There are those boundaries that separate us. Drawn on a map. They separate one country from another. But there are also those boundaries we make ourselves. The ones that are a matter of our choice.
In the countries of former Yugoslavia, there is an incredible need for being different. And due to the history of war, that’s a completely understandable need. But to what extent do we take this? To what extent do you take it?
I visited Kosovo for the first time in 2009. I stayed there for 6 days. When I returned home, caught up on sleep and gathered my impressions, I realized that everything I had heard for years was a lie. That’s when I decided to not listen to others anymore. But to only believe in what I see. I’m building my opinion for years now. And every time I go to Kosovo, I realize something new.
When I first heard that a boy from Kosovo can’t sit down and have a coffee with me because I’m a Serb, I was surprised. He perceives me as a member of a nation that has caused a lot of harm to him and people close to him. And there are many people who feel this way. But when it is okay to stop feeling hostile towards someone just because they belong to another nationality? How many years should pass? Five, ten, fifty, a hundred? If we don’t change together with the times in which we live, that time will never come. I have no time to wait for those changes. I have to make these changes and live them.
In no way do I think that the past should be swept under the carpet. We have to face crimes and we must remember the victims. But how will someone who does not want to communicate with me realize that I know of the crimes in Podujevo, Suvareka, Strpce, Peja...
A part of my family lives in Croatia. During the war, the Serbian army killed my relatives who are Croats, and the Croatian army killed my relatives who are Serbs. Whom should I hate?
That’s why I go back to the question of where are the boundaries? Is it ok to only sometimes have coffee with someone from Prishtina/Belgrade, or is it maybe also allowed to fall in love with someone who belongs to “another” nationality. We must realize that we are the ones who set and remove these boundaries. And nobody will move them for us, if we don’t move them ourselves.
Luckily, I know people who everyday push their boundaries. And together with them I’m moving mine too. There are young people who don’t put me in the category of a “Serb” and for them I’m just Anita.
In Prishtina, I’ll always feel welcome even though nobody wants to have coffee with me. Because there are no boundaries between people. There’s only us.
The article was originally written in Serbian.
Illustration: Aernout Overbeeke
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