Denmark. He played as a defender, so we found a replacement for him.
“Then, in the middle of the year, Albani left to Slovenia — apparently by the means of a ‘job visa’ — and then he went to his brother in Germany and never came back,” Edon explains about his friends who have left.
“Then [Alban] was talking with a girl living in Germany about getting the German citizenship. We found a substitution for Alban too, so we somehow continued playing. Two months ago, Taulant and Besnik left for Italy. After that, we stopped playing,” Edon said. He still decided to go to the field one day even though his friends were not here anymore.
“I called some people whose names I wrote down when they came to get their hair cut, but nobody showed up. And then I decided to go to the field alone, thinking that maybe someone would be there. When I went to the field, my legs started to shiver,” Edon said, finally bursting into tears.
“I entered the field and I went to a corner and I started crying, loudly. I don’t know why, but my tears were falling down ceaselessly. At that moment I realized there that none of my friends were here anymore, that everybody had left in less than a year.”
For a moment, Edon stopped. My eyes were full of tears too. The most positive person I know suddenly starting weeping, and a sense of guilt and responsibility took over me. I felt like I was responsible for him crying and for the fact that he cannot stay in his country together with his mother and father, and play with his friends and create a life here.
"Don’t you understand that there is nothing here, you don't even have a place to go out now."
“Do you know that the ‘Daylight’ bar, where we used to go out with friends, is empty now?” he asked me, wiping his tears. “The owner said that he has to close it because he isn’t earning enough to keep it open. Don’t you understand that there is nothing here, you don’t even have a place to go out now.”
Edon continued telling me about a weird case that had happened to him.
“Do you know what happened to me two days ago?”
“What?” I asked him.
“There were two young boys; they were around 19 years old. They had grown their hair pretty long and they came to cut it. I told them to wait in the queue, but they showed to me two passports. When I took a look at them, I saw that they were Serbian passports. I thought to myself, who are they?” Edon said.
“Can you cut our hair to look identical to the ones in the photo? We crossed the border through Hungary with these passports that we took from two Serbs. We already look pretty similar to them but if we cut our hair like them, we will never be recognized,” the two young boys told Edon.
“Just imagine what they came up with. There is nothing here, no,” Edon said — and the haircut was finished.
This story happened 17 months ago; Edon now lives in Germany. I found another barber, who is also waiting for his visa for Germany, which he will get this year — after which I will have to find another barber, and then another and then another, until everyone moves away from Kosovo and we leave it in the hands of those who stole Edon’s future.
Feature picture: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.
*Editorial note: The name Edon is a pseudonym, since he asked us not to use his real name.