Showing posts from 2015

The Genisis of a Jewel

Kosovo's Geological journey from the Proterozoic to the prehistoric and beyond. 
Kosovo’s high circles of surrounding mountains, fertile plains and central spine of low rolling hills have been built over eons of geological time. Not only did significant geo-tectonic events define the distinct geographic dominion that is today’s Kosovo but they also laid down the resources that have sustained numerous waves of competing armies and empires with expanding interests. The oldest rocks in Kosovo are concentrated in the North East with scatterings isolated in smaller pockets elsewhere. Their geogenic journey started 1000 – 570 million years ago when the earth was gripped, like a snowball, in the most severe glaciation on geological record. Strata formed by ice and fire would lay down the continental bedrock of Kosovo, only to be drowned out millions of years later.

240 to 66 million years ago, when dinosaurs dominated life on earth, Kosovo was, for the most part, under water. Metallic ores…

A way station on the refugee road

What started as a trickle is still a ceaseless torrent.
When refugees first arrived in Macedonia they walked or cycled illegally across the country. In the north a local mosque helped safeguard them from traffickers and kidnappers, giving them rest, food and a place to sleep.
Driton, a big-hearted volunteer with a ready smile, has been with them almost from day one. He describes some of the people who have passed recently – an old woman masking her anxiety from her niece by telling her that, “Tomorrow they will have their own room where they will play together and gun shots will not disturb them.” And, “Children with Down’s syndrome, others who have lost their limbs, parents that as soon as they see trees around them they remember their yards…and then they can’t hold their tears”. And how, he asks, can he be worried? ”When from all these people that are in trouble I hear the words May God Bless you and all your friends who help us on our difficult days.”
Flat pack shelters provide the …

Macedonian border town returns to normal, except for refugee reception camp

The sleepy railway station of Gevgelija has returned to normality. In the station cafe a smattering of smartly dressed Syrians smoke cigarettes in summer hats, a smiling Macedonian army officer drinks coffee, while a newly constructed train station cum reception camp 2 kilometers south of town processes 3-8,000 refugees a day.

"Thanks God," the Syrians in the cafe tell me, everything has been okay on their journey.

Where once dirt lines cut alongside the railway line south a path of river stone now connects Greece and Macedonia. An improbable amount of coordination seems to be taking place between these two sometimes antagonistic states. Army engineers still busy themselves ferrying stone from a tributary of the Vadar river - a geographical river running counter to the human river streaming north. Natural metaphors are dangerous, politicians use them to scare, but words are scarce when describing the scale of such an on-going human migratory flight. As we read, their migration…

Refugee families flood north to head off Hungary fence

Gevgelija, on the Greek - Macedonian border.

Northern Europeans, heading south for holidays, are fleetingly rubbing shoulders with hundreds of refugees moving in the opposite direction, escaping conflict, persecution and poverty heading towards Western Europe – from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Eritrea & Somalia. Traffic on the refugee route: via Turkey > Greek Islands > Greece > Macedonia > Serbia > Hungary, has increased significantly during the last three weeks, prompting the UNHCR to declare anunprecedented emergency. The continuous stream of refugees indicates people are ready to make a last ditch attempt to cross into Western Europe before the new Hungarian Border fence with Serbia is complete. "Everyone is in a rush to get to Hungary," said one UNHCR official, who confirmed the crossing into Hungary was via unofficial border crossings in Serbia; i.e. fields.

UNHCR officials on the ground tell me that since the construction of the Bulgaria-Turkey…

Protests, pain and cutting through past propoganda

An in-depth look into unrest in Kosovo, brought to violent expression in February 2015.

A mining rights/privatisation issue was married with demands for the sacking of a Serb MP following a comment after an ice-throwing-at-pilgrims incident in Gjakova. The comment: “Savages in Djakovica have ruined the holiday for people who came to their houses that were burned [after the war in 1999],”immediately stirred tensions. Kosovo police arrested two members of opposition movement Vetevendosje for throwing ice at the bus. Protests throughout Kosovo spread in strength arriving in the capital Prishtina Jan 24th and 27th where a smaller section became violent. 160 people arrested on the 27th are set to face prosecution in the courts. Apologies from Communities and Returns Minister Aleksandar Jablanovic were not accepted and hints that it,"may be desirable," to depart  his position by PM Isa Mustafa finally led to his dismissal Feb 3. His comments were described by a young business owne…

In the Northern Border Lands of Kosovo

Leaving Kosovo from the North, into Serbia, is an impossibility for anyone using a passport with a Kosovo stamp. The pretense is that anyone with a Kosovo stamp must have entered Serbian disputed territories illegally and should therefore be sent back. Getting to see Northern Kosovo can therefore be problematic. One way around this political charade is to take a 200Km part-mountainous diversion via Montenegro, enter Serbia from there, then head back into Northern Kosovo from the Serbian town of Raska.

On leaving Raska for Mitrovica numerous heritage signs point the way to Serb Orthodox sites in Kosovo: Gracanica, Decani, Pec. The road to Mitrovice provides an interesting ride through disputed territory. During the 1999 war Serbs were pushed back into towns and villages north of the Iber / Ibar, the river that runs through the divided town ofMitrovica. Where the river could not separate ethnicites NATO's barbed wire was rolled out, defining geographically ethnic division that lasts…