Through the memories and stories of women survivors of the Kosovo War I invite the reader to explore the difficulty of facing reality. Their stories tell of violence and uncertainty, but also of bravery, creativity and humour in the face of extreme hardship. They raise questions about what we can learn about the troubled and violent past when we, as listeners or readers, allow ourselves to be exposed to others’ painful memories and stories. What does it take to imagine their pain and sense its shadow within us?

The War Widow: Marginal – Unruly – Iconic


Women who lost their husbands during the Kosovo War were perceived to be hovering in a liminal space. They could neither be treated as married women nor as ordinary widows. At the end of the war, there was no real holding place for them as their roles were in flux as communities tried to make sense of their presence. Their identities were perceived to need reframing through language and discourses to become graspable for others. Emerging identity frames portrayed war widows as ‘marginal and needy’, ‘unruly’ and ‘iconic’. As I will show in the following, it was through such framing processes that […]

“Now I know how the movies are made”. Living through the horrors of war


“When I think about the war, I imagine that it isn’t real,” Valbona tells me during one of my frequent visits to her family home. “It seems like a movie. I mean, now I know how the movies are made. I saw houses burning, cows lowing frantically in their stables, people running…” Interrupting her sinister preface, Valbona pours us coffee and lights the first of her Marlboros while settling on the light brown shilte placed along the wood-panelled wall of the large empty living room.[1]

As if preparing for a monologue, she leans forward, rests her elbows on her knees and […]

In Memory’s Painful Grip


War was on everybody’s lips. There was an impending sense of anticipation as Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia loomed large.[1] Television news reported on the steadily increasing tensions between Albanian and Serbian communities, public events were staged by both sides to remember the losses and atrocities committed during the last war, and KFOR – the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo – patrolled the streets in armoured vehicles. Would the declaration go smoothly? Would there be demonstrations? Would Serbia intervene with military attacks? It was hard to know.

These questions haunted Pranvera[2] who had just returned from the kitchen […]

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