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Center for Balkan Development
2 CLOCK TOWER PLACE #510
MAYNARD, MA 02118
TEL : 978-461-0909
FAX: 978-461-2552
info@friendsofbosnia.org
www.friendsofbosnia.org


Press Release/Action Alert/E-mail Notice
May 22, 2000

For immediate release: July 31

Friends of Bosnia Team Return from Kosovo

Complete work on photodocumentary project and begin work on reconstruction project of important cultural monuments damaged by Serbs

BOSTON--Friends of Bosnia Director Glenn Ruga returned from Kosovo last week after completing work begun earlier this year on a photodocumentary about the war, reconstruction, and reconciliation. He was accompanied by Ashfield photographer Frank Ward and Boston human rights activist Barbara Ayotte. Friends of Bosnia (FOB) plans to complete the Reconstructing Kosovo photodocumentary by early fall and present the exhibit at college campuses, public libraries, and art galleries across the U.S.

Ruga, Ward and Ayotte interviewed Kosovar Albanian doctors who worked in Kosovo during the war and heard their accounts of abuse and, in one case, near death by Serb paramilitaries. One doctor who worked in a field hospital told of how he operated on patients with a fork and knife in a cave–surrounded by Serb soldiers. They also spoke to survivors of the January 1999 Racak massacre that galvanized the west against the Milosevic regime. Farmers, shop keepers, former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), and ordinary citizens were also interviewed about their perspective on the current situation and the future.

The group spent a day in Serb-controlled north Mitrovica and spoke to Serb civilians--some moderate, some hardliners�who have a very different vision of the future for the region and a diametrically opposed view of history. One young Serb from the town of Zvecan commented that he was a royalist and thought that the return of the Serbian monarch Prince Alexander was the solution to their problems. Many Serbs interviewed outrightly denied that Serb forces committed any war crimes before or during the war. They also expressed indignation that prior to the war, Albanians in Kosovo�-a province of Serbia�-would not go along with Serbian law outlawing the Albanian language in schools. Everyone agreed that the long-term peace was dependent on economic growth.

The goals of the photodocumentary�modeled on a similar 1996 photodocumentary exhibit Ruga, Ward, and Ayotte produced after several trips to Bosnia�(www.friendsofbosnia.org/zones) is to explore how people living in Kosovo were affected by Serbian occupation, how Albanians and Serbs are affected by the tenuous peace now enforced by NATO troops and the UN civil administration, and what their vision of the future is.

Ruga also began the groundwork for a multi-year project to reconstruct three historically significant buildings in Kosovo that were badly damaged by Serb forces during last year's war. Friends of Bosnia, in collaboration with the Cambridge-based Kosovo Cultural Heritage Project (KCHP) recently received a grant from the Packard Humanities Institute for this project.

The KCHP’s Cambridge-based experts in architectural restoration–Andras Riedlmayer and Andrew Herscher will direct the reconstruction of these buildings under the supervision of the Kosovo Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments in Pristina. The project also will involve students and faculty of the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Pristina and other local bodies involved in cultural heritage in Kosovo.

The three buildings to be restored are the Kulla of Zenel Bey in Pec/Peja (19th century), the Kulla of the Kosovo Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments in Decani (19th century), and the Mosque of Kel Hasan Aga in Rogovo/Rogova (16th century.)

Kullas, stone mansions typical of traditional Albanian residential architecture of this region, suffered tremendous damage during the recent conflict and are an endangered architectural type. Kosovo's mosques, one third of which were destroyed or damaged in the war, also represent an endangered heritage of indigenous European Islamic architecture.

Ruga and the FOB team also toured the prosthetics clinic at the Pristina Hospital and observed dozens of war victims being fitted with artificial limbs. FOB will be sending a shipment of donated prosthetics and other medical supplies to the clinic and an ultrasound machine to the surgery department later this fall. This will replace a previously announced effort to supply the hospital in Gllogovc. FOB and its representative in Kosovo have been unable to maintain contact with the Gllogovc hospital director.

 

Friends of Bosnia is one of the oldest grass roots organizations in the U.S. working exclusively to increase awareness about the Balkans and supporting efforts for a long-term and just peace. Beginning in February 1993–ten months after the outbreak of war in Bosnia–Friends of Bosnia started a campaign to educate the American public about the genocide being committed against the people of Bosnia. By organizing speaker series, conferences, rallies and humanitarian aid drives, Friends of Bosnia continues to be at the forefront of the national effort to bring informed awareness to the issues generated by the wars in the Balkans.