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The reasons to stay

By - 12.06.2023

We can all make a difference.

In 1961 U.S. President John F. Kennedy said: “Ask not what your country should do for you — ask what you should do for your country.”

It’s a popular quote and I’m aware that it may have become a cliché from frequent and sometimes inappropriate use. Nevertheless. Kennedy was addressing the American people, then almost 200 million strong (now over 300 million). He was addressing a people whose state had been born almost 200 years before.

I was not even eight years old when Kosovo declared independence on February 17, 2008. Like the other citizens of this new state (less than two million), I had the privilege of witnessing its birth. Doesn’t this make what I said above more powerful? 

Doesn’t having experienced the birth of a state give life-changing decisions — like deciding to leave home, family, and the country itself — more weight?

The problems in Kosovo, of course, are numerous. After February 17, 2008 comes, eventually, February 18, 2023, an ordinary day. Historical moments fade into everyday life. And we cannot forever be like the actors in the 1982 Albanian movie “The Second November” who sing at the declaration of the Albanian national flag in Vlora on November 28, 1912. Life goes on and our connection with that moment, with the state and with the circumstances that preceded the creation of the state change.

To repeat myself, I am fully aware of the difficulties of living in Kosovo. Poverty has always been an issue. Over 250,000 people left Kosovo between 2013 and 2022. Despite this being an escape of sorts, I’m sure at least half of them cried when they left.

However, these problems, which can be seen as reasons for leaving, should be reasons for staying.

Will I leave Kosovo?

Kosovo suffers from a mess of daily problems. And does it mean that the people who are still staying here are happy with it? Or that they do not experience these problems?

No, I still live here and will do so all my life. I will live with these problems, which I would like to not experience. Above all, I am here to fight these problems.

When looking over a relative’s assignments in second grade out of curiosity, I saw that he got top marks even though there were many mistakes. He had written the words “mollë” (apple) and “derë” (door) without “ë,” while he had mixed up the letters “ç” and “q.” The problem, of course, was with their teacher. Let us not forget that Kosovo’s education system is deeply neglected.

In one of my university assignments as a journalism student, I decided to write a news article about dangerous drugs being sold without prescription. Among other drugs, I managed to buy Lexilium and Diazepam, which are mainly prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia and tremors. These medications are not recommended to be used or sold without a doctor’s prescription.

It turns out that in our country, if you can’t sleep, you can easily be your own doctor and decide your diagnosis and therapy.

Another time when I was faced with the reality of life in Kosovo was when I wanted to enroll in Master’s studies in a public university. While I studied for several months for the entrance exam, I saw that one of my colleagues was trying to enroll through nepotism. Even though that was a route open to me as well, I was fighting to be accepted on meritocratic grounds. It may sound surprising, but this was my way of fighting for good.

I wasn’t accepted because I didn’t fulfill the criteria — at least, I like to think so.

If we don't stop the cycle of problems repeating, then who are we expecting to do so?

Every day, I see people complain and not take responsibility. I see people who physically stay in Kosovo and have virtually fled from it. People who get bothered by too much light in the room, yet don’t turn the light off. They get bothered by garbage in the streets, yet they don’t pick it up. They get bothered by the dust, yet they do not clean it. The noise of others bothers them and they express this by shouting louder and contributing to the noise.

It bothers them when others use nepotism to get work or a place at university, but when they have the opportunity… you know what I’m saying.

If we don’t do something for the country then who will? If we don’t stop the cycle of problems, then who are we expecting to do so?

Kosovo has no legs, no hands, it is not human. People make Kosovo and we are the people. Of course, the fate of a country cannot be put on the shoulders of individuals. But when I think that over 250,000 people have fled from Kosovo in these 10 years, I wonder if this is the way to contribute to the country?

Without judging the people who took that road, I can’t help guessing how much their running away had to do with the disappointment, neglect and the irresponsibility of the state, but also of the people who live here. How much does running away have to do with the lethargy and surrender of many people.

We should start with ourselves. Let’s choose not to exploit underhanded ways of getting into university. Let’s choose not to litter. And whenever we see it, let’s choose to remove it little by little. Let’s choose to ask for responsibility when the words “der” and “moll” are given perfect scores at school. Let’s choose to become more demanding of ourselves, of our neighborhoods and of our state.

Ironically, the same reasons that probably should have made us run away from here, may become the reasons that keep us here.

I will stay here, even to teach just one child a word that they do not know. I will stay to give a voice to issues that have no voice. I will stay to make a small contribution to health, education and sports in my own way.

I do not expect a perfect Kosovo without any problems. I expect a better Kosovo.

This blog was published with the financial support of the European Union as part of the project “Diversifying voices in journalism.” Its contents are the sole responsibility of Kosovo 2.0 and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

Why do I see this disclaimer?