The article I am about to write is based on my personal experience and thoughts. Therefore, I wouldn’t like to be accused over facts or if you name it, myths, either.
I consider myself a lucky 21 year old guy, which is trying to find a safe path in life and wants to be a positive factor in the society he lives in. I am a third year student, studying Business and Administration in South East European University.
My journey abroad started last year in September when I was lucky enough to gain a scholarship through my faculty to study the last year as an exchange student in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I hadn’t had any big knowledge about that country except that we once were a single country under the name of Yugoslavia, which, to most of the young citizens in my country, is related to the last war which tear us apart, being the last country along with Serbia to tear apart from that mighty a name that still affects the conscience of young citizens of my country kind of negatively.
As for the first time going to live for a whole year in the cold people’s land, it was a bit of an idea that made my body shiver with the warm breeze of the afternoon. However, it was great news to my family. Pride, joy and all of the other comforting feelings which made me feel happy about being an Albanian student from Kosovo, gainer of the scholarship, among five other Macedonian students. Finally, a change in life I was expecting. As all of the other countries in the world that I happened to travel during the last year, Slovenia offered me a quite unique experience. Ljubljana, to me, is a sweet little town with so many pretty architecture objects. It also has some independent, urban nightlife in an ex-squat area filled with millions of graffiti’s, sculptures and a rusty playground around the tree in the middle of Metelkova, the ex-squat. There I met people from all over the world, and became friends, exchanged social network profiles and listen to different kind of music from the mainstream Balkan hits to Tom Waits’ old scratchy voice or Hindu trashy folk music.
The programme in the FELU was likewise, very culturally rich. Names like Kazakhstan, South Korea, Australia, Iceland and Spain where the few of my fellow students where coming from. Slovenia didn’t turn out to be so cold after all. Or maybe I happened to be in a good year, as the Slovenian weather forecast scientists may call it. Since I was in EU I could travel freely, finally. Every city of every EU and non-EU country that I visited had something completely new for me to offer. Stuttgart, Venice, Zagreb, Novi Sad. New names of cities, different faces and another cute, small bookshop by the river where some the things I witnessed that made me forget the nostalgia about my hometown.
Anyway, the ‘EU fairytale’ had an end. The year finished and I was travelling back in time and place. I came back home with a big baggage of new experiences, a few new clothes, books and some gifts for my family and friends.
Being again in the streets I spent the most of my life on feels strange. I witnessed I was not the only one who changed, my country and its citizens have also changed starting from my friends and family. A new job, a sold car, or a new marriage where some of the stories I have been hearing since my time back in Kosovo. Everyone I know or don’t, trying to find a way to move on with the different seasons. However, travelling to other countries to meet people from the other sides of the same story is still a feeling i can’t get rid of since it helps me reveal my own story. I am eager for more and more talks, confrontations and laughter with more people. Therefore, with all my doubts about finishing the last exams back in my faculty, staying home or going out for a beer I hadn’t found why my past was such a big burden to me. I thought things should be back in their right place since I didn’t notice a lot of sad stories back in my one year journey. But, as the wise monkey tells the grown lion, in Lion King (my favourite cartoon as a kid): “you either learn from past or you run from it.”
These ideas put me on another quest, this time to reveal the past of the mighty Yugoslavia, and the ways the provoking feelings it provokes on me affect me and my country. This time I got accepted for a five days seminar called “Youth Reconciliation Ambassadors” which was held in September. There I met young -future ‘reconciliation ambassadors’ from Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia. During those five days, we went to see different legal institutions such as the Parliament of Serbia, hang out by the castle of the city and debated on topics that provoked us all to react and talk. I got the chance to see another side of the same story. Meeting with random people in the streets of Beograd, or the politicians was all the same as being in one of the other cities of Balkan. I shared good and bad stories with them about how we feel about our countries and ourselves. ’ There are good and bad things happening everywhere at this time and place as well’- I recall an old lady in the streets of Belgrade talking to me on the street while I, with my little understanding of her words tried to read in between her lines.
Being back home now after all these experiences is a bit tiring but yet a comforting feeling. I feel like the people of my generation should feel eager to face their own past in order to grow and learn from it. All the people of the countries that have had or are experiencing conflicts between and all the people living in those countries have similar stories. Therefore, in order for us, the younger generations, to be able to create a better world or a society that has higher values and better moral standards, we should be able to face our own past, and create a brighter future.