The legacy of war endangered even in the quarter century of liberation

The Massacre Museum in Krushë e Madhe

The Museum of Massacre in Krushë e Madhe is the only museum in the full sense of the word that preserves the legacy of the war. It took a quarter of a century for it to open

Sporadic and insufficient initiatives for documenting the war, signs and evidence of war that disappear every day, were some of the findings in the panel on the topic "Documentation of the quarter century", on Wednesday as part of Kohavision's "Special" for Liberation Day. "We are very preoccupied with the reconstruction", said the architect Florina Jerliu, and according to her there are reasons for this. "It is a problem of society, most place the blame on the institutions, but it is an issue that requires treatment by society", said Skënder Boshtrakaj, former director of the National Museum of Kosovo, when he spoke about the legacy of the war

Even 25 years after the liberation, the institutions of Kosovo still have not managed to consolidate concrete policies that document the history of the war, its legacy or its signs. Until now it is only a museum in the full sense of the word - the Massacre Museum in Krushë e Madhe opened in March of this year - while traces of the war are disappearing more and more every day. Septembers arise more and more every day, without any order and are the other side of this story. 

"Documentation of the quarter century" was the topic of discussion in one of the panels of "Speciale", Kohavision's marathon program, on Wednesday on Liberation Day. 

Invited to the panel led by Edona Binaku, architect Florina Jerliu, professor at the University of Pristina, said that the institutional initiatives for documenting the war have been sporadic and insufficient. According to her, a "meeting point" for initiatives to document this heritage is more than necessary. 

"We still do not have an integrated, established system that tells us the stages or amounts of information related to documentation, or that provide information about how we coped with the war in terms of material, spiritual and other damages", said Jerliu.

During these years, this part of essential importance for historiography and collective memory has been "covered" with scientific research, artistic interventions and the collection of materials in various private collections. 

One of the concrete examples is the collection of stories of sad stories of children killed during the war, missing or orphaned. As a concrete result, the exhibition at the premises of the Ministry of Justice, "The Babies of Longing" became the voice of the children who are still waiting for justice, calling on the collective memory and documenting it. It was like an initiative that shows a chapter that has left open the pain of the people of Kosovo, while it was brought to life by the work of the researcher Korab Krasniqi from "ForumZFD". 

Present at the panel, Krasniqi said that, according to him, there are two perspectives on how this legacy of war should be handled: crimes against civilians and urban violence in public spaces, which, according to him, have produced a discourse with which Kosovar society is still engaged even today. For him, the fact that various political and legal processes are still closely related to the issue of documenting the war constitutes an obstacle. Meanwhile, with "Babes of Longing" he had a specific goal: to serve the construction of the narrative of the last war. 

"Documentation of the quarter century" was the topic of discussion in one of the panels of "Special", Kohavision's marathon program, on Wednesday on Liberation Day

"The goal has been that the military strategy of violence of the Yugoslav army and paramilitary forces has been to destroy the family structure by targeting children as well. Meanwhile, the second was the idea of ​​returning the agency to the narration of children's experiences, because it is always the adults who have narrated it and we have tried to make exactly this shift", said Krasniqi, adding that the memory of the war so far in Kosovo builds a one-sided discourse that shows a military, glorifying side, showing little nuances from the experiences of civilian citizens. 

All these initiatives concretized during the post-war years are still waiting for a treatment that would bring them together unified. But there are some of them that are in danger of being lost, and this as a result of the inaction of the institutions. 

KOHA's cultural journalist, Shaban Maxharraj, has identified some of the main gaps that do not allow the documentation of the war to have a consolidated epilogue. 

"Based on what we see on a daily basis, we have some basic problems in relation to the documentation of what is likely in Kosovo, especially in the last war. We who work in the media are witnesses to the institutional rhetoric. For example, in the basic element, it means that whenever we talk about the number of people killed in war, our institutions speak with expressions like 'about', 'near', 'over...' We never have a number of exactly of the civilian victims killed during the period of 98-99", said Maxharraj.

He added that such projects, which are engaged in documenting various parts of the recent war in Kosovo, are in danger of being lost. He has illustrated it with several examples: with "Once upon a time, never before", the exhibition dedicated to the 1133 children killed and disappeared during the last war in Kosovo and the crematorium in Krushë i Madhe, which still remains as an unprotected object and violated. 

"In May 2019, the Fund for Humanitarian Law opened the exhibition 'Once upon a time,' which is one of the most curated and detailed exhibitions, in the basement of the new building of the 'Hivzi Sulejmani' library. for children killed during the war. The stories there are chilling. For four years now, this exhibition has been knocking on the doors of institutions to be taken over by the state and possibly made as a special type of pavilion, but the result of these efforts is equal to zero. You want rhetoric as much as you want, while there is extremely little work in practice," he added. 
Skënder Boshtrakaj, former director of the National Museum of Kosovo, shares the blame in this whole issue collectively. According to him, the institutions are not the only ones that should be pointed at. A large part of this fault lies with the society itself. 

"It is a problem to separate the legacy of the war from the history of the country. It is nothing but a test of a matter out of context, it lives with the country as in all other fields, it is not that we have done more in any other field. It is a problem of society, most place the blame on the institutions, but it is an issue that requires treatment from society, from the bottom up, and the solution cannot come with such a policy", commented Boshtrakaj.

The newest initiative of this kind was the opening of the Kruša e Madhe Massacre Museum in March of this year. It was realized by the voluntary work of the professors of the University of Pristina, among them Florina Jerliu. She has mentioned how many parts of the material evidence of war damage have not been treated and some of them have not been treated properly and today continue to be endangered from many aspects. 

"We have not managed to create a memorial in the sense of architecture as material evidence. We have succeeded especially in public buildings, in some schools where they have been destroyed, there have been blatant attempts to damage the architectural structure where some specimens could have been preserved, which today would speak without the need to build a narrative. We even have situations of memorials such as the 'Adem Jashari' complex, for years we have been discussing how due to lack of maintenance it is difficult to understand which damage in those spaces is due to time or war", said Jerliu. But he also mentioned another approach. 

"We are very preoccupied with the reconstruction. The reconstruction of the house for us after the war had an extremely big, wide meaning, it meant the regeneration of the family, the state, the land, what we inherited and prosperity", said Jerliu.