The first blog I ever wrote for Kosovo 2.0 in 2010. A lot of this still feels true to me.
“Memory plays tricks. Memory is another word for story, and nothing is more unreliable.” – Ann-Marie MacDonald
I more or less agree with the MacDonald quote above, except I would say that the stories we make about our lives are not only unreliable, they are also the justification for just about every decision that we make, every action that we take, every human relationship we enter. Do they play tricks? Only if you let them. I think, deep down, everyone knows the difference between the stories that are true and the ones that are a veil for pain.
Some of my best memories are from Prishtina right after the war. The city looked like an archeological ruin, and it was my playground. My aunt’s neighbourhood behind Bregu i Diellit still only had fields around it, all the way to Matican. I stayed out late with my cousins. Sometimes I ran away from class. My parents were happy. There’s a lot that I feel about this place. I was born in Prishtina, and it’s home for me. I’ve spent half of my life a continent away. Both of my parents were forced out of their jobs about twenty years ago. And they decided, like a lot of Kosovars, to emigrate. So we moved to Canada. And then back to Kosova. And then back to Canada. And now here I am again, solo.
It’s hard to not feel rage – I feel it when I let myself, rage against those who turned my parents’ life and mine upside down. I know it’s pointless to feel anger twenty years after the fact, especially in comparison to others’ stories. The truth is, Canada has been good to us. Canada has given me work experience. My passport lets me travel wherever I want. My degree is recognized everywhere. I’m still a citizen of both places. It’s petty of me to complain. Then why do I still feel like I have been cheated of something?
A friend of mine once said to me, “You’re in love with the Prishtina in your mind.” And I’ve read somewhere else that home is a place you can never go back to, and that people have fates that they can never escape from. I can never escape from what Kosova has left in me. I hope you don’t think I’m talking about patriotism or nationalism, because that’s not it at all. The thing that’s been left in me is the same thing that makes people want to leave and to never come back, the same thing that makes people hate being here and long for escape. At sixteen all I wanted was to leave, to go somewhere where the buildings were beautiful and the people were happier. I didn’t want to deal with the abnormality of dysfunction. And at sixteen my wish was granted, I was in a clean Canadian city with clean streets and middle class families. Somewhere along the way through high school and university I lost something though – I stopped being able to feel something. Imagine losing something that you once thought was a part of you – like your thumb or your bellybutton…you could function without it, but you are still diminished.
So now, here I am. I will have been in Prishtina for almost half a year by the time I leave. In September I have to go back and finish my MA. My thesis proposal was neat and ready to go when I left months ago, and now it’s light years away from where I am at in my mind and heart. I’ve had a glimpse of the life that I could have here.
That said, I’m very aware of the bubble I inhabit: I inhabit the Prishtina of the people with money to spend and no family to support. How real is my experience? How would my nostalgia fare on 300 euros a month? Once school ends and my job search (or PhD adventure) begins, I won’t be able to afford to feel homesick. But idealistic, maybe.