LETTER TO MY FATHER
I will be on "Mother Theresa" street after the declaration of
Kosovo's independence. I will remember some moments. First I will remember you, Flaka, and
me, on the same street, which at that time was called 'Marsal Tito". Celebrating New
Years in the sixties. We were kids, and the VJ soldiers shot fireworks from the
"Ramiz Sadiku" building and they fell in front of us.
Second memory. I returned from elementary school with my friends, and in
the street opposite the former Hotel "Bozur", I saw a red-white 'Kosovatrans'
bus. People who led demonstrations went on it. It was 1968, people yelled "Kosova
Republikė" and at the same time police started to interfere. An experienced
journalist took me and my school friends to some side streets, escaping the beatings of
Third memory. Thousands of Prishtina citizens would hear me and my
friends call. Standing for half an hour in silence, protesting against the extreme
situation in Kosovo, ruled by Milosevic, standing for half hour with candles to remember
Albanian violence victims of his [Milosevic's] regime.
I remember a walk, with the warmth of baked chestnuts and you, warming
our childish hands. The moment ended with the smell of teargas and Albanians spread out
because of baton and teargas.
Earth was frozen when we buried you. I touched the ground; there was
ice, while your coffin was let down...
I clenched it, so that a piece of ice would not fall. With a heavy sound
I had been waiting for you to come for the New Year. I had been waiting
that we would continue the discussions we had during the summer. You, as a father, happy
for the moment that you can talk to your son as an equal person, me, the son, happy for
the same thing.
I saw you at the morgue, with half of your head still in blood. Crushed
by a concrete pole. I felt weakness. You, who for me were the symbol of justice, kindness,
prudence and love for life, were ending like a victim of violence. I grew up with the
conviction, or the illusion, that violence attracts violence, that people like you cannot
be the goal of violence. The morgue of Guadalajara in Spain, convinced me that another law
applied for us.
You forebode such things. Your face would frown upon hearing of any kind
of violence in Kosovo; you would know Serbia's answer would be very severe. I also know
that Spain was a kind of release. In our conversations, we would discuss entire historic
passages of Spanish modern history; the dictatorship, achieved transition towards the
multiparty system, how Sprain joined Europe. I saw in your eyes the exaltation of a
European future for us, and a Kosovo equal to the other republics.
When we buried you, I promised myself that things would change, although
I didn't know how.
When I returned to your grave, I could tell you; every one of these 20
years brought a dramatic event to this country and to me.
Rea, your niece, was two months old when you held her in your hands
during an unrepeated summer in 1988.
In last year's November, she turned out to vote for the first time. I
accompanied her to the voting centre, where she had finished her primary school, at Ismail
Qemali primary school.
When she started school, thing is Kosovo were getting worse and worse.
The school building was divided in two, Serbian students were in one part, and Albanian
students were in the other part. Serbs had heating during winter, and the 6-year old Rea
would tell me students in her part of the school would do gymnastics in the middle of any
lesson to warm up.
When she was 16 months old, we happened to be out in the city when
police started dispersing the protesters with teargas and beating. I covered her with my
coat until we would find a place to hide. She was saved from the teargas, while tears were
running down my face.
Once the tears stopped they didn't come out again until the moment of
the elections last November. In that moment, when I entered with my daughter in her
elementary school, my eyes were tearful. Rea was now in an age to make decisions for a
free Kosovo, in the very same place where she was discriminated as a child, but stood up
as we all did.
I won't be able to sign the Declaration of Independence that will be
read out today in the Assembly of Kosovo. To be honest I don't even know who wrote it, but
I know that it was not written by Kosovars. That is not important either. What is
important is the implementation of this Declaration and its recognition by most countries
in the world.
The Declaration won't be signed by almost any of my friends, with whom
we projected the new vision in 1990. At that time, in the house of the late Fehmi Agani,
and in the leadership of the late Ibrahim Rugova, we crossed a threshold which your
generation could not even consider. You, and your generation, had a vision - the building
of Kosovo's statehood within Yugoslavia, with all the emerging risks and obstacles. I had
the luck and obligation, during the break-up of Yugoslavia, to build a new vision. In a
Kosovo, like never before invaded by Serbian military and police forces, I was part of the
construction of the vision for an independent Kosovo.
During these years, I have tried, to the maximum of my abilities, to
bring this vision to life. The family education, as you know, does not allow me to speak
in detail about myself, and for what I have done over the years. I can however say that
you can be proud of me: I have represented this country with dignity and love, and I
entered the duel as if it were the final battle.
In Kosovo, I tried, and I built institutions of freedom of speech. I
continued where you ended; you were the builder of the first Albanian press, I was the
builder of the first free Albanian press.
When I appeared for the first time at the speaking stand of the Assembly
of Kosovo, I recalled that from that stand, you had declared the University of Prishtina
open, with the message that the Albanian language will no longer be the language of
lumberjacks but of science and arts. I tried to continue that thought by saying that our
country would have to be built on the foundations of its own true identity, European
identity, and that independence is a necessary instrument for building Kosovo's European
My signature will not be on the Declaration of Independence.
I had put my signature earlier, in Rambouillet. It was of a man who
wanted, in times when Kosovo delegation was wavering, to tie Kosovo to the West in order
to survive and to come where it is today.
We will be out on the streets today.
Our country is poor. It is not where the law but, to a vast degree,
arbitrary force rules. We don't have a good name in the world; we are linked to corruption
and criminality. We still face problems which we believed we solved half a century ago,
like power and water.
I have tried to keep alive the spirit of building a society of democracy
and solidarity. Both are threatened by the day.
But, for the first time in our history, after almost one hundred years
of efforts, we are closing down a framework which allows us to build from within, without
any fear of brutal force of our neighbour.
Today, my generation is correcting a historic mistake which left our
country in a hollow space between the Ottoman Empire and self-determination.
Your Kosovo, the one you tried to make equal within Yugoslavia, is
becoming my independent Kosovo.
We will be out on the streets today, your smiling spirit Rexhai Surroi
and me, rejoicing in this Historic Day.