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Kosovo - childhood memories from war

Exhibition ‘Longing eyes’ aimed at bringing forward children’s narratives of war

On the 19th of December 2023, a partnership between Ministry of Justice, Integra, forumZFD program in Kosovo and the Missing Persons Resource Centre saw the opening of the exhibition titled ‘Longing eyes’ at the premises of Kosovo Government Building, known as ex-Rilindja Building.
‘Longing eyes’ exhibition 5
© Etnik Nrecaj

The exhibition was curated by Vesa Sahaticiu, who closely worked with the research materials collected as part of working on the book ‘Hijacked Childhoods: Accounts of children’s wartime experiences’.

Exhibited in the lobby of the former "Rilindja" building, now the Ministry of Justice, through a high metal structure, the exhibition creates the impression that the narratives are floating, just like the memories in the consciousness of those who experienced the war. Jackets, pants, family photos, portraits of the interviewees, are just some of the images that the exhibition offers as the first stimulus for reflection and recognition.

The exhibition opening took place in the fashion of a performance within a state, with addresses and a high presence of politicians. In the opening, the actress Rebeka Qena recited verses of poem ‘Longing’ written by the famous English poet and cultural critic, Matthew Arnold: " Come to me in my dreams, and then, By day I shall be well again! For so the night will more than pay, The hopeless longing of the day. Or, as thou never cam'st in sooth, Come now, and let me dream it truth, And part my hair, and kiss my brow, And say, My love why sufferest thou?". The verses brought to attention the memories of children affected by the war.

Rebeka opened the floor to Prime minister Kurti who in his speech, also, brought verses of another famous poet, Xhevdet Bajraj; “At the bloody dead end, where they killed the newborn and her father, It took 20 years, to find her remains and give them to her mother, She just took the bones in her hand, brought them closer to her breast. Did you wait for me?”. Speaking about the exhibition, the prime minister said, “In addition to being a space of remembrance, this exhibition is also an invitation for discussion about how we preserve and represent individual and collective loss”.

Albulena Haxhiu, Minister of Justice, as the host of the exhibition expressed that “… the tragedy of children during the war must be answered with accountability and the memory of the children killed or forcefully disappeared in the war remains unforgotten”.

Exhibition curator, Vesa Sahatciu, in her opening remarks unfolded nuances of her engagement with narratives and the research materials, stating that the exhibition “deals with an important issue of society that is the creation of spaces of collective memory. Spaces and institutions where these storries and narrative are visible and located onto certain spaces. It is these narratives that shape our past, and their visibility guarantees that we do not forget and understand the past as fundamentally, and as far as possible, as accurately as possible”.

While Korab Krasniqi, project manager at forumZFD program in Kosovo, who was also responsible for the research and photography, in his opening remarks highlighted that “The exhibition is a tribute to the courage, resilience and hope of children and their parents. It is evidence of their dreams, aspirations, and humanity. It is a monument to remind us of our collective responsibility to protect, support and prevent similar experiences in the future. It is a call for peace and justice”.

The exhibition opened on the 19th of December 2023 and is available to the public every working day from 08:00 to 16:00h.

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