Let me tell you about one case. It was… I was going down the street with some girlfriends, where the new church is now, in [the neighborhood of] Tri kapelat [Three Hats], we were walking towards the underpass. Nothing, we were just walking and talking. And now, animated teenagers, la-la-la, and we were walking by a coffee shop. There were some chairs outside, and just as I was talking to my friends, you know, animated, I hear a voice saying, ‘Hej, mala, tiše malo,’ very aggressively, which in Serbian means, ‘You, girl, lower your volume.’ I turned my head, and I saw some, we called them dizellasha [hooligans]. They were some young men who would dress alike. That was a profile of a Barabbas at the time. And I turned and simply said, ‘Izvini’ [I am sorry]. My first instinct was to apologize.
And I continued. And he was like, ‘Alright, I forgive you but don’t bother me anymore.’ And we continued walking, and I still remember this after twenty years and I remember also that and at that time, three-four steps later, I was like, ‘What forces me to apologize to someone, who is a resident of this city like me? This street belongs to me just like it belongs to him!’ And I felt contempt for myself. Why was my instinct to get smaller and apologize? You know, simply feeling privileged because they allowed you to breath in your own city. It was difficult, it was difficult to the point that you stop and think, but human nature is, you know, such, that you make it look like flowers to yourself, otherwise, it is hard to survive, it is hard to go out of your home.
Jehona Gjurgjeala was born in Pristina. She studied Political Science in London where she lived and worked for several years. She is the founder and executive director of the non-governmental organization TOKA [EARTH].