Stories are a powerful trigger for emotional response. They create a participatory and immersive experience for the audience, it resonates with the people and connects them on an emotional level. Having this in mind, Reconciliation and conflict transformation (RCT) team uses storytelling nights to provide space for individuals from Kosovo Albanian, Kosovo Serb, and other communities, to share their stories on how they found a way to communicate, work, and bring to life shared ideas with members of other ethnic or religious communities.
So far, we have organized two storytelling activities and you can read about the first one in People who practice the same profession – Journalists about inter-ethnic cooperation between media workers (hyperlink)
This time around, we gathered in the art gallery Aquarius in North Mitrovica with our storytellers – two female artists, a Kosovo Serb Miljana Dunđerin, and a Kosovo Albanian, Nora Prekazi.
Miljana and Nora spoke about the loss they suffered because of the ‘99 conflict, and which, in one way or the other transcends to all members of society. Both lost their homes and now live in a divided city – Mitrovica.
“We can choose to live in the past, but I personally don’t want that. I feel sorry for what happened to both me and Nora, but I personally decided to move on, to work on myself and make a difference in the community I live in through my passion for art,” said Miljana.
Nora’s message was no different from Miljana’s. Driven by a joint passion for art, she stated she cherished mutual understanding with Kosovo Serb community and wanted to make a difference and contribute to the society she lives in too.
Despite the challenges they face, societal tensions, and fear of being judged by their surroundings, Miljana and Nora found a way to create art and help others express themselves. Since they met, they collaborated on various projects such as poetry nights and poetry debates.
In 2020 they organized the “Zana” fest, with the intent to promote women in art. They urged artists to submit poems in Albanian and Serbian that tackled the gender issues and translated them into both languages.
“I was surprised by some of the feedback I got from some of my Kosovo Albanian acquaintances from Prishtina, and their worry about having my name associated with translations of poems into Serbian Cyrillic alphabet. That just shows the kind of challenges we are still facing and the level of disconnect with the people within and outside of our communities,” said Nora.
That does not stop these two associates and friends from continuing to do what they do.
Nora and Miljana spoke to a mixed audience. Among close to 30 people in the gallery, were people from South and North Mitrovica but also two women from Croatia, who expressed their surprise that events that promote positive reconciliation stories taking place.
“I come from Croatia where the reconciliation process is still ongoing many years after the conflict. Seeing initiatives like this makes me extremely happy and optimistic not only for the situation you live in here but for mine too,” said the guest from Croatia.
This optimism was welcomed, but with the recognition that the reconciliation efforts are not without their challenges, with the time that it takes for it to be achieved being the most difficult.
“Not having enough time in the world to talk and create,” replied Miljana half-jokingly when asked about it.
Yet both artists vouched to continue cooperating and communicating daily. They also announced their next project – the continuation of the “Zana” festival when they plan to gather women poets from Roma, Bosniak, and Gorani communities and celebrate Kosovo women and their unity in diversity.
Their final message to the audience included words of encouragement – support divided communities to reconnect in any aspect they are passionate about and keep your intentions pure or you will not be able to achieve this goal.
Storytelling activity is an ongoing initiative with the goal to enable space for generating positive reconciliation messages on an individual level and sharing them with the wider audience in Kosovo. The activity gathers individuals who have positive reconciliation examples and want to share them to inspire a wider audience to connect with their neighboring communities.
RCT activity is implemented by CBM (Community Building Mitrovica) and partners from NSI (New Social Initiative) and YIHR (Youth Initiative for Human Rights) Kosovo and supported by the American people through USAID (United States Agency for International Development) in Kosovo.