Balkan myth Busters is a 2 year long project coordinated by Volunteers‘ Center of Vojvodina and GAIA Kosovo, aiming to investigate and educate about the impact of myth propaganda in the formation of collective identities on national or ethnical level. Furthermore, the project will create counter narratives to the single-minded worldviews that are the roots of nationalism and hate.
Balkan Myth Busters reunites 8 peace organisations from Serbia, Kosovo, Croatia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania and Germany. So far, two main activities have been realized: a research on myths and their impact on formation of identity and Training Course, which took place in Tavankut, Serbia in Noveber 2016, during which 24 participants from 8 countries learnt a lot about identity, myths and their impact on creation of national identities.
Youth exchange in Velika Hoča/Hoçë e Madhe, Kosovo, took place in March 2017 is the 3rd activity of Balkan Myth Busters, during which 30 participants took deeper look into national identity and deconstruction of national myths. How it was, you can find in the following links:
Blogging by the participants:
A second youth exchange will take place in Trstenik (central Serbia) where 30 participants will constructing new mythologies and posivite stories for future, piercing the dominant single narratives that create prejudices and hate between nations. The final evaluation with 15 representatives from the different activites will take place again in Kosovo in October 2017.
This project is supported by ERASMUS+ program of the European Union
Balkan Myth Busters Youth Exchange in Velika Hoča – the first days
From 13th of march till 23rd of march, 30 young people from Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece and Germany gather in the small village Velika Hoča/Hoca e Madhe, located next to the city of Rahovec/Orahovac in Kosovo.
We learn, exchange and share about myths, legends and stories that accompany us through our socialisation and explore their role in our lives. Living together with people from the local community of Velika Hoča we also learn through direct exchange about the historical and present stories of the village.
Velika Hoča gathers 600 people and 13 Orthodox churc hes from the early Medieval times. Wineyards are surrounding the village. The production of this divine liquid is a tradition kept since Medieval times- according to a legend at those times gathering so many people in this valley, that Golema Oča’s roofs reached till the city of Prizren, so a cat could walk from one city to the others jumping from roof to roof.
We also explored the stories of Dečani and Pećka Partiarha Monastries and experienced the welcoming hostability of the monks and sisters with some good monastery-made Rakija and whine.
This is the Saraj House. Here we come together for meetings and sessions. The word ‘saraj’ comes from turkish language and means ‘palace’. It was built during Ottoman rule of the area. Today the building hosts a small museum – and for these ten days us.
In today’s morning session, Shkëlzen Gashi presented to us his report “The History Kosovo in the history textbooks of Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia”. He assembled different representations of the history of Kosovo during different periods, which at the same time reveal falsifications and biases of each party. You can find an online version of his book here.The weather was really nice today, so we couldn’t help it but have our afternoon session outside. Some were very determined with the tasks.
In our free time we sometimes hang around with the locals. Bojan, the cool Kafana (coffeeshop) owner, says of himself that he is a legend and makes the best and only Espresso in the village.
Balkan Myth Busters Youth Exchange in Velika Hoča – it goes on and on and on
Our action was a success. We collected around twenty bags of trash and not to mention the unique findings – a school bag, a big bottle of turshia, a Ninja Turtle, an infusion bag and lots of shoes.
In the evening we had a more serious session about political myths and their influence on the construction of collective identities in national communities.
The Youth Exchange reached the end of its first half today. For the second part we will engage in the active Myth-busting part, dealing with the analyze and deconstruction of current political myths that are used in the formation of nationalistic ideologies.
Balkan Myth Busters – getting active
The second part of the Youth Exchange started by a trip to Prizren. We followed the evolving and everchanging traces of stories through the old city. Stories of another city, manifested in architecture and people’s memories.We visited the Mosque, Orthodox Church, Catholic church and the fortress, searching for different narratives about the same places, as well as the “League of Prizren”, a museumdedicated to this historical league of united Albanians during ottoman empire.
An inspiration-awakening conversation with Veton Nurkollari, project manager and artistic director of DokuFest -an anually dokumantary film festival in Prizren, taking place this year for the 15th time- taught us how he and some friends created the festival in order to preserve the only cinema in Prizren. Eventhough they were left with basically no resources, through the years and their voluntary engagement and dedication for the idea, DokuFest grew so big that it is now the biggest cultural event in Kosovo. It was a great inspiration to talk to Veton, hear the story of DokuFest created from scratch and get a slight insight in the mechanisms behind the festival.
Back in Velika Hoca, we got deeper into confronting with our very identity and its relatedness to a collective identity. Be it the nation or ethnicity. We talked about how far is being part of a group a dictated attribute of an individual and how far it is autonomously chosen. About which mechanisms we do recognize in our own behaviour that are dictated from outside. How we can overcome the totalitarism of single narratives.
Therefor we engaged in the part of storytelling in the last two days of the project, developing a narrative about the Youth Exchange. An apricot tree has been planted by our group, Martenicas -Bulgarian bracelets that announce the beginning of Spring- have been spread on wrists and trees all around the village, we left a plate to thank the village for their welcoming hospitality.
Besides, we had conversations with locals and project participants, collecting their stories from past and the very present. Those stories will be published on Mything Point, the project’s blog.
An introduction in the Easter tradition of decorating eggs by local women. Every year, eggs are being decorated with wax in every family. The first three eggs painted are considered to have special powers and are given as protectors to friends and family. The other eggs are shared, sold -even reaching Belgrade.
On the evening of the last day our group invited people from the village to Saraj Garden, to tell them about what we’ve been doing during the past 10 days through a collection of photos and a video that has been created by some of the participants. You can find it here and get your own impression about how life in Velika Hoca looked like for us.
After going through 10 on all level intensive days, it was hard to leave the village. Our group brought a different dynamic to the place, and the connections we made with our hosts, cooks and the owners of Kafanas (small pubs) and Sveti Stefan Vinica as well as with the people we met during our interaction with the village, could not just end after those 10 days.
This Youth Exchange was a time of connection, reflection and creation beyond borders.