The research on Kosovo through its creative artists aims to gather life stories of personalities in the field of literature, visual arts, cinema and the theatre. Testimonies straddle linguistic differences and convergences, giving a unique view of the struggle that different generations of artists have had to face in order to emerge on the public scene.

Rafet Rudi

Composer and Conducter

… it’s not because  of Paris or because of that contact that I got to hear only good orchestras, or only good artists, or attended only great cultural events, but from that position one observes more closely the flow of things here [in Kosovo]. I started understanding better, clearer, seeing  the value in Albanian music, or the values that you have, your personal values, right? You know, when you’re a bit farther away, you know that distance, let’s say even physical distance, but the cultural distance of the environment mostly, you understand better the environment where you will go back.

That is your primary environment, right? And I have understood it better and that is quite important, developing and following the standards that exist in a center of culture. First, researching, understanding, experiencing those standards, that makes you better, so that you to launch and to try to preserve those standards in the  less developed environment that  we were at the time.  You don’t see those standards if you go to Paris only once, for example, right?  You attend a concert and you come back and you think that is how it should be done. No, when… only when you experience the rhythm of a big cultural center.

Sevime Gjinali

Musicologist/ Composer

My father…. Look, at that time nobody was writing, doing musical notation, nor there were notebooks with scores. He was a rhapsodist himself, he wrote the lyrics and the music on the spot. But nobody notated them, there were no means to record them. […] And he decided about my  education, that I become a musician, that I study music… at that time there weren’t, it was somewhat unusual for a woman to go to music school with a violin. The kids in the street threw rocks at us when they saw us, because I was going to music school carrying a violin….For a woman it was a bit unusual.

Agim Vinca

Professor at University of Pristina

My brother, who was the class monitor, told his colleague, […] ‘Give them some math homework for the summer,’ and he gave us some typewritten sheets. And I and my classmate, […]  with whom I finished eighth grade, Xhelal, we worked during the whole summer in the garden, under the shadow of the apple tree, he was a little better than I, the whole summer long, July, August until September, we split the math [homework], once each of us on our own, then we checked whether our results were correct. Well, we did it once, twice and three times. We did it and we thought, but alright, let’s say we pass the exam, but what are we going to do if we don’t? If you failed a class at that time, it was a big shame, you could not show your face in the village nor anywhere else.
And we, with our then childish mindset, took a decision […] if we failed a class, first,  we would kill ourselves, we would commit suicide; second, we would kill the professor with a knife, because we had no gun, and we could find a knife, we didn’t have a knife either, but we could find it, in our mind we had three alternatives; and three, this was a little easier, we would escape to Albania. My birthplace Veleshta, […] it’s twelve kilometers from Struga. […] We would take the ship from Struga, in the port, travel for two-three hours, it was a beautiful journey […] And we would go to  to Saint Naum. […] We would play, sing with friends and so on, and the border was near there […] We were not allowed to get closer  to it, but we looked at it from a distance and thought that in case we didn’t pass the math exam, there were three options: suicide, murder and escape. We thought that we could escape to Albania from there, because for my generation and the generation before me, Albania was a kind of paradise and every youth of that age dreamt of escaping to Albania, all of them.

 

Murat Bejta

Educator

[Tirana, 1979] The one who followed me or who accompanied me, pretended to be a professor of Albanian Language. But while I was talking to him about different topics, I became convinced that he was not a professor of Albanian Language. […] While eating breakfast one day, I said that he was not a professor of Albanian Language. ‘How do you know Murat?’ ‘I know because while I was talking to him, he said some things, some thoughts, some viewpoints that do not fit with his claim that he is a professor of Albanian Language.’

[…] Oh, yes, he said he was not of a professor of Albanian, but of Chemistry, not of Albanian, but a professor of Chemistry. ‘You told me you were a professor of Chemistry, therefore allow me to ask you a question. Can I ask you a question, please?’ ‘Yes, Yes.’ ‘Even during high school, but also later in life until today, I heard that carbon is two valence, even today I don’t know what means two valence, and why two valence?’ ‘Forget that professor, forget it…’ Everyone burst into laughter (laughs), and they were persuaded about what I said.

Zijadin (Ziko) Vardar

Projectionist

When I started working in 1954, they would watch cowboy films. Those were popular, cowboy films, and then the Indian [native americans] films came, the Indian films begun in the ‘60s. And then people started coming to the cinema. Then there came the serial films, the Italian cowboy films. They would last 45 minutes, but [the cinema] would be full, a serial of 45 minutes each. There was profit from that, also from cowboy films. Especially when there was John Wayne, Tony Curtis and another famous actor, the hall was full, it was so crowded. Then the romance films began, the more educated would come to see those. And the youth always watched cowboy films, eh, bam bum, bam bum, when the gangsters won they would applaud.

Muradije Muriqi

Actress

On New Year’s Eve 1971, mother was still pregnant […] When he was killed, we were watching the New Year’s Eve show, you know, we were gathered around mother and suddenly they knocked so loudly on the doors that everyone was shaken up, we got up, got out in the yard. When we went out, one of the neighbors who was close to my father said, he calls for mother, he said, my mother’s name, may she rest in peace, was Lake, and he called for my mother as the oldest in the house, because my oldest brother was serving in the army, he said, ‘Come out ‘cause I have to give you not that good of a news.’ And mother at once, ‘All is welcome, whatever it is, we’re human, good news and bad arrive and….’ Not knowing a thing, not thinking even for a second that it concerns my father. […] He said, ‘Gather the children, embrace the children ‘cause Isuf has been killed.’ And that was for us… to me it seems that that night there was no light, everything seemed darkened and I heard my mother say, ‘Ah, may you always be with me. Gather, come to mother ‘cause a black day has befallen us.’

Olivera Budimir

Writer

I am Olivera Budimir […] I fled Pristina in ‘99 after the events in Kosovo, after the war in Kosovo and I always emphasize that I didn’t come to Belgrade, precisely because coming is not the same as fleeing […] In fact, I have always lived in Pristina with my parents, my brothers and then my husband, that’s where I got married. I  worked, he worked, we had a beautiful life, a beautiful marriage […]

However, when all this came to its end, when…because at the table of power, as my father used to say, I only understand him now, however, it all ended at the table of power, the Kumanovo Agreement was signed […] Then real hell happened in Pristina, real hell. After this it was hell, because nobody knew who would make it to dawn, because the airplanes flew all the time, there were thunders, there were bombs exploding in the city and outside of it and there were thunders in the sky during the day as well as during the night, they didn’t stop. But I always went to work well dressed and with make up as if I was going to a ball, as I always did. […] Within  a month I lost my city, my apartment, my job, my friends,  everything, everything, everything, and now my husband too. […] At one moment, I saw a photograph with a shirt, it was a Texas shirt, jeans, shoes, belt, all of them photographed in one simple photograph, and my jaw started trembling…

[…] You know, my life stopped there, because my  life, my home was in Pristina, my life was in Pristina. I have an apartment here, but I don’t have a home, it’s not a home. […] This novel is what came out of this whole story, it’s Lavirint života [The Labyrinth of Life], I am the labyrinth of life, Rade is the labyrinth of life and there are more, unfortunately there are more like Ola and Rade who went through the same hell I went through.

Bajram Kafu Kinolli

Musician

The KLA came first, when the KLA came we went out to celebrate in the center of town, I wasn’t there actually, where was I? I was at my uncle’s, there at home staying with my uncle, and I know that my brother was there… I know that they didn’t let him go with the crowd to celebrate that we were liberated, because we felt as part of those who had been liberated. But actually they didn’t let him in the crowd, ‘Who are you? Go away or we’ll kill you!’ They were all with Kalashnikovs, they went out with Kalashnikovs, those who were hiding in the attics or were staying in Çabrat, they came, I don’t know where they came from… I don’t know where were those people hiding. There were many, but I don’t know where they found those guns. And NATO started to come, but NATO was very insensitive, it was… they stayed in trucks, in armored cars, in tanks, but nothing happened from their side. They were just planning where to settle down.

 

[…] There was big chaos, all the bandits of Gjakova, for example, there were some who had sold cigarettes before, I know them very well, I sold cigarettes as well, I sold cigarettes, man, from ’96 to ‘98 I sold cigarettes in the streets and I know very well who they were, they had sold cigarettes with me, they were two or three years older than I was, and they wore [uniforms], they became KLA. They took it in their hand, they went to Albanian houses to rob, these kind of things happened.

Zoran Ristić

Theater Director

The first time we were told that we are different dates back to ’81. I remember I had a friend whose dad was a high-ranking official in MUP or SUP at the time. I came to take her notebook so I could copy homework or something, she was called Lela Pantelić, and she told me,  ‘Shush, something happened in Pristina.’ ‘What is happening?’ She said, ‘My dad is not here for a few days, they called him to work but I do not know what’s going on, but something is happening.’ And I received that as an information, in my Gnjilane nothing happened in ‘81, nothing was happening then.

It was April then. I know it was nice weather and I came home and asked my father what was going on in Pristina. Until then I never went to Pristina, nor did I have any knowledge of Pristina. I knew that it was the capital of the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, and that was all I knew. So after a while we found out that in Pristina there was a kind of irredentist, chauvinist, or who knows what kind of demonstrations, and people started talking about it. It would be something similar to ’68 […]

As a kid then, I did not know what could be happening, why, what’s going on, what the problem was. Given that we were constantly fed the information that in Yugoslavia everything works, that we love each other, that we work, that we should believe that there never will be war, but we at the same time we have to get ready if a war comes tomorrow. That’s what I remember. And this was the mantra that was broadcast by our television every day, I mean, brotherhood and unity. After the demonstrations in ’81, for the first time I doubted these stories.

Shaqir Hoti

Musicologist

By 1969 it came to that we won everywhere the first place here in…what was then called the Federation. And now, we represented Yugoslavia at an international festival in West Berlin. […] A German driver, he told us, we did not know the language but we understood him, he said, ‘Around, boom, boom, mines, there are mines around,’ and we could see quite high barbed wires. So now, when we were close to the border, we got out, took our instruments, we went to the other side of the wall, the Berlin wall, it was a kind of a labyrinth…you couldn’t walk straight but there was a zigzag to get to West Berlin. Moreover, that zigzag corridor was not very wide, a person with two suitcases filled it, more…And so when we got there, it was such a great change in buildings, parks, that one could almost not describe it. It was simply paradise there. In [East Berlin] one could only see those grim houses, the poverty, everything, darkness and [on the other side] light, but I do not know how to put it into words, that great difference (smiles).

hghghh