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Center for Balkan

Tel: 978-461-0909
Fax: 978-461-2552
[email protected]

Volume 7, Number 1 -- December 2000
Return to FOB Newsletter Directory

Friends of Bosnia Launches Major New Initiative: Outreach Bosnia
Chris Bragdon from Ithaca, NY directs project

Chris Bragdon with Jennifer Johnson from the U.S. Embassy surveying damage to homes of Bosniaks returning to Janja.

Friends of Bosnia is launching a major new initiative in eastern Bosnia, Outreach Bosnia, to help returning refugees and long-time residents rebuild their communities five years after the end of the war. Chris Bragdon from Ithaca, NY, is directing this project and has already achieved significant success both with fundraising and implementing the program

Chris has traveled to Tuzla independently since 1996 to provide aid and support. This past spring, Chris joined FOB to implement these projects. He has worked closely for many years with the Forum of Tuzla Citizens, an organization deeply committed to a multiethnic Bosnia. The mayor of Tuzla, Selim Beslagic, is internationally renowned for his commitment to a multiethnic society and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. Prior to the war in 1992, Tuzla was the only municipality that did not elect a nationalist party to power.

The Forum of Tuzla Citizens will be our local partner organization for all three Outreach Bosnia projects.

Urban Renewal Empowerment Project

Volunteers from Tuzla’s youth organization restore the Tuzla Central Park with materials provided by Friends of Bosnia.

Community organizations will have the opportunity to earn material aid while being of service to their community. We will restore Tuzla’s central park using extensive volunteer labor and distribute material aid to qualifying local organizations. For example, if volunteers from the Student Internet Club at the Electrical Engineering College work on cleaning the park in Tuzla, they can qualify for computer software. If teenagers from the local orphanage volunteer, they can earn credit for a new basketball net. This project is designed to create an immediate tangible benefit for all of Tuzla’s citizens and to build a collective sense of accomplishment. All participants will earn their reward through a local project administered by Bosnians from the Forum of Tuzla Citizens.

Chris has already implemented phase I of this project by enabling the repair of benches in the Tuzla city park this past summer, and we now have $7,000 allocated for a renewal project in spring 2001.

Educational and Business Initiatives in Information Technology

Student at Tuzla’s Center for Information Technology with software manual provided by Friends of Bosnia.

This project enables Tuzla’s Center for Information Technology (C.I.T.) to become an independent internet service provider, in competition with the expensive government service, generating a monthly income from private customers. Simultaneously, they will be able to provide free internet service to all of their students. Friends of Bosnia has already secured $1,500 in funding for a router which we have advanced to C.I.T. In return, C.I.T. will help create a web site for Outreach Bosnia. They can also earn additional credit by providing volunteers to the Urban Renewal Empowerment Project.

This past summer, FOB also brought $4,800 worth of software and software manuals to C.I.T.

Rapid Response Fund: confronting violence against minority populations

On July 24, 2000, in Janja, Bosnia, Serb mobs attacked 62 homes of the recently-returned minority Muslim population. Three homes were burnt down. The rest had almost all of their windows broken. One month later, Friends of Bosnia with our partner Forum for Tuzla Citizens (FTC), and a local Serbian organization, were the first to start repairs to these homes. Together we repaired all of the

Homes damaged in eastern Bosnia in July 2000 being repaired with funds provided by Friends of Bosnia.

windows on 33 homes (FTC repaired 9 homes, FOB 16). The Rapid Response Fund is dedicated to repairing homes of minority populations that have suffered politically motivated attacks. It would be designed to achieve two ends: 1) send a clear message that violence against minorities will not achieve its objective and 2) provide immediate moral support in the form of actions to beleaguered minority communities. To date, Outreach Bosnia and the local Serbian organization are the only ones to provide material aid to Janja’s Muslim population. This shows there is a compelling need for organizations such as ours to rapidly respond to organized violence against minority populations.


Reconstructing Kosovo
Debuts in Northampton

Photograph of KFOR soldier protecting an Orthodox church in Silovo featured in Reconstucting Kosovo.

Reconstructing Kosovo opened to a packed audience at the Center for the Arts in Northampton, Mass., on October 20. Drawing on photographs and interviews from three trips to Macedonia and Kosovo between April 1999 and July 2000, the exhibit tells the story of war, reconstruction and reconciliation through the eyes of Kosovars and international staff in the region. Photographs are by FOB director Glenn Ruga and Frank Ward with text by Barbara Ayotte. The same team completed a documentary on Bosnia four years earlier titled, Zones of Separation: The Struggle for a Multiethnic Bosnia.

Beginning with the documentation of the forced expulsion of nearly a million Kosovars in April 1999, when the NATO air war began, Ruga photographed refugees at the infamous Blace "no-mans-land" between Kosovo and Macedonia and at refugee camps set up by NATO, the Macedonian government, and international NGOs (See November 1999 FOB Briefs.)

Ruga and Ward returned to the region in the freezing winter of January 2000 where they documented the heroic efforts of Kosovars struggling with their newly won autonomy, but lacking the infrastructure that was largely destroyed or damaged during the war. Roads were covered with thick ice. When cleared, they had deep pot holes a small car could disappear in. Two aging power plants were providing heat and electricity, at best only a few hours a day. Often days would go by without either. Schools were only open a few hours a day because of lack of heat. Many Kosovar professionals who had been fired from their jobs ten years ago when Slobodan Milosevic began a reign of terror, returned to their offices for the first time–stoically attending to their duties. Worst off were tens of thousands of families living in roofless homes, without heat, throughout the winter.

The documentary exhibit tells the stories of individuals such as Fejaz Drancoli, director of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments, and his monumental efforts to catalog and plan the restoration of hundreds of historic monuments destroyed by Serbs during the war. Fejaz would love to visit one of the most important monuments in Kosovo that he has visited many times in the past, the Patriarchate of Pec. Because it is a Serb monument, the KFOR troops will not allow him–a Muslim Albanian–to enter.

The group also interviewed two teenage sisters, Hana and Fortuna, who stayed in Kosovo throughout the war and are now struggling both with the traumatic events they witnessed and envisioning their futures in a new Kosovo.

The last trip to the region was in July 2000, when the team was hosted by Dr. Luan Jaha, a vascular surgeon at the Pristina Hospital. (See accompanying article by Barbara Ayotte for an in-depth account of this trip.)

After its Northampton debut, Reconstrucing Kosovo traveled to Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut, and then to Brandeis University to accompany a workshop by the Kosovo Commission (headed by Richard Goldstone) titled, "Intervention and Prevention: The Lessons of Kosovo." In the spring of 2001, it will travel to Tufts University to coincide with a symposium on race and ethnicity. Later in the spring it will go to Dartmouth College hosted by the War and Peace Studies Program.

Friends of Bosnia is seeking other venues for this exhibit. If you are interested in finding out more about it, visit our website at www.friendsofbosnia.org/kosovo or call us at 978-461-0909.

FOB Briefs

Friends of Bosnia sends $25,000 worth of medical supplies to Kosovo

Lirije Makolli gives us a tour of the Prosthetics Clinic at the Pristina Hospital.

After many months of collecting medical supplies from the greater Boston area, Friends of Bosnia sent two pallets of prosthetic limbs and general surgical supplies to the Prosthetics Clinic at the Pristina Hospital in Kosovo.

This past summer in Pristina while working on Reconstructing Kosovo, (see article on page 1.) we visited the hospital numerous times. On our last day we stopped at the Prosthetics Clinic and met with the director of the clinic, Lulzin Geci, and his assistant, Lirije Makolli, who gave us a tour.

The clinic is funded by Handicap International based in France, although all of the staff is local. As a result of the war itself, and the many landmine injuries following the war, the clinic is operating full time at near capacity, but with limited resources. Similar to most other medical facilities throughout Kosovo, most of the equipment was pillaged by the Serbs prior to leaving the province at the end of the war.

We thank the following individuals and organizations who helped with this project.

The Clipper Ship Foundation
Dr. John Pastore
Barbara and Daniel Palant
Boston Artificial Limb Company
Puritan Press
Edward Bartzak
June Judson
Doug Farber
Mimoza Meholli
Argjent Kepuska

“Requiem Pour Srebrenica” premieres in Northampton

More than five years after the tragic events at Srebrenica, the massacre is finally entering the realm of serious cultural discourse. While numerous factual books have already been written about the fall of Srebrenica, (such as End Game: The Fall of Srebrenica by David Rohde) this is the first serious attempt to present the issues in an artistic form.

Requiem Pour Srebrenica, directed by Olivier Py from France and written in collaboration with Phillipe Gilbert, is a stark and stunning presentation of the failure of the western powers to prevent the impending massacre. Using sparse industrial props, three women retell and re-enact the outlandish failures of western diplomats including French President François Mitterand, NATO commander Bernard Janvier, and UN civilian official Yasushi Akashi. The few heroes in the play are UN Commander Philipe Morillon, who stood with the residents of Srebrenica in 1993 and brought their plight to the world stage. The piece opens with Tadeusz Mazowiecki, UN special envoy for human rights, resigning after the massacre due to the inconceivable hypocrisy within the international community.

Requiem was presented in its American debut in Northampton by the Massachusetts International Festival for the Arts on November 2 and 3, before traveling to Boston, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and to Los Angeles.

Friends of Bosnia received $1 from each ticket sale in Massachusetts to support our work in helping returning refugees to eastern Bosnia.

Dolls for Peace and Tolerance

Bonnie Miller (top row, second from right) delivering dolls to day center in Tuzla for mentally retarded children.

Join Friends of Bosnia in supporting this unique project to teach Bosnia’s children the long history of multiculturalism in their country and to remove the seeds of hatred that could one day be manipulated into another war.

The dollmakers, ranging in age from 20-55, create sets of four dolls representing the four major ethnic groups in Bosnia. Emina, the Bosniak (Muslim) doll, Ana, the Croat doll, Mara, the Serb doll, and Hana, the Jewish doll are packaged together, dressed in their native 19th century costumes. The set comes with a cassette tape with traditional music celebrating Bosnia’s multi-cultural society. The dollmakers are Muslim, Serb, and Croat. Some were displaced from their homes by the war. Most are widowed or the wives of men who are unable to work. They are mothers and are their families’ sole support.

With your $50 donation, FOB can deliver a set of Dolls for Peace and Tolerance to a school in Bosnia. The dolls will be delivered by Bonnie Miller who is presently working with schools and orphanages throughout Bosnia. Her husband, Thomas Miller, is the U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia.

Please contact Friends of Bosnia if you are interested in learning more about this project or want to make a donation to this effort. 978-461-0909 or [email protected]

New Board Members

Friends of Bosnia is pleased to have two new Board members join us this year.

Veton Kepuska, from Kosovo, lives in Newton, Mass. with his wife and two children and is a scientist at Speechworks in Boston. He has a Post-Doctoral Degree from the Swiss-Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich. Veton was very active during the Kosovo war in helping to collect humanitarian aid and now continues to assist Friends of Bosnia with our humanitarian and educational efforts. Veton’s brother, Argjent, lives in Pristina and is FOB’s main liaison in Kosovo.

Sheri Fink, M.D. Ph.D., co-founded Students Against Genocide (SAGE) while she was a medical student at Stanford University. She worked in the Balkans as a human rights researcher for Physicians for Human Rights. She is currently writing a book about the experiences of Bosnian physicians during the war and is a resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Special fundraising effort to send an ultrasound machine to Kosovo

We received a special equest for an ultrasound machine from Dr. Luan Jaha, a vascular surgeon at the hospital. This machine will help the hospital staff with diagnostics and greatly improve the outcomes of all types of surgery. During the course of the next year we hope to raise $6000 to purchase a used machine and ship it to Pristina. Please contact us if you would like to make a special contribution for this project.

Outreach Bosnia Director Returns from Eastern Bosnia

By Chris Bragdon

Chris Bragdon, director of FOB's Outreach Bosnia, delivers software to Edin Osmanbegovic, a war veteran and leading specialist in information technology in Tuzla.

In late August this past summer I waited by the road in central Tuzla for my two Bosnian friends to take me on my fourth trip into Republika Srpska, the Serb dominated half of Bosnia. I had traveled by car into Republika Srpska only once prior to this year and that was by mistake. In 1996, at a time when there were still pitched battles and civilians were being murdered in public, I mistakenly drove into the township of Pale outside of Sarajevo in my rented car. I thought I was still in the Federation, but as I sat at a coffee bar doing my best to have a friendly chat in broken Bosnian with the waitress, I looked over her head to see a picture of one of the most wanted war criminals in the entire Balkans, Radovan Karadzic. I asked her where I was and she said Pale. It sent a shiver down my spine and made me a bit concerned for my safety. I promptly said good-bye to the kind woman and kept my eyes on the ceiling as I walked past the men with their camouflaged uniforms and semi-automatic pistols. Yet, now having taken four trips to Republika Srpska, I think I was actually over-reacting during that mishap to Pale. My trips to Republika Srpska, including one to Srebrenica, have confirmed that even in the worst of times the vast majority of people are just living normal lives. And, if you greet people with respect and a sense of normalcy, they respond in kind.

The Road to Koraj

Bato and Tanja arrived at the Tuzla roadside and we headed off for Koraj in Republika Srpska. I had asked them to take me to a community where there would be returning refugees who could most benefit from building supplies to be provided by Friends of Bosnia. I needed to find a community that would still be rebuilding in the years to come, and Bato recommended Koraj.

After a half-hour drive that included passing through two Russian military check points, we arrived in Koraj. We drove through a large crowd of Serbian refugees gathering at a Sunday market adjacent to a bombed out mosque. The base of the mosque’s minaret and the crumbling walls are still relatively intact. I wanted to stop and take a picture but Bato was not at all inclined to do so. Bato is Muslim. Tanja is Serbian. In Tuzla that is a non-issue which makes their marriage perfectly normal. But in Koraj, there is tension between the returning Muslims and the Serbian refugees. So we drove a hundred meters beyond the gathering and Bato and Tanja took me to a monument commemorating Partisans who died in WWII. Bato’s last name appeared often as he pointed out cousins, uncles, and great-uncles. He told me that twice Koraj was completely emptied of its residents in WWII. While I found that disturbing, it gave me hope knowing that in addition to its long multi-cultural past, Bosnia has a history of resurrection after even the most devastating of times.

While Tanja and Bato started speaking among themselves, I snuck off to get my picture of the ruined mosque. I figured that I had survived Srebrenica a week before walking alone among the Serbian refugees there. While I showed respect and kindness, the Serbian refugees in Srebrenica, mostly from Sarajevo, greeted me with warmth and offers of coffee. It is through this willingness to trust that I have been able to learn the most about the politics and culture of Bosnia. I thought I could elicit the same response from this Koraj gathering, but I was concerned about taking a picture of the mosque since all would know what that wreckage is a monument to. I walked calmly into the crowd and said to a person in my broken Bosnian, "I am learning Serbian but I do not speak very well. Will you take a picture of me?" Of course, I did not say it that well but he understood and appreciated my attempt to speak his language. He was very friendly. Shook my hand. And took a picture. The mosque was behind me.

I turned to see Bato walking towards me. He seemed to have a sense of humor about things but it was apparent it was time to leave. I quickly said good-bye, and we walked back to the car somewhat deliberately.

Broken Dreams and Homes

Soon we arrived at the hamlet Bato had in mind for our rebuilding effort. There was not much left. Most of the houses were destroyed. A few houses were completely repaired, but most of the families that had returned were living in a single room or basement salvaged from the ruins of their former homes. Others had built tiny one room houses to live in as they began the long rebuilding effort. Apparently they are willing to risk and struggle for the chance to rebuild their lives on the only land they know as home.

A bombed out shell is all that is left of this woman’s home in Koraj.

While Bato and Tanja walked ahead, one particular house caught my eye. I could not see any habitable part of the house, yet people were apparently living there. I approached the "house" and met an elderly woman. Through my broken Bosnian, I learned that the woman was in her sixties and that she was living in a corner of the downstairs area with her son, daughter-in-law, and their three children. It had no doors, no windows, just blankets and bricks stacked in the openings. I asked her if I could take her picture. She stood in what would have been a doorway. Moments after the picture, she began to cry. I held her hand. She began speaking quickly. I did not really understand what she was saying but I think she was saying that she was doing all she could. I picked up a few words referring to the children. Her tears increased. I said in Bosnian–I think correctly–"I do not understand words, but I understand sorrow." We both stood there. There was nothing we could really say to each other. We just stood there holding hands. After a while, the moment passed and I said good-bye.

As I walked along the road with rubble on each side, I thought about what motivates one to contribute their time and money to humanitarian work. What motivates us to help people we may never meet again or never meet in the first place? I looked at the people rebuilding their lives in the midst of such ruin. I looked within myself and thought of the twisted corpses of dreams that had died in me along the way. The twisted ruins about me seemed to be very much a part of the journey that many of us take. And I appreciated even more how we are indeed enriching ourselves as we help others. We are participating in the resurrection, in the return of the human spirit to mend, heal, and rebuild.

As I thought about this, I thought about the $100 bill in my pocket. It was for my travel expenses. I had intended to rent a car for my return trip to Sarajevo but I knew there was only one thing that made sense.

We returned to the woman’s house and Tanja translated my words as I said to the elderly woman, "A few years ago, I saw a woman sitting on the side of the street in Tuzla selling pumpkin seeds from a cardboard box. I don’t know what it was about this woman but something about her touched my heart. I went back to America and raised some money for her. I returned and bought her a folding table and some merchandise to sell. She had two children and a sick husband and I hoped that this would help provide for her family. The next year, I saw the husband, but I avoided him. I did not want to see him because I did not want to experience the pain of telling him there was nothing more I could do." As Tanja continued to translate, I explained, "I don’t know what it is, but there is something about you that has touched my heart. I am going to give you all the money I have in my pocket." I took the $100 bill out and as I handed it to her I said, "As I give this to you, all I feel is pain that there is nothing more that I can do."

Tanja explained to her how much money that was and how many German marks she should get when she exchanged it. Tanja took a picture of the woman and me. In the picture, we both look rather sad though Tanja and Bato told me how grateful she was. That money is a fortune to her family. With it, they will be able to buy flour and oils, and, along with the vegetables from their garden, it will go a long way towards helping them make it through the winter.

What I did not tell her is the end of the story about the woman and her husband in Tuzla. The husband finally did encounter me. I was sitting at a cafe when the husband appeared behind me. He was very eager to meet me. My Bosnian friend translated as the man explained to me that his wife now had a job and that he was now receiving government benefits. The roadside business was the only thing they had for a year and a half. After all my dread about speaking with him, all he wanted to do was thank me.

That is how that story ended. I hope that the story for Bosnia ends with the country being at peace and a full member of the European Community. And, I hope that the woman living in the wreckage in Koraj has a story that includes the time a group of Americans came with building supplies to help rebuild homes and re-affirm that we do care about each other and that together we can participate in the triumph of the human spirit.

New Book on Srebrenica Survivors Living in the United States

After the Fall
Srebrenica Survivors in St. Louis

Text and interviews by Patrick McCarthy Photographs by Tom Maday
Foreword by David Rohde

Friends of Bosnia is pleased to announce the publication of a new book, After the Fall, by St. Louis Balkan activist Patrick McCarthy and photographer Tom Maday.

As many as 25,000 Bosnian refugees – approximately 500 of them survivors of Srebrenica – have come to settle in St. Louis. After the Fall documents the tragedy of Srebrenica and its effects on the lives of one extended family in St. Louis. After the Fall presents the sequence of events that led to the siege of Srebrenica, the genocide that followed, the refugees’ journey to St. Louis, and the ongoing efforts of thousands of survivors to build new lives while awaiting word of loved ones still reported as "missing."

156 pages
100 photographs
To order online: www.afterthefall.org
Toll-free 1-800-828-1894
By e-mail: [email protected]

Giving Voice to the Survivors

FOB Documents Hopes and Fears for the Future in Kosovo

By Barbara Ayotte

The small handwritten sign said William Walker Street. It was named after the OSCE leader who had led a monitoring mission in Kosovo in 1998-1999. We drove down the dirt road past destroyed houses, haystacks, children playing, and cattle roaming the fields. Elderly Albanian men, wearing the traditional white cap (plis), were gathered near the mosque, awaiting the call to prayer. We were in Racak. The village where the worst massacre of the conflict had taken place that served as a wake up call to the international community to take action in Kosovo. Over 50 men, women and children were killed here on the morning of January 15, 1999 by Serb paramilitary forces. We climbed up the hillside where large bags of pine needles and plastic flowers placed in front of headstones marked the resting place of the victims. It was very still on this warm summer day and the hills were green and fertile. It was hard to imagine the hell it was here one and a half years ago.

Back at the mosque, Hasan Bilalli, 75, invited us to come visit his home. We sat and talked to him in the one room that had been rebuilt, a Turkish sitting room with beautiful woven carpets. His family served us coffee and a special locally blended tea. Bilalli was outraged that war criminals responsible for the massacre in Racak still roamed free. He knew their names and where they lived. His son, Afet, told us about his experiences as a Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander trying to defend the town. He suffered six gunshot wounds that day. Eleven of his relatives were killed. "When I see a war criminal walking freely–laughing and drinking–the only thing you have in mind is revenge–it is something you can’t resist," he said. We felt guilty knowing that our own country had failed to prevent the nightmare of Racak, powerlessness because we could not fulfill their demands for arresting war criminals, and empathy for trying to understand their future. Many times the conversations flowed effortlessly and the sense of place was lost. We could have been sitting in anyone’s living room, drinking tea, but this was Racak, and the wounds were very deep. It was the most powerful moment of the trip.

Hasan Bilalli and his grand daughter in their home in Racak.


FOB director and photographer Glenn Ruga, photographer Frank Ward and I traveled to Kosovo in July 2000 to continue to document post-war Kosovo and interview survivors on their experiences and thoughts about the future of the province. Ruga had visited Macedonia shortly after the mass exodus of refugees out of Kosovo in the spring of 1999 and he and Ward spent time in Kosovo in the winter of 2000. All of these images and stories make up Reconstructing Kosovo (see page 1). We spent hours listening and talking to Kosovars in their living rooms, yards, offices or in cafes. We found gratitude to the US and NATO troops and President Clinton, stark evidence of the tension and division between Serbs and Albanians as Serb communities and religious monuments stood protected from vengeful Albanians in the shadows of KFOR tanks and barbed wire, the desire for an independent Kosovo, patriotic monuments built to honor fallen KLA leaders, and an international presence (UNMIK and KFOR) struggling to maintain order with limited success. Predominantly, we found an overwhelming need by Albanians to receive a formal apology from Serbs for the atrocities committed during the war before there could be any degree of normal relations in the province.

Fortuna and Hana talk about their experiences in Pristina during the war.

Our host, Dr. Luan Jaha, a surgeon at Pristina Hospital and an ardent human rights activist before and during the war, introduced us to physicians in Pristina and Peja who were targeted by Serbs during the war merely for delivering health care and forced to leave their homes at gunpoint. Other doctors operated with only a fork and knife in a cave as they tended to wounded KLA soldiers. Still others were struggling to keep their jobs now because the UN had put the KLA party in charge of the health care system and they didn’t meet party expectations. Dr. Bosa Lleshi, a Bosnian Serb who was married to an Albanian, described how her whole life had been marked by ethnic division and she never seemed to be on the right side. "My story is Kosovo. All my life I was strong in my desire to show that mixed marriages are good ones," she said.

In Mitrovica, the ethnic tensions were palpable. Under UN escort, we drove over the bridge in this city divided by the Ibar River, with Serbs in the north and Albanians in the south. Here, the war did not seem over. Milosevic’s henchmen sat guarding the bridge in the Dolce Vita café in the north side. We tried to remember to speak only Serbian words here. We passed the smoke-spewing towers of the Trepca lead smelter (closed two weeks later for environmentally unsafe emissions of lead) and arrived in Zvecan.

Frank Ward, former KLA Commander Afet Bilalli, Barbara Ayotte and Luan Jaha in Racak.

Some young Serbs we interviewed here put blame on the Albanians for not complying with Serb law in 1989 when Albanians were stripped of their autonomy. They refused to acknowledge that war crimes had been committed by Serbs unless evidence was given to them. In their view, the solution to all of the problems was a return to the Yugoslav monarchy.

We left Kosovo moved by the words of many of our new friends but with sadness that it would be a long while before Serbs and Albanians could live peacefully together here in this beautiful province. And perhaps years before the Albanians received the apologies they yearned for. As one Albanian doctor put it, "We are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel…but we don’t see it yet, we are still in the tunnel."

Barbara Ayotte, an FOB volunteer, is Director of Communications for Physicians for Human Rights

Reconstruction of Kosovo’s Damaged Architectural Heritage to Begin

Fejaz Drancolli from the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments pointing toward the Rugova Gorge in between Kosovo and Montenegro.

The Cambridge-based Kosovo Cultural Heritage Project (KCHP), in collaboration with Friends of Bosnia, has received a $350,000 grant from the Packard Humanities Institute for the reconstruction of three historically significant buildings in Kosovo that were badly damaged during and after last year’s war.

The first stage of the project was an international workshop held in Pristina in October. "The Future of Kosovo’s Past: An International Workshop on the Reconstruction of Architectural Heritage" was organized by Andrew Herscher and Andras Riedlmayer of the KCHP, and was co-sponsored by the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Pristina and the Department of Culture of the U.N. Joint Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK). Additional support for the project was provided by ArtsLink (USA) and the Kosova Foundation for Open Society (Soros Foundations Network).

The workshop brought together local, regional, and international architects, architectural historians and conservation specialists to exchange views and professional experiences concerning the post-war reconstruction of architectural heritage. Among the topics discussed: the fate of historic architecture during the conflicts in Kosovo and other parts of the Balkans; the legal protection of architectural heritage in war and peace; the role of architectural monuments in cultural memory; the special problems involved in reconstructing monuments damaged or destroyed in war; current technical, theoretical, and organizational issues and approaches to the reconstruction of architectural heritage; ongoing reconstruction projects in Kosovo and possible future plans involving heritage sites.

During the second week of the workshop, a team of 25 students from the Faculty of Architecture in Pristina, led by their professors and the workshop organizers, went to the historic city of Gjakova to conduct a field study of the war-damaged Hadum Mosque complex and the surrounding old market district. Based on their observations, documentation and analysis, they prepared and presented project proposals and made specific recommendations for the reconstruction of this unique 16th-century complex and its urban setting. The students’ projects form the centerpiece of an exhibition on the preservation of cultural heritage in Kosovo, opening on December 4 at the Qafa Gallery in Pristina.

This workshop represents the first stage in realizing a series of pilot reconstruction projects for cultural heritage which have been organized and funded by the Kosovo Cultural Heritage Project. These pilot projects are designed to establish methodologies for historical preservation in the local context, and to foster links between local institutions and organisations and professionals abroad involved in architectural conservation and reconstruction. They should also serve as catalysts for the rebuilding and development of surrounding neighborhoods and revival of traditional building techniques in the region.

Participants in the workshop included: Zeynep Ahunbay (Istanbul Technical University/ICOMOS-Turkey), Sulejman Dashi (Cultural Monuments Centre of Tirana, Albania), Flamur Doli (Faculty of Architecture, University of Pristina), Fejaz Drancolli (Institute for the Protection of Monuments of Kosova), Osman Gojani (Institute for the Protection of Monuments of Gjakova), Andrew Herscher (Harvard University, Kosovo Cultural Heritage Project, USA), Gjejlane Hoxha (Department of Culture, UNMIK), Haxhi Mehmetaj (Institute for the Protection of Monuments of Pristina), Shqipe Nixha (Faculty of Architecture, University of Pristina), Alp Ozerdem (Post-War Reconstruction and Development Unit, University of York, U.K.), Gilles Pequeux (Mostar Bridge Reconstruction Project, Bosnia-Herzegovina), Andras Riedlmayer (Kosovo Cultural Heritage Project, Harvard University, USA), Genci Samimi (Cultural Monuments Centre of Tirana, Albania), Muhamed Shukriu (Institute for the Protection of Monuments of Prizren), Susan Slyomovics (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA), Hans Christian Vejby (International Management Group, Denmark), Tina Wik (Swedish Foundation Cultural Heritage without Borders)