My relationship with Kosovo is quite complex. Sometimes I love it very much, sometimes it breaks my heart. I believe this is due to the toxic relationship we have with ideas of state, belonging and home.
I belong to the post-war generation. And because Albanian identity in Kosovo has been historically suppressed, we have been taught to love this part of our identity — to love our country, to know the history and everyone’s contribution. A burden has been put on our shoulders, but it’s a burden with a positive side to it — it pushes us to develop our country, to push Kosovo forward and to tell the world about the potential that this small country has.
When I am in Kosovo, I love Kosovo less. I know this may sound bad, but I cannot feel good when I see the failures of my state every day, the challenges of residents, the garbage, the great chaos, poverty and other problems. I cannot feel good when I see the great desire of people to leave this country or when I see people working for their financial survival in poor conditions or when I see women and other social groups being systematically oppressed and discriminated against.
I always try to contribute to changing these circumstances. I try to speak with friends, to write, to protest, to lobby and to advocate — to raise my voice against injustices. But I am just a drop in the ocean. There are times when I am demoralized by the fact that I do not see a change in the phenomena I fight against every day.
On the other hand, whenever I am abroad, I miss Kosovo a lot. I miss even the most ordinary things that don’t impress me at all when I’m there. I speak passionately to others about Prishtina, about Kosovo.
I tell them how we are a country with a lot of potential, a beautiful small country, with very good food, the best cafes in Europe, a dynamic and impressive young people, amazing culture and art, talents in sports and other fields. I tell them that we have beautiful mountains, historical monuments of a rich and interesting history. I tell them about our hospitality, our flia, our Russian tea. I tell them about everything in this country, especially the good stuff.
But among these positive feelings for Kosovo I have one overarching dream, a dream for change, a dream for a Kosovo where people enjoy equality.
The fact that euphoria overwhelms us and our love for Kosovo increases only in moments of success is extremely problematic. Patriotism, love and dedication to the country should not only arise when the national team plays football, or when we win world medals, or when our films travel to prestigious festivals or when Albanian singers do the sign of the eagle with their hands. It is not healthy for us to love our country just to spite others, or only when something good is mentioned.
The love and dedication to the country must be consistent and stable. We must work collectively for the development of our country, for the improvement of socio-economic well-being, for human rights to be respected and green spaces to be maintained.
But this contribution is a bit difficult to achieve in a society like ours, given the culture, education and circumstances. Therefore, sometimes it is easier to just leave. We do not need to sacrifice our happiness, our comfort and our well-being to Kosovo. And if our country fails to provide us with these things then it is not wrong to search for a better life and to value Kosovo from afar.
I believe that many of my fellow citizens would change many things in Kosovo if given the chance. The education system, the economy, health and social welfare, infrastructure and diplomatic relations, there’s room for improvement everywhere. We need to remove restrictive visa rules and increase salaries and integrate Kosovo into international organizations.
If given the chance, we would like to clean and maintain the environment, consider animals as part of the common space and not as enemies. We would change the political class and improve the arts, culture and sports scene. We want to be part of Eurovision.
An endless list of changes
Out of the list of changes above I’d like to highlight one. I would like to emphasize the desire to change the way we treat each other.
I would change the way we treat each other even when we do not know each other. I want us to see each other as fellow citizens, as people who share something together, share public spaces and common passions. I want people to understand that their values are theirs only and not everyone should believe in the same values. I want the people of Kosovo to see diversity as something positive and good, and not fight it.
In Kosovo, you have to think like most people, act as others want, live the life that others have planned for you. The moment you confront these, the dominant values of an oppressive system, your life will start to become more difficult.
Oppressed groups, such as women, LGBTIQ + persons, Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities, persons with disabilities and the poor, find life very difficult in Kosovo, partly due to institutional and social oppression.
And when I say that we can treat each other better, I mostly think about these oppressed groups. Growing up in a patriarchal system, filled with misogyny, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and nationalism, thinking and acting differently becomes a problem. But that does not justify violence, discrimination and oppression against anyone.
People must be made to understand that their rights are no more important than others’. Your beliefs are no more important than others’. No one is obliged to meet your expectations. So we have the right to think anything about someone else’s identity. But we do not have the legal and moral right to deny one’s identity just because it does not fit our preconceived ideas. We are free to think, but we are not free to restrict the freedom of another because of our impressions.
I would like to change the way we treat each other, at home, at school, on the street, at the bus station, in the city stadium, in the theater, in the cinema, in the museum, in the cafe, in TV shows, in the parliament and everywhere else. The dream of a Kosovo that is developed helps me sleep soundly, the dream of a Kosovo where people live together, collectively and respect each other.
Feature Image: Arrita Katona / K2.0.