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Reviews 06 Sep 11

‘Lost’ Photos Recall Pristina in Bygone Days

A new book reveals how Kosovo’s capital has changed over the last 60 years through photographs once thought lost.

Shengjyl Osmani
Pristina

“A city is not just a batch of houses, streets, squares, institutions, shops...no! A city is a cascade of energies, a true heart, flickers of joy and concerns and a search for new beginnings.”

So writes Vlora Dumoshi, from the Municipality of Pristina, in Valbona Shijaku’s recently published book on Pristina's evolution over the last six decades.

Shujaku, an independent cultural manager based in Pristina with a degree in art from Columbia University, has dedicated two years to her book on the old town of Pristina, called Pristina Poetic Memories.

“My interest in the old town came early in age, mostly because from my grandmother’s stories,” she says. “Having lived through World War II, she remembers life before the war, its hardships and the regimes that followed.

“She speaks of a town of respectful people, beautiful houses and the magnificent old market,” Valbona says.

Pristina Poetic Memories is an illustrated book of black-and-white photographs, which will give readers a sense of how the town looked between the 1950s and 1980s, and how it developed.

It looks at how people lived in the then small town of around 18,000 inhabitants from the perspective of different cultures and faiths.

The photographs in the book have been carefully selected from the archive at the Museum of Kosovo.

“The collection of photographs from the Museum of Kosovo, which feature Pristina in the late ‘50s and ‘60s, is a photographic perspective on the collective memory of Pristina of the time,” says Arber Hadri, the Director of the Museum of Kosovo, in the preface.

He explains that the almost forgotten photos were archived, digitalised and categorized  thanks to the dedication of the author.

Valbona Shujaku told Balkan Insight that she doesn’t want the memories of her grandparents' generation to be forgotten and lost. She wants to make a new generation aware that Pristina once had two rivers running through it, fine houses and a colourful bazaar. A town with gardens and craftsmen changed into a town of administrators and bureaucrats, she adds.

“For days I walked around memorizing old buildings and comparing them to the pictures I had discovered,” she says. “I talked to the old inhabitants who are living proof and first-hand witnesses of the town as it once was.”

The book contains 244 photographs and a map. The author told Balkan Insight that it was not easy to select the pictures and leave many more unpublished, as all were “beautiful and meaningful for her.

“Although Pristina has been shaped into concrete, there were, and there are, remnants of the old town,” she adds.

“This book is meant to be a photographic supplement to my grandmother’s town, in fragments, the way she spoke about it, the way she remembered it, and the way she wanted to remember it, so it does not vanish completely into oblivion.

The book can be bought at Pristina’s book stores, priced at 20 euro. It can be also ordered online, from the web site:  www.prishtinapoeticmemories.com or directly from Valbona at  [email protected]

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