Riot control exercises are carried out by Austrian troops inside “Villaggio Italia” near Pec, the headquarters for the Multinational Battle Group-West of KFOR, a NATO-led international peacekeeping force that is responsible for establishing a secure environment in Kosovo. (TerraProject)
Photographs and text for this story were produced by TerraProject Photographers, a collective of documentary photographers founded in Italy in 2006.
Its members are Michele Borzoni, Simone Donati, Pietro Paolini and Rocco Rorandelli.On Feb. 17, Kosovo celebrates the 10th anniversary of its independence from Serbia. Still not recognized by about 100 nations (including Russia, Spain, Greece and China), Kosovo is struggling to exist. Its population has lost hopes of a transparent governance structure, and international missions and military presence are still necessary to strengthen the state’s capacities and control the territory. The country with the youngest population in Europe also has the highest unemployment rate (33 percent), which reaches a global low when it comes to its youth (60 percent). Even today, national identity seems at times more a foreign-imposed undertaking than a true bottom-up acquisition. Kosovo’s six main ethnicities (Albanians, Serbs, Turks, Gorani, Romani and Bosnians) stand close only in the official country flag, represented by golden stars, while in real life they carry on separate lives. For example, most children attend only mono-ethnic classes, where not only the teachers but also the janitors belong to the same ethnic group.
A three-meter-tall statue of former U.S. president Bill Clinton in Pristina, inaugurated Nov. 1, 2009, during a ceremony in which the former president gave a speech on Boulevard Bill Clinton. (TerraProject) A view of the church of Christ the Saviour in Pristina, an unfinished Serbian Orthodox Christian church whose construction began in 1995 on land now contested by the university. (TerraProject) A portrait of Staff Sgt. Bajram Hoxha in “Parku i Lirise” (Freedom Park) in Urosevac, where the “Tango 5″ team from KSF (Kosovo Security Force) is demining the ground of World War II-era weapons. (TerraProject) “Missing,” a monument for the missing Serbian people, outside the Gracanica cultural center. (TerraProject)
Kosovo has just entered the double digits, but it is already plagued with complex, apparently unsolvable issues. Our photo collective, Terra Project, wanted to document some of these issues, leading us to travel to this Balkan country half the size of Massachusetts a number of times over the past 10 years.
In 2010, just two years after its declaration of independence from Serbia, we visited the country in an effort to uncover the truth behind the contamination caused by depleted uranium weapons used during the 1999 war. We returned in 2016 looking for another vile killing agent: land mines. Kosovo is one of the Balkan countries affected by this curse. More than 100 locations along borders, rivers, village roads and forest paths are seeded with unexploded ordnance, and demining, relying on international support, is running behind schedule.
Stanoje Brkic and his wife, Jasmina, in their house in the Serbian village of Velika Hoca. They are wine producers. (TerraProject) Filip, center, a drum teacher from Northern Mitrovica, and Dardan and Aron, students from South Mitrovica, practice at Mitrovica Rock School. The school started in 2008 with a summer school in Skopje by Musicians Without Borders and CBM. In 2011, the school became an NGO and the first mixed band, called the ArTchitects, with both Serbian and Albanian musicians, was created. Today there are seven active mixed bands. (TerraProject) Edmond Selimi, a miner in the Trepca mining complex, is shown 1,900 feet below the surface. Ownership of the Trepca mine is disputed between Serbia and Kosovo. (TerraProject) Miners’ locker rooms at Trepca mines, near Mitrovica-Kosovska Mitrovica. (TerraProject) Afternoon Friday prayer at the main mosque of Obilic, called Omer Ibnl Hatteb. (TerraProject) A new church is being built on the hill above the city of Leposavic in North Kosovo. Leposavic has the highest density of Serbs in Kosovo. (TerraProject) A junkyard run by Romas. The Roma community is one of the minorities living in Kosovo. (TerraProject)
Our collective traveled to Kosovo yet again in 2017. Each return brings back a cozy feeling of home, and at the same time an apprehension for unaddressed problems. In Mitrovica, a city divided between Serbs and Albanians, there is a small music school that is endeavoring to address some of them. For the past 10 years, its teachers have tried to employ the unifying power of music, putting together Albanian and Serbian mixed rock bands. Today, the school is a consolidated entity, and its bands have been invited to international festivals and received awards. A crucial gap remains: being able to perform in the very same city where everything was born. Mitrovica is not ready yet to see Serbs and Albanians together on a stage. When this happens, then and only then will Kosovo begin to exist.
A working bench inside ORS, a company which manufactures prosthetic limbs and provides physiotherapy for disabled people, most of whom have lost limbs to land mines. There is no exact data regarding the number of land mine victims in the country. According to ORS, there are about 100 former UCK soldiers and about 200 civilians, while many others have left the country to seek better treatment. However, according to the United Nations, there are about 10 civilian victims for each wounded soldier. In 2015, ORS provided free prosthetic limbs for about 40 civilians. Their cost is high — from $2,400 to $7,300 — and the pension given by the government to civilian amputees is about $85 a month. (TerraProject) Beqir Murati, 64, is a professor of chemistry of the divided school of Rubovce. The school is divided inside by a wall, separating Serbian and Albanian students. (TerraProject) Toniblair Dajaku, 16, in the village of Rakinic in the municipality of Skenderaj. He was named in honor of former British prime minister Tony Blair, for Blair’s support during the war with the former Yugoslavia. (TerraProject) A view of the Kaaba in Mecca on a photograph mounted in the theater of Allaudin Koranic school of Pristina. (TerraProject)
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