"The creation of ethnically pure territories in regions that for generations have been ethnically mixed is accomplished through conflict, persecution and violence -- what we now generically call 'ethnic cleansing'" - THE HAGUE, Netherlands, AP.
People always say there is silence before the storm. Some 20 years ago, the silence has been broken by cruel ethnical and religious conflicts on the Balkans.The last one of which was the 1998-1999 Kosovo war. The repression of Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian dictator at that time, culminated in a massive ethnic-cleansing campaign in 1999 in which 800,000 Kosovo Albanians were driven from their homes, thousands murdered and went missing.
Initially I’ve heard about Kosovo in 1998 when the war broke out. I was 17 years old and I was living in a town on the Bulgarian border with Macedonia, about 100 km as the crow flies from Pristina. My father was standing right next to me while we watched the KFOR peacekeeping military convoys that were crossing Bulgaria on their way to Kosovo. On this summer day in 1999 I took one of my early pictures -- a KFOR tank. I remember, how hard it was for me at this exact moment back then to imagine or understand the war.
The independence of the former Yugoslav province Kosovo was recognized in 2008 by some 90 countries around the world, excluding ones such as Russia, Georgia and China. Some of them fearing to encourage the separatist movements in their own territories. The responsibility for the province was passed to the international community. On 10 September, 2012 Republic of Kosovo was declared fully independent, when the International Steering Group (ISG)agreed to end the monitoring of the process.
The new country was born, but its territory still remains disputed and divided to ethnically and religiously Kosovo Albanian Muslim south and Serbian Christian Orthodox north. Today, Serbia refuses to recognize its former province, being split between the promise of EU membership and national violent dispute for its territorial integrity, which main issue is northern Kosovo.Lately US and EU officially declared that further change of the borders on the Balkans won’t be made because this could affect six more countries in the region and lead to instability. Despite that the tension in the region is rising once again.
Recently, I travelled extensively through the independent Republic of Kosovo with the intention to see, feel and understand for me the post war situation there. This is where the visual project “Kosovo: The last Balkan storm” was born. With it, I am looking also to find the answer of the everlasting question: “Could the cultural, ethnical and religious differences between two communities be actually their human strength, a path to common peaceful future and not their weakness, which will lead them to repetition of the near past?” In many ways the visual narrative documentation in “Kosovo: The last Balkan storm” is exploring the history and the many unsolved post war problems in Kosovo today, but at the same time it is looking to document the positive side of the human situation and relations there.
The city of Kosovska Mitrovica, which is the symbol of the post-war separation in the new state has a central place in my visual story. The Aftermath Project grant will give me the opportunity and time to create the intimate part of my project by documenting the everyday life of the people from both sides of the ethnically divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica. I intend to visit their homes, hear their stories and explore their memories and hidden fears, and try to give voice to their present dreams. For the continuation of my project I plan to shoot every two weeks of each month in the upcoming 2013. Following this time frame, I am aiming to include visual stories from the four seasons of the year in order to represent the reality and try to create a feeling of presence and immersion in the viewer. In this interval I will also follow some of the most important commemorations and anniversaries for both communities.
This personal project is a step toward better understanding. It is a visual research on what are the origins and consequences of a conflict based on ethnical and religious differences, and what is the future in such a place, in a moment when the peace is not yet secure and tolerance is needed on all sides.