Three weeks. Three weeks was the duration of war I was leading with my parents (my parents meaning my mom) when I told them I wanted to go to Albania to visit my boyfriend and explore his country. But mostly just to visit my boyfriend. And why? Because of some silly little things called prejudices.
The fact that he had already spent more than a month in Belgrade during which they met him on multiple occasions was not that relevant. Fear was stronger. But it is important to say that he was never the problem. He was more of a collateral damage. The real problem was that abstract country where Serbs go to die after their organs have been removed. Not him, not his parents, not anything logical and material, just… Something. Unknown.
And since I didn’t magically change my mind about going, the only condition was that I do it by plane. So I did. I arrived in that infamous country around midnight, slightly confused, knowing only how to say “mirëmbrëma” (good evening).
After that one time, I went by bus, through Prishtina, which was far more interesting. Prishtina is the point where I and the leading actor of my life meet and part. Its bus station, in particular, is the place where everyone knows us and greets us in both Serbian and Albanian.
It is interesting to notice the change that travels all the way from Serbia, where after the initial shock everyone has at least some questions, through Kosovo, where people are so happy for us saying how only young ones can change the poisonous relations that have been cultivated for too long, to Albania, where no one even bothers with where you are from. But if they do, they just smile, maybe a little bit surprised. And then, if they lived in the communist period, say something in Russian.
It is apparently widely believed that Serbs are fluent in Russian. Then we come to the awkward moment where, ironically, I am the only one who doesn’t know a word of Russian. On the other hand, a common misconception that we have is that all Albanians are Muslims, of dark complexion and black hair.
I, personally, can’t talk about smashed and overcome prejudices because I didn’t have any, to begin with. As for my family, since I came back alive and in one piece, every following trip I took was much less stressful. Therefore, I think that the best way to change someone’s opinion is to show them how beautiful things may be, rather than just trying to convince them, because you can’t really convince anyone in what they don’t want to believe.
To conclude the story about prejudices, I will quote my boyfriend’s mum, who, regarding the terror that my mom was going through, asked: “Don’t they watch the news, we are peaceful!?” and then remembered: “Oh, yeah… they do.” People are pretty much the same everywhere. What makes the distance between them are not kilometers, but the narratives that are being imposed.
Sometimes it snows at the seaside. And, sometimes, people can change their ways