When we talk about blackouts here Kosovars tend to look at me with a worried face, exclaiming, “I know, these blackouts. They have not been this frequent in a very long time. Are you ok?” It seems, with my arrival the blackouts became more and more frequent – and in these past weeks, since I’ve moved into my new “new apartment”, they happen at least once a day.
Phones too, are sometimes an unreliable service, occasionally useless because the network is down. Even something as basic to society as water, is (in some areas) cut off occasionally. This can seem innocuous; creating small issues any reasonable person can work around. But, when they are persistent, and lasting these inconsistent services severely undermine the safety of the population by creating an extreme situation. They create tension in homes, they leave streets dark and scary, and they cut off communication between citizens and the police.
It’s not like, before I moved to Kosova, I never had problems with my cell phone or been in a blackout. Quite the contrary, but never has it been such a consistent part of my daily life: in casual conversation, in the way I make my coffee, and in the likely hood of having had a bath. (I just don’t like to sit in the tub in the dark).
Some comparisons can be made between the tensions here in reaction to status talks. People are worried, though they don’t talk about it much, they are worried that decisions made by the Security Council will elevate tensions and lead to violence. Not necessarily in Prishtina, but in villages that geographically, historically, and
culturally are intimately tied (in a negative way) to Serbia.
The threat of violence in Kosova, like the blackouts, seems like a thing of the past in the minds of residents. It would be a disappointing shock to most locals if they saw more violence in their country. With both, they would worry about the safety of their friends and the future of their country. But the extreme political situation here keeps the threat of violence in the back of the minds of most of the people I know.
But life goes on in the dark, just as the status talks will resolve themselves eventually in one way or another. People here understand that there are some things that you simply cannot control. You can work to make change, but the ultimate end will not be decided by citizens.
The only thing to do is prepare and look to find ways to overcome hardship. I heard stories about the people in the refugee camps using black plastic trash bags to warm water for showers. Here, during nighttime blackouts children chase passers-by with flashlights from the balcony. I hope that the status talks come to a peaceful and just end. I hope that the work of civil society here is enough to satisfy the needs of the public and provide a voice for disgruntled citizens. I hope that if there is violence, the people of Kosova will have the strength to stand together for peace.
Posted By Barbra Bearden (Kosovo)
Posted Jul 23rd, 2006