Enver Baki: I am Enver Baki, one of Kosovo’s, in particular Pristina’s intellectuals, in general I feel like my life has started with culture and will end with it.
Ebru Süleyman: Can you please tell us your oldest memories that you remember?
Enver Baki: Of course, of course I will tell them as well. My father, Sadik born in 1898 in Pristina, my mother [who is] 15 years younger than my father, a young woman belonging to a Şeyh’s family, got married to my father. My father’s family is generally one of Pristina’s wealthier families. According to what he has told me, during the Ottoman era this family had around nine fields, seven vineyards, three houses. Which means that, based on what my father said, it was a large family, the Baki family. All very well but again according to him, during the Ottoman era the Baki family attempted to emigrate to Turkey twice. First one was in 1921 and in 1939 after that, they intended to emigrate to Turkey, because of this, they sold all their assets and property one by one and ended up in poverty. The second time they encountered a similar situation; the brothers were not able to reach an agreement and couldn’t emigrate to Turkey so they stayed in Pristina. However, they could not buy back their sold assets so they eventually ended up in poverty like I just said. My father, in the year 1947, meaning right after the war in Kosovo, was accounted as one of the first retirees. Whereas I’m a man born in 1943. Before me, my father and my mother had Kevser, Fikriye, Fitnat and my youngest sister İgbal. Among them, I grew up and lived as the only male in the family.
According to what my mother says, they were not from one of the wealthiest families but they were doing well as well, being from the family of Şeyhs. As the story of my mother goes, the tekke, which is beside the Pristina high school, is her tekke. In fact, two sisters, together with their cousin [paternal uncle’s daughter] were caring for the tekke at the time. Unfortunately, since there was no male descent to continue to take care for it, they had to transfer the tekke to the vakf. Such that, according to my mother, my aunt Zürafa, mother Meryem together with their cousin Miss İsmet, took care of the tekke for a long time, well keeping it, thus there were also many visitors to it.
On the other hand, talking about the memories, I would like to say many things about Pristina. Unfortunately, those characteristics, Pristina’s characteristics are absent these days. From what I can remember from my childhood, instead of today’s taxis, Pristina had phaetons in the town. Apart from them, the neighbors were creating friendships and close relationships in a very nice way, through kapicik. As you know, all of the old families in Pristina had gardens in addition to their houses, very rich gardens in which they would [collect] fruits and vegetables from the trees they had planted. So, on all four sides, the garden that has four sides had a kapicik on every side of it for sure. Those have a particular symbolic [value] for me. They were an ingredient that strengthened the friendships, according to me. They were the gateway for the lovers, according to me, because many people, thanks to kapicik, neighboring men and women met, fell in love and got married. I think that these characteristics are absent nowadays. Moreover, people, neighbors in apartment buildings with, six, seven, ten floors do not even know each other, unfortunately. I think that it means the old friendships, close relationships are now overshadowed.
When it comes to the phaetons, the ones who did the… who served as taxi in Pristina, were not much in number, five or six of them would certainly be in the open space in front of the theater, in front of the current theater, would be rowed next to each other, waiting for customers. Other than phaetons, folks would also travel with spring carts as well. Where were these trips taken to, generally to Germi, which was four or five kilometers away from Pristina, to Toukbahçe recreation areas which was two and a half kilometers away and during bayram very often they would go to the shrine, to the Shrine of Sultan Murat. So many families, the wealthier ones getting the phaetons or the spring carts would go to these places; two or three families would get together to go to Germi, Toukbahçe or Sultan Murad’s Shrine, taking their lunch with them or having dinner at those places all together. Therefore, I just wanted to mention some of the typical features that I could remember, I don’t know if that was satisfactory to you or not…
Ebru Süleyman: Uncle Enver, you said, told me a bit about the city, how the phaetons were located in the space in front of the theater today, the city has changed a lot since then looks like? In the old city, this way, towards the mosques… which places have changed?
Enver Baki: Talking about the city, from what I can remember, Pristina had in general 14 mosques. Other than this, in front of the Çarşi Mosque was a wide neighborhood. That neighborhood had a place called the craftsman neighborhood. Quilt makers, tailors, barbers there had their own shops, serving to the people. But also, at the center of that square was a water şadırvan [fountain], one of the most beautiful ones in Pristina, because there weren’t many, only two-three, but the one in the middle of that square was the most valuable one, with cold water streaming from it at all times. When it comes to the schools…
Ebru Süleyman: When you were young, where would you go with your friends in the city, where were you hanging out?
Enver Baki: The Pristina youth in general, of course Pristina had only one theater and one cinema. Other than this cinema and theater, there were Taukbahçe and Germi recreational areas that I just told you about. There people would gather, sing songs, play games and perform dances.
Ebru Süleyman: What about in winter?
Enver Baki: The Pristina folk, in winters would generally be in their homes, spending winter nights playing the cup game, tura game. Us kids, I will tell about my life a little, my father knew more than a hundred tales, my mother knew that much or more songs and folk songs, similarly my sisters would sing mani [folk poems] and tell us riddles all the time, my older sisters, when we would go to sleep, our father would gather all of us, five siblings, four brothers, four sisters and one brother together and my father would tell us a tale, my mother would get a salver and sing a folk song, because of course we did not have a darbuka and tambourine at home, so it was like this. One of my sisters would keep the tempo with spoons [wooden spoons], the musical tempo. In a sense, in general the winter nights would look like that, on the other hand the tales that my father told us, my mother’s songs and the poems and riddles that my sisters very often told to each other, I think all of these are the pearls of folk literature. Influenced by these pearls, I fell in love with Turkish folkloric literature and started writing poems in elementary school.
I should also tell, put it on the record that the year 1951 was a momentous and even a historic year for the Turkish people in Kosovo because in 1951, the Turkish people living in Kosovo gained recognition both in the eyes of our party and in the eyes of public. Meaning that, 1951, on March 20 1951 based on the Kosovo Province Committee’s decision, Turkish people living in Kosovo gained their rights, so in that year, in the following years… because as you know in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, other than the madrasah there were no other schools or elementary schools that taught in Turkish language but after the year 1951, in the cities and villages that Turkish people live, elementary schools and associations formed. So, it revitalized the Turkish people living in Kosovo.
Ebru Süleyman: Which year did you start school?
Enver Baki: In 1951 as I told you.
Ebru Süleyman: So, you registered to the school in 1951.
Enver Baki: The schools opened in 1951, in nineteen… same year in Pristina, Prizren, Peja, Mitrovica, Gjilan and Mamusa, as we said there were two villages first of them Mamusa and second one Doberçan, there are the first schools that were opened in our mother tongue Turkish. In those years, the schools were packed with students. The school directors were not even able to find enough chairs for students that’s how many pupils we had but…
Ebru Süleyman: So, the same year that the schools opened in Turkish language, you started going to the first class?
Enver Baki: That year I started first class, no in fact… pre-school, I went to pre-school in Albanian because there was no school in Turkish, however, in 1951 I transferred from Albanian to Turkish class. There a new life started for me.
Ebru Süleyman: You remember your class, your teachers…
Enver Baki: We didn’t have that many teachers, as a matter of fact some teachers taught two, three classes but in time with increased interest for teachers and education, our children, our youth started graduating from high pedagogical schools and even language courses. Thanks to Süreyya Yusuf, the teacher training initiated in Skopje. That is where our teachers were trained but in the first years, the teachers were selected from among the existing intellectuals. After they completed these trainings starting from Pristina to Doberçan, the teachers were assigned in an organized way to every school in these places. The trainings did not only bring up Turkish language teachers but also mathematics, physics and even teachers for music classes.
This way, for a short time a cadre of teachers was trained but not only education, surely the cornerstone of a community is education but other than that, formation of the associations, revitalization of a folk’s culture and sustaining it is also one of the most important things I think. Because our associations, in time, were not only significant to revitalizing our songs, folkloric songs, dances and traditions but also important for developing literary works as well. Because as we know the associations had literature sections that worked constantly along the folklore, choir group, the dance branch and the literature branch, when they were formed, in the first associations they created a wave of revitalization and people would sustain their traditions even at later times these associations would publish magazines as well. However, in the year 1969, with a decision of the [Kosovo] Socialist Union, the Socialist Union of that time, a newspaper in Turkish language agreed to start operating in Pristina. On the first of May, 1969 newspaper Tan came into existence.
Ebru Süleyman: Well, Uncle Enver, I would like to ask something. In schools, at these associations, in their literature branches and later on in these magazines and newspaper Tan, is the written language more similar to Turkey’s language or are people writing in our Turkish as well sometimes, or is it predominantly Turkey’s Turkish?
Enver Baki: Look, in my opinion, Turkey’s language, Kosovo’s language, Macedonia’s language, Azerbaijan’s language do not exist but there are dialects that exist. Every public has a dialect of its own but in this sense of course the language in Turkey is our fundamental language used in Turkish speaking territories but the dialects used around the world have also been recognized. Thus, in the beginning all of us tried to use the literary language of the Turkey, it was a conscious stance but as you know, there are two other languages suffocating the Turkish language: Persian and Arabic. In 1928…in the year ‘23, when Ataturk came to power in Turkey, the Turkish Language Society was formed. According to this society, the Turkish language that was used in Turkey and other places was to be cleaned up from foreign words. Thus, there was an effort to leave aside the Persian and Arabic words and use original Turkish words. Especially [Nurullah] Ataç had reached significant success in this sense for screening the foreign words and revitalizing our language. Of course, there is still an undeniable influence of Arabic and Persian that exists to this day and many words that do not have an equivalent in [original] Turkish still are used in these languages.
Ebru Süleyman: Where did our Turkish, or the dialect we use here continue to exist then, in folklore, tales?
Enver Baki: The dialects are generally created through the communities themselves regardless of their education levels, the dialects are formulated on their own and mostly with the influences from other surrounding languages. For instance, there is even Pristina dialect, Prizren dialect, Mitrovica dialect, looking at them you can see the differences but in essence, and that is Turkish. For example, Mitrovica folk says, “Cürdünmi?” [Did you see?]. Pristina folk says, “Coldunuzmi, cittınızmi?” [Did you arrive, did you go?]. These differences derive from characteristics of different dialects.
Now, regarding the societies or the associations, it should be said that they had a significant role in the cultural development of the Turkish community in Kosovo because in addition to the folkloric dance branch the participants of the music groups have taken part in large-scale events even in Turkey, representing their own culture. Kinds of Aluş Nuş, [Başkim] Çabrat, Sevim Baki and many others are important contributors to our associations. As an additional branch the literature sections were also very important in these associations not only because they taught the youth Turkish, but also because they have engrafted the children with habits of writing and reading poems. It should also be said that in Peja, which by the way there is no association in Peja today because of the emigration issue as you know that went on from ‘51 to ‘56 which did not only include Turkish people but also Albanians and Bosnians who emigrated massively to Turkey from Kosovo.
Ebru Süleyman: Do you remember that? Did you see people banding together, leaving?
Enver Baki: I have a photograph; I will show it to you… Pristina… This is the photograph, in Pristina train station, thousands of people would come together to say goodbye to their loved ones and relatives leaving to Turkey. It was not even only for one day in a weak, it lasted very long, where every day our people would fill the train wagons and immigrate to Turkey. From a perspective, I can say that in a sense this made us poorer. If we had more people in the community we would have more doctors, engineers, caretakers, teachers and intellectuals being brought up in here. Unfortunately, the immigration issue caused these potentially high numbers to be lower and lower.
Ebru Süleyman: Uncle Enver, do you remember what was the main reason that people were leaving? For example, you know also the people who stayed here, why did they stay?
Enver Baki: Now, in some of the families the siblings would not even be of the same opinion about leaving. I know people like that where one of the brothers wanted to emigrate to Turkey and the other one did not want to go because leaving relatives, being alone is a painful thing. Some people, according to what I have heard from the elderly, went to Turkey because of religious reasons, because they were very religious. However, just as in every place in Balkans there are thousands of mosques that were left from the Ottoman era where we could have easily sustained our religion, particularly if we had larger numbers maybe there would even be more mosques but emigration caused mass movements and changes as well. Now let’s move on to our life in here because, the people who emigrated are in Turkey, which is a homeland to me. The Muslims, Turks have emigrated to Turkey in their most difficult times and Turkey has always opened its door so in a way the emigration waves after the ‘12, in the years ‘22, ‘28, ‘34 and ‘56 in all these years there were mass migration not only from Kosovo but Turkish people leaving all the Balkans.
Ebru Süleyman: And after these were over, let’s say after ‘56 and ‘60s, ‘70s, when the Yugoslav regime was established in here, what kind of a life did you have?
Enver Baki: But people who stayed here, thanks to the societies formed by these associations, our schools and mosques were able to display their presence in here and they have worked hard to solidify their existence here. I have never seen or heard of anyone dying of hunger neither from those who emigrated or who stayed here in these seventy years of life of mine.
Ebru Süleyman: Yes, but I’m asking how was the life here for you, how did the work life and the social life change?
Enver Baki: Well now, every country and territory have their own characteristics. I’m of the opinion that man is just like grass, if there is water and sun then there are satisfactory conditions for him to live. The man is like that, sometimes you drink milk and sometimes you don’t because you are constrained by whatever exists in your surroundings. Now, we are lucky to have schools, associations, and mosques particularly for those ones that are religious. Sure, we are all Muslims and we respect the religion, go to the mosques regularly. These days not only elderly people but also young people are visiting mosques as well.
I would just like to talk about Tan newspaper for a while. As you know, for the Turkish people in Kosovo there were no magazines or newspapers until the year 1969. Only in 1969, based on the decision made by the Kosovo Socialist Union, newspaper Tan was established and its first issue is dated May 1, 1969. Naturally, this enterprise initially had only ten to fifteen employees however, later on this number increased to 40, which included journalists, photo-reporters, drivers and editors. Our paper got regularly published from ‘69 to ‘92. In the first three months, it was issued every 15 days but later when it was equipped with the necessary cadre, it was being published weekly. Moreover, the Turkish community, in order to enrich its cultural life and acting according to its needs started publishing Çevren magazine in 1974 as well.
 Şeyh: Etymologically the fırst use of this word (as Sheik) corresponded to tribal leaders of the pre-Islamic Arabs. In Balkans among the Turkish community the word Şeyh means the leader of the Shia, Sufi or Bektashi religious order.
 Tekke: Or colloquially teçe, is where the activities of the Shia, Sufi or Bektashi religious orders are carried out. Often the shrine of the Sheik of the religious order is called teçe as well.
 Vakf: Also known as Vakıf, is an institution introduced by the Ottoman Empire which was responsible for keeping the records of the Muslim community of the empire and which generally included a Madrasah within its structure as well. Now this institution is transformed to the Islamic Union [Bashkësia Islame].
 Kapicik: Literally means small door in Turkish. These small gates existed between the houses built next to each other, which ensured intimacy, and closeness. The word is also used to refer to easily reached places.
 Bayram: is an Islamic religious festival.
 Tan: Literally means Dawn, is the first newspaper in Turkish language in Kosovo that started its publishing life in May 1, 1969 and closed down in 1992.