Young people find reconciliation and hope in a new season for Kosovo

Speeches Shim

Friday, June 10, 2022
Youngsters explore Kosovo’s history
Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) for USAID

On a brisk day in early April, a time of year when Kosovo straddles the seasons of winter and spring, 24 young Kosovo Albanians and Serbs visited several memorials commemorating the 1999 war.  Together they contemplated the weight of Kosovo’s complicated history, and reflected on their own thoughts and feelings.  While difficult, for most of the participants, it was the first time they had ever meaningfully shared experiences and feelings about the realities of the conflict and its enduring grip on the country with peers from different ethnic communities .   

The visit was part of a six-day, USAID-supported youth exchange program organized and implemented by the local nonprofit Youth Initiative for Human Rights-Kosovo.  In addition to visiting memorials, the group participated in professionally facilitated workshops. Through interactive activities, they exchanged ideas, experiences and opinions, finding common ground, mutual understanding, and even friendship.  

Blend Bllaca, a Kosovo-Albanian, said that when the program began, he felt alone and afraid but that quickly changed.  The next day, Blend met Anđelija, a Kosovo-Serb, and they immediately found a connection.  “I am very happy that after many stereotypes [and] prejudices between ethnicities I gained a close friend like her.”  

One workshop taught the participants how to use art forms like video production, photography, and theater as mediums for facilitating intercultural dialogue, peace, and reconciliation.  Anđelija made a short movie about misunderstandings that arise between young people from different ethnicities in Kosovo because they do not speak each other's languages.  She explained, “It was so interesting because we learned different types of perspectives [as a result of the] recording.” 

When the exchange program ended, the participants walked away with new ideas, new connections, and new hope, reflecting all of Kosovo’s possibilities and the spring season to come.

Last updated: June 24, 2022

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