Thursday, March 20, 2008

Roma and Plementina

Today was probably one of the most draining.

Dzafer, a Roma journalist, took me to a family in Fushkosova. We had terrible timing. Their daughter, Emrana, married a man for love, without her father's approval, at the age of sixteen. After a year, the man filed for divorce - which is fairly common in this particular Roma tribe within Kosovo. Now, Emrana just had a baby. According to Roma tradition, the children always belong to the man. So that afternoon, just after our interview, they were scheduled to go to court and hand the child over to the father.

Everybody was upset. Especially the father. The first twenty minutes of the interview consisted of the father venting all of his discontent to Dzafer. Then when Dzafer introduced me as an American journalist, he turned his anger on me. He rushed on about an American journalist who came and took pictures and interviewed them and promised that he would help them. He said that he hasn't heard from that journalist in one year.

All the father wants is to seek asylum in a foreign country. He wept over the empty future of his eight children here in Kosovo.

The family was not even living in their own home. During the war in 1999, many Roma in the community fled to foreign countries, seeking asylum. Many of the families that stayed, including this family, moved into the homes.

Three days after Kosovo's declaration of independence, their electricity was cut. To help keep them warm at night, they have a gas lamp.

They can't afford shoes for their children, because none of them are employed. So when we first came, the kids ran out to meet us, barefoot through the snow patches and the frigid mud.

It wasn't until I had packed up my recorder and notebook and started getting up that I received the biggest shock. The father apologized and asked for my address in America. He told me that after sitting with them and eating with them, I was part of the family and he wanted to sent a gift to my parents in America.

I'm returning to the family Saturday morning and spending all afternoon with them before we head for the airport.

Because I returned to the hotel so early, I was able to hitch a ride with Arben back to the school in Plementina.

I am really looking forward to tomorrow. I get to revisit the family at the base of the Ciciviaca mountain range. This time, the whole family should be there so I will be able to hear some of the grandfather's memories of fleeing to the mountains and returning the burnt remnants of their home.

1 comment:

Jen said...

Wow. those are great photos. What an amazing trip.
(dn/unl alum, jen adams)