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>Kosovo Volunteering 1999 - the children and the car - Michael Connolly Photography

>Kosovo Volunteering 1999 – the children and the car


I’m not sure exactly what it was that reverberated within me after taking this photo, but it was a serene moment. This was taken in ’99, during my first year of undergrad, where I had the incredible opportunity to accompany a small group of intrepid volunteers.

That’s a whole other story there, but the set up around which this photo was taken is that our group was traveling around some of the war-affected areas in Kosovo, setting up little impromptu carnivals for the kids. I really like the mass of vibrant energy in the background. That is a group of kids being chased around by some of the volunteers in a game. That building is the entire school building for grades 1 through 6 of an ethnic Albanian town just outside of Pristina. Since it’s a single room schoolhouse, grades 1~3 were taught together in the mornings, and 4~6 were taught together in the afternoons. There was no running water at the school, and washrooms were cleaned by the students themselves using water taken from a stream down the mountain.

In contrast, the Serbian schools we’d also visit during the trip, were large, air-conditioned, beautiful buildings right out of the Sound of Music. Of course, if you see the mountains in the background, almost all of Kosovo is an incredibly beautiful country with a Mediterranean climate. I was quite surprised to arrive, because in the news Media of the time, I could only remember rocky ruins, and desert villages suffering from bomb damage. The actual beauty of the landscape upon arrival was quite disarming.

I don’t know what the kids in the foreground were thinking, and I couldn’t have know even if they tried telling me, because the only Albanian word I knew at the time was “Toong” (hello)
Most likely they were simply thinking it was a cool car, but there was something about their body language, and their pause… that made me think they were reflecting upon something deeper. I’d like to think of this car as a means to their future. This photo was taken a decade ago, but, it was only a couple of years ago that Kosovo finally achieved its independence after a very difficult period. If only it weren’t so difficult for people to find a place they could call home.


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