On 16th of August a new group of young volunteers has come to Plemetina to renovate the Balkan Sunflowers Learning Centre during the two weeks of their stay. About their experience and impressions you will soon read here…
The first day of supposed work at the learning center
unfortunately started with an evil virus attacking two of our group: Charlotte and Julius had to stay in bed all day!
Highly motivated the rest of us went to the center where the big task was waiting for us.
With an incredible speed and professionality we got the work started; at 9.13 we entered the house and at 9.22 the carpets were already taken out of the three rooms.
The day passed by with scraping, scraping and scraping the walls and slowly but steady the colours disappeared from the walls and gave the floors a new appearance in purple, pink and blue.
When we could not move our arms any more in the evening, the three rooms were all done and we went home where the lovely austrian kitchen team (being Marleni and Silvia) had already prepared typical Kaspressknoedeln for everyone.
With a full stomach and satisfaction about the work that has been done everyone was tired and slept really well in this night.
second day of working, still full of energy for fighting with walls but we had another task – to sand scraped walls and clean the ceilings from the old color. When we started with sanding,the rooms were immediately so dusty that it looked like in a dense fog. However, we wore as a experienced workers white protecting masks which helped us to breathe and survive inside. At the end we were all covered by white powder but done with the first task. After lunch we had a small rest and then begun with ceilings, cleaning with the long brushes and nitro cleaner. That activity was a bit hard especially because of vapors from nitro but we stood it with few short breaks and finished all ceilings at the time. We ended up the day with film about Yugoslavia which let us think a lot about what we saw, where the truth is and if it is in any way possible to find it…
On our third working day the new task was to take off the windows, scrape the bad parts away and make them windproof by adding new layers of silicone.
Other team continued with plastering the holes in the walls. I had tried that on the previous day but noticed that with my non-existent plastering skills it was better to concentrate in somethiong else, so I joined the window team.
In the afternoon we took a little break and started to play like happy children: we played hide and seek and weird and funny local games, for example one in which everyone had to be silent and secretly hit the one in the middle. Animal-like slapping appeared, when someone accidentally talked.
In the yard of the learning centre there are a lot of plum trees, so apart from climbing in them we also collected a huge bucket of plums, which later in the evening turned into delicios plum soup.
In Plemetina, and apparently around the whole Kosovo, there has been a virus spreading around. As mentioned before, some of us have caught that disease, and it seems that every day there are one or two more of us volunteers sick – I think now it was about half of us.
Luckily we got an extra worker, as Judith’s boyfriend Matthew joined our camp and the cooking team. We got also other visitors: Katri from Finland and Tamar from Georgia came for coffee and of course also came to see the learning centre to admire our effective work.
After the work and refreshing cold shower (after the first camp days there haven’t been power cuts anymore, so we enjoy running water) I went to Pristina, some people went to hospital and the rest I think ate, relaxed, played games and enjoyed the peaceful life in our new home, Plemetina’s Roma mahalla.
An ordinary day…
In Plementina, every morning follows a certain order: The cock is crowning, trying hard to be heard through the dusty air, filled by smells of burned waste, coal ashes and other things. The next step of the awakening procedure of the village is the dogs starting to bark, as they where answering each other, first scattered and a bit carefully, then extensively and enthusiastic.
If you go around half past seven for a loaf of bread to the only shop of the Roma neighbourhood, we are living in, you may meet some people on the streets, maybe not. Dobro jutro, you may greet them in Serbian, lacking the necessary Roma Vocabulary. Those people won’t care much about this, most of them speaking at least Serbian and Roma fluently, many also beeing able to communicate in proper Albanian.
More problems are arrising if you get to the next bigger village of Obelic, 3km and one political culture further away. There trying to speak Serbian or paying with the serbian dinar may bring you in real trouble, at least won’t make you friends, even if most of the people understand you. In Obelic, like in Pristina, the close capital of Rebublik of Kosovo, no price is announcend in the serbian currency, and no sign is written in kyrillic letters.
What you see there like in the most parts of the newly declared to be independent country, is rather many flags, most of them showing the black eagle on a red background of the albanian national flag, followed by the Symbol of Kosovarian Independence consisting of the outlines of the region beneath six stars, reminding of the six official national minorities (serbs, bosniaks, roma, egyptians, ashkali, turks).
If there is a Unity between these minorities and the albanian majority in kosovo, it is not really visible in the capital of the young republic. Searching for at least a living together in peace will bring you back to our village of plementina, where seven ethnicities live together, speaking 3 languages and mostly belonging to one of 2 world religions. The most obvious example of conlfict between these groups we have realized was a soccer game, roma against albanian youths, which the roma decided for themselves with a result of 6 to 5.
Maybe the tipping point was the french exchange player THomas, helping the roma to make their point in this case.
Is the European community, promising more than fullfilling in these outscirts of the continent, in the same way able to help the roma people to make their point on the political stage of the balkan play? This help would be needed, considering the discrimination of roma people on several dimensions not only in kosovo. but neither thomas soccer talent, nor the common efforts of our workcamp to renovate the local learning center for children will make the situation change in the big scale. That seems only possible through the political attention of the so called west, including and at the same time directly challenging the political consciousness in germany, france, the uk, and last but not least the us of a.