• Agata Rogoś

Welcome Diaspora #<3

When I landed in Prishtina, I realised how long time it was since my last fieldwork. Already on the plane filled with Albanian migrant families from Kosovo and the western border region of North Macedonia, an atmosphere of anticipation was palpable, after a year's absence from their place of origin caused by the pandemic. Also the words of the captain of the plane just after landing - welcome home - emphasized even more strongly the context of the diaspora presence in Kosovo.

My hotel was located in the old part of town, close to the bazaar, actually in the middle of it, which was conducive to observing the daily practices of the migrants who had become a natural part of the urban landscape for some time. The owner of a jewelry boutique, one of many located on the edge of the old part of Pristina, called by the locals "goldsmiths' street" (rruga e argjendarëve), at some point, with a frown written on his face, said:

It is hard in these times of pandemic. But this year it is much better, about a million of our compatriots have come here, and business is better than ever.

All the jewelry stores were bustling with activity, full of women, children and men, whose presence was mainly of an economic nature, who were tired of endlessly trying on new rings, necklaces and bracelets. One of the favorite jewelry designs were double-headed eagles made in many variations, from the simplest silver badges to densely filled with zircons and diamonds gold necklaces on thick chains. Also the promenade in Pristina, stretching in the center of the city was bustling with energy. All the cafes, bars and restaurants were full of loud conversations, eager discussions about the situation in Kosovo and politics.

The streets, and the narrow passages between the densely built-up buildings at the back of the central promenade, and the narrow streets paved with stone cobblestones near the bazaar, were lined with the smoke of barbecued meat and hot peppers, the thick smoke of burning tobacco, and the intense smells of perfume, lingering long after the thick crowd of young girls and boys had passed.

The cab driver who took me to the other end of town one day threw in a tired voice:

It's hard to work in Pristina now, there's a lot of traffic on the streets. Our city can't handle the daily traffic, but now about a million of us have arrived. I read yesterday that this year the diaspora spent about 1.5 billion euros in the country. Unfortunately they also brought the virus.

Even if the presence of the diaspora that has descended on Kosovo this year from all over the world has dramatically changed the everyday life of the city and the smaller villages from which whole families of migrants come, it is clear to all that the experience of migration, or as it is most often referred to gurbet (referring to Ottoman times), is an integral part of the Albanian identity.

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