south mitrovica
South Mitrovica

Momcilo finds us in front of the Philosophy university, a small building a few streets away from north Mitrovica main street. a slouching man in his thirties, Momcilo wears a black leather jacket, ray ban sunglasses and, above the collar of his dark t-shirt, he lets a fading tatoo appear on his neck. distant, Momcilo looks blas? as a rockstar. “we were told that you know everyone here…”, we start, “as you may have noticed, Mitrovica is a small town.”, Momcilo states the obvious with a shrug and an ironic smile. we follow him in the small alleys to the guarded entrance of the block with the police station, the courthouse and his NGO. near his building door, a couple of soldiers are sunbathing. in the NGO’s office, Momcilo silently weighs us with penetrating glances and it takes a good fifteen minutes before he starts to lower a bit his defences. he truly animates himself when we start to talk about politics, about the future of the serbs of Kosovo and the mess they’re in, about the UN, the US and the EU and their responsabilities, and of course, about his NGO’s action with serbian youth. “they all say that the next generation is our future, but we really got to do something with them now, in the present” he argues, “so we’re encouraging them to take some responsabilities, to decide things for themselves.” they also work with some albanian NGOs, “before 99, albanians had to learn serb and serbs had to learn albanian”, he explains, “but that program has been cancelled, so we’re focusing on that issue, too. people have to be able to do this simple thing : communicate, if not, how can we achieve sustainable peace?”
after more than an hour, we have to end our interview. “by the way, who gave you my contact?”, Momcilo asks. as we say the name of the albanian former journalist and Pristina school of journalism co-founder, Momcilo’s face brightens “aah, yes, a very clever and very interesting man!” “he said the same about you”, we smile.


we meet Agron on “the boulevard”, near Pristina Grand Hotel. we had been chasing the last protesters to interview a few of them and so far, we had only been lucky with a young guy who spoke good english but in such an inarticulate way that we had no idea what he’d meant. the second man we had tried to interview was much older and didn’t speak a word of english or german, so we were running after everyone we could spot with a red albanian little flag. “would you like me to help you translate ?” the voice we hear belongs to a tall boy who can’t be more than twenty. I don’t know how am?lie and I look exactly, but I’m not sure we’re compelling sights : two dishevelled journalists, one with a heavy camera bag and a microphone and the other with a video camera in her hand, both talking and walking fast. the guy is smiling. “you would really have five minutes to help us out?” we ask. “yes, no problem. so, making interviews?” “yes, there was this old guy who looked ok to answer to our questions, but he didn’t speak english.”
and Agron, delighted to help us, follows us to translate the old mans replies in the best way he can.


Mitrovica is a strange town, the albanian cemetery is in the serbian part while the serbian cemetery is in the albanian part. so, on each religious holiday, the Kfor escorts the inhabitants to the other side of the town to pay respect to their deads.
at first sight, both parts seem pretty much the same but after a day, we notice the differences. it isn’t the obvious, the mosques, the language, the alphabet, the electoral posters, it’s more about the colours, the dust, the atmosphere of each side. the more we stay and wander from one side to the other, the more we notice it, the more we feel it. it would be easy to say that I prefer the north side, more european somehow, but that would be mainly because we spend most of our time there. the south side is definitely more oriental although defining exactly what is more oriental about it is delicate.
Mitrovica doesn’t take long to make us feel schizophrenic and we can’t imagine how it must be for the few people who spend time on both sides. we’ve learnt fast how to say please, thanks and beer in serbian, now we have to be on our guards to avoid saying faleminderit in the north side or pivo in the south side. these mistakes won’t cost us a slit throat, of course, but it’s a matter we take rather seriously. as for really understanding Albanian and serbian, we’re at loss in both languages, although I grasp more words in serbian, thanks to my five years of russian in school. I have to admit that I’m also delighted to practice reading in cyrillic, it’s actually the first time that those five years and good grades are proven useful.


“are you french ?” I turn back and face a smily man in his early fourties. Am?lie has already answered for us both “yes, from paris”. the man smiles again “journalists ?” it’s our turn to smile. “yep, you too ?” the man and his neighbour are both cameramen, having a coffee before taking their station near their satellite van by the bridge. our lunch has arrived, but we gladly neglect it to speak french for once. their faces brighten when we explain that we’re freelance and that we’ve travelled 24 hours by bus to go to Belgrade before coming to Mitrovica. the other cameraman, italian by his accent, is delighted : “aah brrrravo”, he exclaims “bravo ! it’s great to see that there are still journalists doing that !!” both guys look like they’ve travelled a lot and seen as much and these words coming from them, I can’t help but feeling proud of us all, even if we’ll never make enough money to cover our expenses. I remember the young french journalist we’ve met in Belgrade, the look on her face, her attitude and her disdain, probably just because she works for a renowned weekly magazine and us freelancing for a news website and some weekly that barely pay us enough to eat pastas. but here, in Mitrovica, talking about journalism with these cameramen is more than enough to give me a huge boost.


Elvis Perkins – While You Were Sleeping

1 petit commentaire

Thursday, 4 February 2010

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