2004. YMCA Europe was organizing “Catch the vision” in Prizren, a multiethnical, multicultural city in a new and unknown territory: Kosovo. When I got the email confirming that I will be one of the participants I was very happy and curious to find out more about the place. Unfortunately at that time not too much information was available, so I ended up in Pristina airport, surrounded by military forces from different countries, getting a KFOR stamp in my passport. It was one of the first “wow” experiences in my YMCA life.
The image of the parking at the airport was a bit strange for someone who had not seen any weapon so far. Tanks and military cars, helicopters and barbed wire all over the place. I was waiting with other participants and all the faces around me were scared and concerned.
Prizren was indeed a real experience: buildings, architecture, food, smells, people, thousand of electric generators on the streets making a huge noise. Lack of current water, heating and electricity but smiling faces all over…
2014. YMCA Europe is organizing “Bridges for the future” – an awareness raising conference, which is the tandem project for the Balkans in the roots for reconciliation project with the support of Council of Europe. This time I am not just a participant. I am responsible for the project. This time Pristina will host us. No more KFOR stamp in the border, no tanks in the airport parking, great hotel, current water, air condition, electricity, city center… Evolution. European Capital. Still something was the same as 10 years ago: smiling faces.
Life in Kosovo is not easy from all the perspectives. The youngest nation in Europe fights with 70% unemployment and with scars from the recent past. I met Orbis, a young leader in the Movement there who shared his story. But what was Orbis doing? He was looking forward, not back and is currently studying law, he`s looking to the future not back for the revenge. There are many others like him.
Kosovo and all its cities were completely changed after 10 years in a positive way, Also YMCA Kosovo. After a great beginning, a dramatic change came. It took them few years to come back to the front line but now they are there: amazing projects, incredible involvement of the young people, impact in communities. And I cant explain why, my feeling is that this is just the beginning.
Keep walking Kosovo!
Author: Marius Pop