A writer, researcher, and illustrator, Rina is co-founder of Lirindja, a publishing house that started as an independent literary zine in Prishtina. Rina has recently co-authored and published BOOM, a research zine on the youth and rock concert BOOM, held in Prishtina between 1992-1996.
Her literary works were published in Lirindja, Beton, Fryma; while her articles and interviews are published by the National Gallery of Kosovo, Balkan Insight, Kosovo 2.0, and Prishtina Insight. She did illustrations for various books, magazines, and festivals.
In TWO JOURNALS, she brings short personal stories, memories of childhood, quotes, and other literary bits, helping the annotated material to be articulated through another personal language that is capable of bringing into the platform a new and a very different experience.
All these days will pass; they will pass in crowds
Over the face of the seas, over the face of the mountains,
Over rivers of silver, over the rolling forests
Like a distant hymn for our beloved dead.
From Setting Suns by Victor Hugo
It was such a big deal when we first used the internet and surfed the world wide web as kids. I remember I felt like it is something very exciting and unknown. I remember we used it mostly in my father's private office in downtown Prishtina (street Qemajl Hoxha, if I remember well it was then called street Mosha Pijade). As the NATO bombing campaign started his office was smashed, computers and everything of course stolen. It was on the first floor, and according to some neighbors, some paramilitary forces occupied it and used to also sleep there during that time.
When we got to Ulqin as refugees, grandmother was already there, and we told her about this. She asked: Everything is gone? The beautiful leather sofas? We’d say, yes probably gone. And the carpets? Gone. And the computers? All gone. And the internet, couldn’t you at least save the internet? Since we mentioned it all the time, she thought it was something tangible.
The first issue of Rilindja newspaper was published in 1945. Since then and up until 1990, when it's activities were banned, thousands of works by various authors have been published. I really love the logos and how they changed shape and color through different editions. Here we can see how Loca colored them.
In this picture, we see the statue of the soldiers who lost their lives during the second world war as part of the anti-fascist national liberation war of Yugoslavia. It is located in Matiqan hill in Prishtina and it is built in the form of a flower called Bozhur - peony in English, that according to some represents Kosovo. The statue made of steel and concrete in form of a flower holds the names of 220 soldiers from Prishtina and places nearby, each of them represented by a petal. The peony doesn't stand
The title of this article reminds me of when I was a kid, I think it was 1998, the war was almost there. Me and my brother (me 9 yrs and my brother 11 yrs respectively) were going to school and passing through "Fehmi Agani" street near the object of the Ljublanska Banka. My brother was moving my school bag up and down while we walked making my balance not steady which he found very funny, and I didn't. As we continued to walk it became too annoying and I started yelling at him, but he didn't stop. Suddenly, a person yelled at us from afar, we turned our heads and it was a man in a police uniform. He said something like don't tease the girl, leave the little girl alone' in Albanian. I remember we both stopped, didn't say anything, held each other's hands, and just walked away fast.
During our walk to school, we asked each other how can it be that that policeman was Albanian. It can't be I remember saying to my brother. At that time we thought of the police, any police as very bad and in our view, they could not be Albanian.
'I was left alone, everybody ran. So I didn't move from there. I sat down to show that this place is ours and we have nowhere else to go.' - said the man in the picture in an interview he gave in 2019.
The man sitting in the midst of the chaos is Faik Rexhepi, who when asked why he sat down, explained that he asked other protestors to sit as well to show that the protest is peaceful but when attacked by the police with tear gas and rubber sticks people were afraid and intimidated and ran quickly.
It is one of the most important photographs of the Kosovar Albanian resistance taken by Hazir Reka. It is taken in 1990 in front of the Grand Hotel Prishtina where hundreds of Albanians were gathered to both welcome Senator Bob Dole in Prishtina and peacefully protest to make their voices heard. As with others, the protest was brutally stopped by Serbian police.
Images of protests and violence in the city of Prishtina are so familiar to me. So much so that when I look at them they don't necessarily produce a negative or sad emotion anymore. Now they just look like home.
My elementary school 'Naim Frasheri' was divided in the 90s in two parts - the one for us Albanian students and the one for the Serbian students. Right in the back of the school there was the police station - we called it SUP then. The windows of the classes that overlooked the police station were all painted with whatever drawings or just paint and I didn't really understand why would the school decide to block the windows. Windows are there so one can see the outside, right? I asked my teacher and she said there are painted so the police can not see us, so we don't provoke them' - were the exact words she used. Why would one get provoked by children?
The illustration also reminds me of when each time the school books arrived a police car would park in front of the school door, they would come to take the director of the school to the station. Once I saw two policemen dragging him to the car and kicking him. They would interrogate him, sometimes beat him, they would make him stay over night. He was always very angry, I remember, he would just scream at us randomly in the hallways of the school for no real point - stuff like "get in the class", "why are you looking that way", "straighten your back"- probably because of the constant fear and pressure he felt.
Around two years ago, I was in a bus in the city and I saw a man passing the street - I looked at him closely for I don't know what reason, and I slowly realized its him, the director of the school. Now very old, his beard white and untidy, his clothes as old as him, - he almost looked like a bum.
We are used to see honors given to soldiers, veterans etc, but as a society I think we fail to give credit to people in different set ups and spheres who little by little and in their own way and by their own means - played also part in the resistance.
The moment before the iconic picture came to life. Before everybody else flees and
Faik Rexhepi remains seated.
Adem Demaçi is by far one of the most important figures of the Kosovo Albanian resistance, if not the most important.
With 28 years in prison and his cold-like steel ideals and attitude, he seemed like somebody unbreakable - almost un-human-like. But what fascinates me more about him is precisely his sensitive and emotional perceptions. In his book 'Dashuria Kuantike e Filanit' - he talks to a pen friend called Dardha and explains in his words the sufferings he endured and the way he made himself see light. The book is divided in 9 letters that contain 9 chapters of his life.
In his interview with Shkelzen Gashi that turned to a book called Adem Demaci - Biografi e paautorizuar, he talks about how bad he felt each time his mother used to visit him in prison. He would feel guilty and anxious for her and his family's fate; And because his mother was old each time she visited he would fear that that would be the last time he sees her.
I'm not translating this fragment because its more beautiful in the original:
"Gëzimin më të madh e kam ndie kur isha i pikëlluar, kurse pikëllimin më të madh kur isha i gëzuar. Isha i pikëlluar atëherë kur më erdhi nana dhe ma dha lajmin për lindjen e djalit, sepse, i vetmuar në qeli, s’kisha me kë as ta ndaja atë gëzim. Kush se ka provuar, i ngjan e pabesueshme. E isha i gëzuar kur më erdhi lajmi për vdekjen e nanës, se një frikë e madhe më mbërthente sa herë më vizitonte. A thua do te jetë gjallë të më vizitojë edhe një herë? Kështu kur ajo vdiq, vet në qeli u shfryva, si një fëmijë i vogël, qava tri ditë rresht. E shfryva zemrën, e cila përndryshe do të mbetej e pashfryrë. Një barrë e madhe mu hoq prej shpirtit. Kush s’e ja provuar, as këtë ska si ta besojë." Adem Demaci (nga Biografi e paautorizuar - Shkelzen Gashi)
The teachers in our elementary school always advised us to take a white a4 paper or some newspaper with us when we went to take our grade books - librezat, after we'd finish semesters or school years. We had to wrap our grade book with paper so nobody will notice it as we walk back home. They were very little, navy blue and had
a two-headed eagle engraved on the cover.
The generation of people who were 20 or 20 something during the 1990s in Kosovo - like Loca's - seem full of contradictions but quiet idyllic to me. I do not wish to romanticize their misfortunes, but being denied education, freedom of movement and basic rights at such a fragile age and still having the will to live and to shine - is something remarkable.
Located at the business centre in the old part of the town (built in the 80s) and nicknamed "China Town" due to its architectural resemblance of the China Town.
This was an awesome place, owned by an actor and a legendary bohème of the city Xhemil Vraniqi, he both run the club and lived in it, it had three floors with narrow and long staircase leading up to the top where there was a dance floor in the centre and raised podiums around it, but before reaching the top floor there were kind of VIP rooms in every floor and a small dispenser bars, it was quite e unique place. Many parties there, and I would sometimes lend my sound system to them, I wouldn't get paid but got free drinks and I would be allowed to hang out with "The Cool Crowd"
The place still exists but I think it might have been converted into an office, just about anything these days.
Just saw this annotation by Toton, and its just so nice. I guess by trade center in the old town he means the old 'qendra zejtare' how we used to call it, just in front of M club nowadays? Anyway I was just thinking of how great it would be to do some kind of site map of all these places, that shows were they were located, for how long did they function, and tell their particular stories - because all of them had these urban stories of their own like the one Toton explained.
I think this is from the student protest on the 29th of October. The faculty of arts organized a performance and then there were speeches. I believe that Loca herself played in this performance, as she was studying acting at that time.
This is Milot, the love of my life. In the picture he is 22 years old, a student at the faculty of electrical engineering and one of the members of the organizing council of the October 1 protest. When I see different pictures of the protest, I always look if I can spot him.
He is always there, in the second row, holding a red flag. When the police attacked the crowd, he wasn’t arrested, but got heavily beaten. He ended up being carried to his uncle's apartment, where his uncle and his wife would put frozen meat parts in his body to relieve his pain.
One of the most famous slogans the students dressed in white held was: "E nesermja flet sot, neser vone".
I remember that at some period there were peaceful protests or marches organized everyday in Mother Theresa Square, then korza. People used to walk, meet, speak silently. Me and my friends used to go there too, with rollerblades. But when massive protests were organized and announced (protesta gjithe-popullore) my parents didn't allow me to go, because almost every time they would end up in violence.
Zekeria Cana's diary which he kept during the war titled 'Ditari i luftes' was published after the war. A wonderful book where he explains his time in Prishtina during the Nato bombings. Because he was a public figure, he was constantly on the run to not be caught by the Serbian police, thus almost every night during the war he used to take shelter in somebody else's house. His experiences are remarkable and should be read by everyone who is interested in the Kosovo war.
In one of the days during the bombings he explains that he goes out in the garden of his home and finds a piece of paper which was thrown by Nato planes - some evacuation tips or something. As he reads it he is full with hope that the "big forces" as he says, are on our side and this terror will soon end. In that moment a Serb neighbor comes our of his house and greets him, and says to him in a ironic way - "This is what you wanted right? You see we have a war because of you Albanians, are you satisfied now?". He becomes angry and replies yes, he is very much satisfied. It is funny because I have heard that a lot from a lot of people, that Serbs have held this discourse at that time - in the sense that, it was fine, what happened? - knowing very well that nothing was fine.
I think it was Prishtina's liberation day, June 12 1999 when he explains that he goes out at the Mother Theresa square and joins the celebrating crowds. He says he's not sure whether they recognized him or whether he is just an old man but some young people just grab him and hold him up high and in the air for a long period of time and he says that he has never felt happier than that day.
It had become too dangerous to stay. It was the 29th of March 1999, when my parents decided to leave our home. Together with other families: friends, neighbors, acquaintances - a long row of cars, we planned to reach Macedonia. I guess the idea was that when together and as a group, we would be safer. It was a sad day to begin with, but we didn’t realize it would become that sad.
As we approached the roundabout that leads to Veternik hill, we saw a military tank and some police cars. They stopped us. My father opened the window and the policeman asked him whether he was Albanian. To which he answered yes, and tried to give him his ID and drivers license. The policeman pushed his hand away, he didn’t need them. Instead he told him to get out of the car and follow him. He told us to close the windows and not look back.
I was sitting in the back in the middle seat and I sensed that something is not good at all when from the car mirror I saw another policeman dragging one of the family friends from his car. He was pulling him by his hair. When he had achieved to pull him out of the car, he started to kick him.
After a while, all the other cars engines would start and they would pass us by, leave, one after the other. But my father wouldn’t come back to the car. It seemed so long. He just wasn’t coming.
When eventually he did, his blazer was hanging as if only slightly in his shoulders, as if he had it too difficult to straighten it or wear it. My heart frightened, and my stomach literally upside-down, I don’t really remember now who said what as he entered the car, but I remember he said “We have to go back, I can’t drive like this”.
As he turned his head to look for the traffic and head back to the city - me and my siblings could see his head bleeding, blood flowing from his wound into his neck, his blazer, some drops now making their mark in the car seat. The windows became condensed quickly. It was because of the heat from the blood, and because that policeman told us to keep the windows close, and because of our heavy, heavy, hearts. My sister started to cry, all three of us started to cry, I vomited.
As we got back to our neighborhood now Fehmi Agani street, I remember us helping him climb the stairs to our 4th floor apartment. Our next door neighbor, a Serb, was a nurse and we were lucky she decided to help us. She brought medical tools, pills. She cleaned his wound, stitched his head, folded it with grey surgical tape. They had beaten him with the back of machine-guns and steel sticks. His arm was also broken and his back was full of bruises.
It was that view that forever shattered our childhood ideals and dreams. Us looking at his bleeding head, at our mothers frightened look in her face, and at her deeply wounded soul.
Our future was now as condensed and as blurred as the windows. We were too fragile to be confronted by such violence and hatred and too fragile to realize way too soon that facing evil our parents are as helpless as we are.
Growing up, to be honest, I do think that a lot of childhood dreams get shattered either way throughout life, - but ours was too soon, too brutal, too visual, like an illustration that forever haunts us. I don’t think any child should ever experience something like that.
Sometimes I think that, it doesn't matter how much our hearts and minds have grown, who ever we have became, and wherever we’ll go from here, essentially and quite fundamentally we’ll always be those kids trapped in the back of our fathers Passat, on that bitter march day in 1999.
The next days were also very dim. I remember the view from our balcony: everyday there would be a long row of people fleeing on foot - they were being expelled from their houses and apartments and would walk probably to get to the train station.
But there were also sweet moments, like for example I would sit next to my father as he would lay in bed and talk something gibberish like this: Bab', did you say that after that policeman hit your head he tried to hit your head again? Yes. And you lifted your hand to protect your head and now your hand is broken? Yes. Its very bad that your hand is broken. But its also very good too because he couldn’t hit your head again because then probably you would be dead. Yes. That's good, we should thank your hand. Yes. And I would kiss his elbow and hug him.
Or later I would comment how my fathers body is colorful - it was changing color all the time. Like for example in the beginning it was all reddish and pink because of his fresh wounds, then it became violet, then blue and so on.
So every morning I would go at my parents room and he would slowly turn to show me his back and lift his pajama and say “Qiki vogël i babës, what color is my back today?” And I would say, “Violet”. “oh, still violet?” he would reply. “And what about my shoulder here?”, “Blue”.
I don't know at all if its this what I think it is because I was too little to attend any of these.
But I know that at that time Ilir Nekaj - Pizhi opened his bar in his garden and It was popular. I don't know how it was called. It was a cd/dvd/bookshop in the early 2000s and of course later a bar called Soul Bar or Gjoni's where me and my friends used to go to sometimes; Now he transformed it into a tea/coffee place. That place has so many identities and history, and so does Pizhi. I find it also interesting because a lot of people had bars at their homes, in the first floor for example or had built a bar in their garden, like this case.