Since 2014 ANP has been implementing the project “Dealing with the Past in Kosovo” jointly with its partner organization KURVE Wustrow and funded by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development BMZ. In the beginning of 2016 the second phase started and is currently being implemented with a new group of participants.
Public discussion in Kosovo society is marked by silence or ethnocentric narratives when addressing the violent times beginning in 1989, accumulating in the war of 1999 and ending in the violent outburst 2004. As of today the number of Missing Persons is about 1,700, which places a heavy burden on reconciliation processes. Action for Nonviolence and Peacebuilding (ANP) is working jointly with KURVE Wustrow for a change in the culture of remembrance. People from all over Kosovo get empowered to share their stories and to present them to a wider public.
In October 2014, 16 participants started a joint process in Ulqin/Ulcinj, Montenegro to share their stories and to hear what happened to members of other communities. The mutual understanding and recognizing of suffering and pain is a process full of empathy, which reduces prejudices and prevents from easy judgements. ANP successfully created the safe space where the participants could open up and speak freely about the hard time they went through.
Art is a good form for expressing difficult feelings and mixed emotions. The participants started to paint pictures about their life in the past and the difficulties, challenges and losses they had to face. The pictures are full of expression, strength and offer a deep view inside the hearts and minds of their authors.
In addition to the paintings the participants started to write their life stories with the help of ANP trainers. This process was initiated in the first training session and intensified in the following month. In the second training session in February 2015 the participants painted pictures showing their desired future. Together with the pictures from the first training they form a Circle of Memory including past, present and future.
To support the demanding and painful process of remembering the darkest time in their lives, ANP conducted a training for Stress Management and Resilience in April 2015. Furthermore the ANP team acted as mentors and stayed in close contact with the participants to give support and relief during their writing. During the course of the project, trustful and strong relationships have been built up among the participants, as well as between them and the ANP trainer team.
At the end of April 2015 the collected pictures showing past and future were presented in the exhibition “Circle of Memory” in the National Library of Pristina. A lot of curious visitors had the chance to see the pictures and to discuss with the participants and ANP team about this Dealing with the Past approach.
The first period of the project “Dealing with the Past in Kosovo” was finished at the end of 2015 with a publication containing all the personal stories of the participants.