Neither Serbs nor Albanians

“Here’s the end of the world”, jokes Nazim, showing the lost valley and the mountain road that stops just before him. The young 24 years old man is Gorani, one of Kosovo’s ethnic minories living in the south of the young country, in forgotten villages at the foot of Mount Sar, stuck between Albania and Macedonia. He walks up one of the steep little streets of Kukaljane that leads to the only coffee shop of the village. Inside, men play cards while chain-smoking cigarettes — serb Marlboro — and drinking turkish coffee.
Like many, Nazim has tried his luck in Europe, but a charter plane brought him back home. For 10 years and the end of the war, Goranis haven’t ceased to leave their country. The numbers are eloquent: 20.000 before the war, only about 6.000 today. “You see civilizations disappear in Africa, but here, we’re at the heart of Europe”, says gravely one of his friends, conscious that his culture will disappear eventually.
Who are the Gorani? The specialists agree that they’re Slavic people, islamized during the Ottoman Empire’s rule, but their origin is still debated, even inside the community. They share with the Serbs a language proximity, and a religion — Islam — with the Albanians, but they stay at the margin of both cultures.

In Kosovo, they’re left out: people still remember the war in 1999, where some Goranis have been forcefully enroled by the Serbs. As they don’t speak Albanian, they can’t pursue superior studies. The luckiest manage to make it to the “European eldorado”. For the vast majority, it’s years of struggles, unemployment and exclusion.
But even though they leave, the Goranis of the diaspora are firmly attached to their land. They wouldn’t miss for anything the Djurdjevdan, a Roma celebration in all Balkans in may: ancestral rhymes are being sung and the traditionnal clothes worn. It’s also the occasion for the youth from different villages to meet and marry in summer — for, as the saying goes, “You’re born, you marry and you die in Gora”.

Synopsis: David Breger & Delphine Bauer/Youpress

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