For the May 9 Europe Day holiday (the day that Angelina Jolie’s film premiered in Prishtinë), my Fulbright colleague Rich Raymond and I decided to visit Mitrovica, the northern city that witnessed some of the saddest moments of the 1999 Kosovar war and that provided the catalyst for the 2004 “unrest.”
The city is divided by the Ibar River with ethnic-Serbs located on the north side and ethnic-Albanians on the south. The main bridge across the river has been made impassable by vehicles: there are tons of dirt serving as a barricade. Police monitor the scant pedestrian traffic.
Following the 1999 war, the University of Prishtinë itself was divided: the ethnic-Albanians (re)gained control of the campus in Prishtinë, while the ethnic-Serb faculty and students fled to Serbia and eventually relocated to Mitrovica, where today there are over 10,000 students and nearly 1,000 faculty and staff members. **
The ethnic-Serbs of Mitrovica reject the authority of an independent, ethnic-Albanian-led Kosova governed from Prishtinë. Sound a bit like the Palestinians in Israel? Sadly, just last month, an ethnic-Albanian man living on the north side was murdered. As with the Middle East analogy, neither side is innocent; both sides have blood on their hands. What the future holds, I cannot begin to fathom, although, I fear, any peaceful solution may be long in coming.
The bus from Prishtinë leaves every 15 minutes, costs 1 1/2 Euros (pay on the bus), and takes at least 1 hour. Note that the bus can be hot and crowded: be sure to bring a bottle of water and be prepared to stand for part or all of the trip.