Today we may expect the declaration of Independence of Kosovo or Kosova. I was there in 2000, embedded in the OVSE-organisation, to interview Dutch people in the field. How could they manage, what challenges did they meet? I made a radiodocumentary for the HUMAN about Kosovo as a cradle for democracy. I stayed in Pristina in a safe house, visited Pec, Prizren, Kosovo Polje and many other places. The village of the women, so called because all the men had been murdered. I was hit by the feeling of anger still speaking from the burned houses, where the windowsills and doors had been kicked in and used as fuel. I saw the graves with decorative memoryshields beside the roads and the children demanding the whereabouts of their emprisoned fathers at the UN-missionpost. It was February and icy cold. Driving in the dark too dangerous because the roads had been bombed and driving a car with working lights was not a habit in Kosovo then. War zone, indeed. The landmines removed with patience by men lying on their bellies in the fields one day, were put back the next day by people sympathising with the other faction. I saw the notice warning people about this.
My admiration for the people who went to work there to restore a normal society grew by every minute of my stay. The Serbs had taken the garbage cars with them when they left. Luckily it was winter, so the heaps of dirt were the dogs looked for food, did not stink yet. One evening there was a large gathering in the radio and television station in Pristina. Everyone who was somebody was there. The Big News was that the whole thing was working again and without state control. One of the speakers was Hashim Thaci, no longer a rebel and leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, but a politician and leader of the Albanian Democratic Party. And now president declaring independence for his country. One can still see the strains of war on his face in the picture I took then.
One subject I hear very little about these days: who owns and exploits now the lead and zincmines near Trepca? That mine provided Germany throughout the 2nd world war with roughly 40 per cent of their consumption of lead, as in bullets and bombs.
Read more about the history of Kosovo in the excellent book of Noel Malcolm, Kosovo a Short History, with a new preface, 1998.