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
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 cavesurrounded 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 KCHPs Cambridge-based experts in architectural restorationAndras
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
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 1993ten months after the outbreak of war in BosniaFriends
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.