Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Pristina Amnesiacs Celebrate

When Kosovars celebrated Liberation they forgot to invite NATO
By Dukagjin Gorani

Kosovar television crews busily set up their equipment, bands prepared for a series of concerts and locals employed by the international administration took the day off.


The commemoration last week of Liberation Day - the day NATO formally brought about an end to the 1999 conflict - was a big event on the Kosovo calendar.


As morning wore on, the streets started to fill with young people. Officially, the day marks an end to a decade of Yugoslav repression; unofficially it celebrates an end to a century of suppression by one regime or another.


A mixture of optimism and sadness hung over the crowds who had gathered to remember the overthrow of Serbian rule two years ago. But memory of actual events seem to be failing.


While there might be youngsters who do not remember the occasion there are quite a few who are choosing to forget who liberated their capital and homeland.


Instead of NATO, it is the Kosovo Liberation Army which is taking the credit for ousting the Serbs.


It was the West's entry into Kosovo which freed the country yet the West was absent from the anniversary's celebrations and memorials.


Within another year, I'm sure, I will be just one of a tiny handful of people remembering NATO's role in the liberation.


Internationals seemed unbothered by their exclusion from the day's events, looking on as a nation voluntarily succumbed to a bout of amnesia.


There are several possible reasons for this memory loss. With elections due later this year politicians are probably quite keen to drum up feelings of nationalism and patriotism. Scaling down NATO's role inevitably bolsters that of others.


"History in the Balkans is based on mythology," said Michael Daxner, who heads the UN's education office in Kosovo. And so it seems that on June 11 Kosovars were on the way to rewriting history.


In doing so they are forgetting the very people who made these celebrations possible. I can only hope that the young journalists covering the events will recall the dedicated forces which have allowed them to pursue their new lives and new freedoms.


It would suffice to hear just one of our new television stations saying "Thank you NATO".


Dukagjin Gorani is the editor-in-chief of Kosovar television station KTV-Koha Vision.