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22 Jan 13

1999 & 2013: New Year in Kosovo

Kreshnik Hoxha

The contrast between 1999 and 2013 is vast for all of us living in today’s Kosovo. We now have things which we did not have in the past, but we also lost things that can be characterised as a treasure for a society.

Once we used to celebrate the New Year around a dinner table with Russian salad, few glasses of raki and VHS recordings in Albanian in order to avoid the propaganda of RTS. On a societal level we were extremely poor, but spiritually there was an unwavering solidarity holding us together.

Today, the same dinner table gathers us all for celebration, but many ingredients of the Kosovar New Year have altered their form and meaning. With the fading of VHS it seems that many virtues that we were proud of and that held us together have also faded away.

I believe that many Kosovars remember the last minutes of 1998. Parents were wishing a good year to their children, while hiding the uncertainties that were bombarding their head regarding the near future. We could see on TV the celebration across the world for the New Year and we would make comparison with the celebration occurring within four walls of our houses.

The contrast was immense. But, the joy of being surrounded with the family was special to us all. Back in those days, the concept of going out to celebrate the New Year after midnight did not exist – simply because our nationality did not qualify for such celebrations and parties.

As Pristina entered 1999, a pyrotechnic show from the Serbian population of the capital flooded Pristina, who seemed to be celebrating in spite of Albanians who were tucked away in their homes. There wasn’t much reason to celebrate for Albanians in the city given the danger of extinction that was on the rise.

However, it was still worth tossing a drink for the sake of all the solidarity and unity that we head for each other throughout the years of the parallel system of survival in the city, which had become a symbol of exclusion of Albanians. The celebration of the past were simple, modest and quiet but they fostered humanity, a sense of community and unlimited courtesy.

Many of you, including myself, would be wondering why we were so closely tied to these virtues. Why would we embrace them in the occasions of happiness and celebration? The answer is simple.

Because they were the only things that did not cost any dinar compared to everything else which either was expensive for the Albanian family budget or unreachable due to our “incorrect” ethnic background.

It appears that time is the key indicator that secures the validity of the virtues a society brags about. In addition, the conclusions that this indicators brings about are definitely unquestionable and they represent a mirror image of what we really are.

A very long time has passed since 1999. But, not long enough for forgetting all the things we went through. The celebration of 2013 demonstrated that we have erased from our memory the troubles we experienced and we have buried those noble virtues, which once guided us through hardship.

Entering 2013, similar to the last few years, was characterised with our new societal virtues that we seem to have acquired since 1999: pretentiousness. This societal metamorphosis is visible in all the aspects of life in today’s Kosovo starting from television programmes all the way to the celebration across the cities in Kosovo after midnight.

We seem to have entered a vicious circle where we continue to lie to ourselves that the arrival of iPhone, Zara and laptops to Kosovo as well as the possibility of going to Tirana in three hours – all are major achievements that represent progress. The aforementioned might be seen as progress for a country, but the backbone of a country is its society and the virtues that define it.

It is worth researching and analysing as to how the egocentrism, jealousy and inat (spite) as the three main pillars which hold our collective pretentiousness have replaced the virtues that saved us from collapse back in the 90s.

Celebrations in 1999 at the heart of a war zone were definitely bitter and gloomy. However, the tossing of the drinks that happened then for our solidarity and unity made the entire even much more  meaningful.

The passing of time and arrival of 2013 is showing that our unity and solidarity today can be tackled only as concepts that we once had — because similarly to VHS tapes, these virtues also belong to the past.

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