Monthly Archives: September 2013

Discovering Kosovo

Standing there with the cold waterfall glittering in the sunlight, dancing its way over the edge, I thought, “Why do I want to do something insane like jumping through this waterfall?” Because I was in Kosovo, and in Kosovo we lived life for today, for the opportunities that might not present themselves again. Without regret.

By Homa Hassan

I couldn’t swim.  Yet here I found myself at the edge of a gushing waterfall having just climbed a massive mountain in the depths of Kosovo, watching boys and men saying prayers and holding their breath before taking the plunge into the water below–while the girls squirmed and vowed never to do such a thing.   So what, then, prompted the irrational idea of “crap, I gotta do this”?

Let’s backtrack a few months. Manhattan: staring out the window of my 7th floor apartment on the second anniversary of my dad’s death. Sobbing on the phone with my mom, comforts being reciprocated as I grieved that I had no idea what I was doing with my life.  While my colleagues had tickets booked or summer work mapped out, I was still waiting for a congratulatory letter. As it turns out, I never got one; I simply received a message inquiring after my life insurance information, what I’d heard from colleagues to be the United Nations’ version of a job offer.  No time to think; my destination was a tiny town called “Pristina” in Kosovo.

A couple of weeks later, as I attempted to board the plane for my final transfer to Kosovo, my passport triggered a warning that I was traveling to a “war-torn” country.  “Yeah, 12 years ago!” I thought as I realized I had formed no initial hypothesis on what Kosovo was actually going to be like.  What little I knew of the country, aside from the history I had studied, came from my Kosovar friend from graduate school, who had cheerfully assured me that Kosovo was “chill” and that I’d have a good time. Invoking my trust in him, I decided that having gotten this far I wasn’t going to let an outdated travel warning so easily deter me.

Hours later, passport issues resolved, I arrived in the Balkans completely oblivious to how I must have appeared to my host country: caramel skin, dark eyes, flawless American accent, but wearing a headscarf (clearly not for the first time out of cultural respect) and outfitted in business casual.  Diplomat? Wealthy Arab princess? Tourist?  The guesses I got throughout the summer were far more flattering than the actuality of “broke graduate student, working at the United Nations.”

The evening I arrived, my roommates Teuta and Roland, born and raised in Kosovo yet possessing perfect English, invited me to come along to Teuta’s family’s house. A drive across the country and a few hours later, I was greeted by her aunt, parents, and grandparents, who only spoke Albanian.  But of the many things Kosovars are, shy is not one of them.  With a voracious curiosity, not even a language barrier was an excuse to not learn about someone new.  The delight of my arrival, welcoming to the family, attempts to fatten me up within the hour–this was my introduction to Kosovo.  As we headed back “home” the next day, I cradled a blood red rose from her aunt’s family garden, a parting gift as a “thank you for visiting our country,” all within my first 24 hours.

Back in Pristina, I was swept up into the busy life of working at the United Nations. As I started out poring over countless stacks of reports on the demographic scope of Kosovars since the end of the war, I painted a picture of a country where war had not just been a traumatic blot in their timeline or an introduction to Western intervention, but a reminder of the reasons for gratitude: for having survived, for having overcome, for losses that contributed to a greater cause, despite the hardships of post-conflict life.

The memories recounted from nearly a decade ago were not mired in regret or sadness, anger or desire, or even relayed with drama or a plea for sympathy; they were recollections, parts of an entire lifetime, reminders enforcing the idea that we cannot forever brood the unfortunate events in life: they are what they are and we still have lives to live, people to love, goals to accomplish.

In Kosovo, it wasn’t all about the war.  It wasn’t comparing and contrasting life as an American to life as a Kosovar.  It wasn’t about right and left, Muslim and Christian, about why things were as they were.  It was about working together to clean out an art studio flooded by torrential rain, not lamenting the lost studio space, but strategizing on where the next space would be.  It was about going to the street market to pick up fresh vegetables for soup in the evening, and chatting with vendors as the sun set in the background.  It was about coffee with family and friends, coworkers and new acquaintances – before work, during work, after work, and every moment in between.  It was about my boss’ Kosovar daughter dating a Serb and her husband’s anxiety that his daughter was dating anyone.  It was about rapping to YouTube videos with my roommate’s teenage cousins Drita and Zana, and our sick addiction to Jack Bauer’s adventures in “24.”

It was about here, and now.

As my friend Valëart explained over a plate of tiramisu one evening, “don’t worry about anything; this is Kosovo, we’re laid back.”  I had come to Kosovo to help with the development plans of the country, but what I found was that this tiny country of resilient people with no ties or need for me were the ones who were helping me, teaching ME how to live a fulfilling life.

So, standing there with the cold waterfall glittering in the sunlight, dancing its way over the edge, I thought, “Why do I want to do something insane thing like jumping through this waterfall?” Because I was in Kosovo, and in Kosovo we lived life for today, for the opportunities that might not present themselves again.  Without regret.

As I sliced through the warm air without a life jacket, seemingly solo, my ears filled with the thundering cheers and applause of hundreds of people below, people whom I had never met, who knew nothing of who I was or why I was there.  Very much the Kosovo way.  And the first thing I thought when I hit the water was “I’m alive!” Not in the sense that I was still a breathing form of intact flesh and bones, but that despite being so far from the life I’ve known, from the roots of my sorrows and anxieties, here my soul had come alive.

There are many days I’m glad that I kept a journal while in Kosovo, but even without the words documenting my experience at the time (which you can read), there is no way to explain the inner happiness, and sense of peace I found in the “war-torn” country of Kosovo.

Homa Hassan was born and raised in the United States. She works on U.S. foreign policy and international security, with a focus on the Middle East. Hassan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Public Affairs from Columbia College and a Masters in International Affairs from Columbia University.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect Kosovo Diaspora’s editorial policy.

Dardan Hajdaj: manager of the new noble club “The View” in Switzerland

By the end of September ‘The View’ in Winterthur will open its doors to the public with a noble and fine party atmosphere. The club aims to score with furniture designed by Paul Smith and an expensive sound system.

With a 300.000 Swiss Franc sound system and a spectacular view over Winterthur, the club alongside with its Paul Smith furniture is expected to open its doors to party from the 28th of September. Located on the 7th floor of the “Claudia House of Sound” building in Töss, the club seeks to offer an atmosphere yet to be experienced in Winterthur.

The interior design is indeed noble but it won’t be a club for the elite only, but for the whole region, assures  the manager.

“The View” is being financed by ‘Royal Döner’, the biggest Döner production in Switzerland. With an investment of more than a 1 million Swiss Francs, the manager plans to book national and international Djs. People are allowed to enter the club from 21 years onwards, it offers space for about 250 people and will be opened on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. During the week, however, The View will only function as a lounge and bar, and thus, entrance will be allowed from 6pm onwards.

Independently from The View, Royal Döner plans to open up a new restaurant in the same building. It is planned to be opened around November and during party nights at “The View” the restaurant will provide snacks. It has still not been decided whether the restaurant will put Döner on the menu or not.

The original article was posted at the Click here to read the original article in German.

Solaborate is competing for “World’s Hardest Working Startup” Competition

Solaborate is competing to win the award “World’s Hardest Working Startup” Competition at Web Summit 2013 in Dublin.

World’s Hardest Working Startup” Competition

Web Summit Dublin has organized a competition called “World’s Hardest Working Startup” and is looking for the hardest working, dedicated and passionate Startup team.  It’s about the team that keeps the startup rolling through the path of success. Solaborate is competing in this competition.

Solaborate is all about its TEAM, engaging in new challenges every day. Vote for Solaborate now and support the craziest, most passionate and dedicated team. The competition has already started and the voting is taking place online through Facebook.

The Founder & CEO of Solaborate is Labinot Bytyqi from Kosovo and he and his team needs your support. Please vote and support Solaborate to win the competition at WebSummit 2013 in Dublin- click on the link below and “LIKE” the page Solaborate. Like is consider as one vote.

Vote for Solaborate – World’s Hardest Working Team –  at

Ndriçim Ademaj: Poet from Prizren

Ndriçim Ademaj (*1991) lives in Geneva and released two volumes of poem in Kosovo: «Kërkoj diellin» (I am searching for the sun)(2008) and «Dera» (Door) (2011). He is rather unknown in the German speaking area of Switzerland. On the occasion of the double lection with Shaip Beqiri, Hans-Joachim Lanksch will translate Ademaj’s poems into German. His poems deal with the encounter and dialogue of two generations, which are artfully interpreted by Gian Töndury into German language. A conversation on literary scene, on life in Kosovo and in the diaspora will follow after the readings, which will be translated and moderated by Francesco Micieli and Hilmi Gashi. The evening will conclude with a solo performance by Jazz singer Elina Duni.

The double lection of Ndriçim Ademaj and Shaip Beqiri will take place in Bern (Switzerland) – Punto Buchowski, Thunstrasse 104 –, December 7th 2013, 21.00 – 22.30

More information in German:

Annea Hapciu: Branding Kosovo through Yoga

Trying to promote healthy living, awareness, and eco-friendly behavior in Kosovo, Annea uses her yoga skills to promote Kosovo positively abroad. 

Annea Hapciu, also known as the founder of N’Yoga, was born and raised in Prishtina, Kosovo. Miss Hapciu has a scholar background in business administration, entrepreneurship and marketing at the University of Dayton (UD) in United States. While at UD, she was chosen to promote her university by writing blogs at She also used this opportunity, to write about life in Kosovo and reflect on how life changed from year to year, whether it is in terms of infrastructure, green spaces, roads, overall societal changes, or simply the change in mentality.

Upon entering her first year of undergraduate class, she was among the thirty elite students who were part of their four year experience at UD. They had to go through rigorous scholarly seminars. In their last year of undergrad, they also had to create an original piece of scholarly work and publish it. Annea dedicated her undergraduate thesis to the analysis of “The Internal Effect of the Kosovo the Young Europeans Nation Branding Campaign on the Kosovar People, which was published by”. A manuscript of her thesis “Internal Effects of External Country Branding on Entrepreneurial Interest: The Case of Kosovo” is for review at the International Marketing Review.

Apart from her school work, she was practicing yoga while at UD. When asked when did yoga came into play Annea explains that this was as a way to stress relief from her studies, daily engagements, work and other extracurricular activities, she used to do yoga at UD.

When in Kosovo, her friends and family expressed interest in learning yoga and encouraged her to start instructing. Upon receiving her certification, she created her brand N’Yoga, which translates to In Yoga” and has been instructing yoga in Kosovo for the last nine months.

While trying to promote healthy living, awareness, and eco-friendly behavior in Kosovo, she also uses this opportunity to promote Kosovo positively abroad. She hopes to shed light on the dim image that we as a country and people have received due to our unfortunate historical circumstances.
Moreover, she has done a collection of picture with different Yoga position. Annea explains that the idea for taking the following pictures around Prishtina, the capital of Kosovo, came about from this very desire: to use yoga to promote the good and the beautiful of my country, Kosovo.

Annea’s last project was “Yoga in Kosovo” and it was published by MineBodyGreen where she showcased twelve photos of historical and cultural monuments of Prishtina.




Mevlude’s Marvelous Cakes all the way in New Zealand

The sweet and delicious world of desserts have a new baking queen, Mevlude Fusha, who was born in Prishtina and is now making success with her baking business “Mevlude’s Marvelous Cakes” all the way in New Zealand.

In 1999, Mevlude came to New Zealand as a war refugee with her husband and three children. This came to be a step closer to her dream as Mevlude loved to see her mother cooking when she was a young girl. Mevlude followed her mothers every move in the kitchen in a way that she could see and learn everything her mother knew about cooking. She paid special attention to baking as she is as many others, a dessert lover.

The passion for baking grew more and more through the years as she loved to be in the kitchen cooking and baking for her family and friends.

“After we came in NZ, I had more opportunity to further develop my passion for baking, so I started using creativity and imagination on my baking. So for birthday parties for family and friends, my birthday presents for them were my cakes which are unique”

Mevlude impressed with her skills and talent wherever she went and was encourage to start a baking business. About “Mevlude’s Marvelous Cakes” she says “This is my dream as well, because this is what i do, and enjoy doing it”. Mevlude contiunes with telling us that her goal is to spread her business and to one day be able to move her “office” to Kosovo.

As for being a Kosovar in New Zealand, she and many other Kosovars have been welcomed from the very first day, even the Prime Minister himself greated them when arriving in Auckland. Furthermore, the Auckland Mayor urged them to teach their children about the Kosovar history and culture as well as the albanian language.

“Overall Albanians are doing good in New Zealand, and although far from Kosovo, many kiwis know a lot about our country, our history and appreciate what we achieved here and there”, says Mevlude.

For more information about “Mevlude’s Marvelous Cakes” visit her Facebook page:

Kosovo and Argentina: So Far and Yet So Close

In reality, there are many things that people from Argentina and Kosovo have in common. We are both family-oriented societies. We enjoy spending time with friends over long coffee breaks. We have vibrant cultural backgrounds and immense passion for football and politics. We have both suffered from political instability, lack of trust in our governments, and we went through many fights to gain our independence.


By Laura Agosta

I first set foot in the Republic of Kosovo on a hot July morning in 2012. Since my initial interest in the region, I have been amazed how little we know about the Balkans in Argentina (which is strange when considering Argentina’s southern and eastern European immigrant influence). I conducted an informal survey among my college graduate friends and family members and realized they associated Kosovo mainly with refugees, war, political problems, and international crime. However, not many of them could locate the country on a map, let alone the language and religious beliefs of Kosovo citizens.

People in Argentina tend to believe there are no possible connections between the two countries. From my personal experience and life in the United States, I often found myself having dinner with Kosovars (primarily Albanians) in a scene that, despite the language and lack of asado and fernet on the table, could have been a part of my long nights of discussions with my friends in Buenos Aires. Listening to them talk about politics and football felt like home. How could these two cultures with no apparent ties have so much in common and yet we do not know about it?


Let me start from the beginning: Argentina does not recognize Kosovo. This is certainly not a big news, since only 101 out of 191 United Nations member states recognize it so far. Argentina claims that Kosovo’s “unilateral” independence goes against international law. Many people here state that the political reason behind this goes back to Argentina’s claim on the Malvinas Islands (or Falklands). Though they are currently a British territory, we claim them as ours. Moreover, Argentina has strong diplomatic ties with Serbia, inherited from former Yugoslavia, and a large amount of Serbian immigrants within our borders.

However, Argentina’s position during the war in Kosovo was not as distant. Our military force was involved in the peace-building process and the KFOR since 1999. Private aid was also important. In 2000, Amalia Fortabat, one of the most prominent businesswomen and philanthropists in Argentina, donated half a million USD to the United Nations World Food Programme for Kosovo. Why would she send that much aid to a country so distant and with no connections at all? She read a newspaper article about the story of Hyre Jasharaj, then a teenager of war. The power of stories creates connections.

In reality, there are many things that people from Argentina and Kosovo have in common. We are both family-oriented societies. We enjoy spending time with friends over long coffee breaks. We have vibrant cultural backgrounds and immense passion for football and politics. We have both suffered from political instability, lack of trust in our governments, and we went through many fights to gain our independence.

This starting point of shared passions and pains makes me think about what our two countries can learn from one another. There are two valuable ones that stand out in my mind. First, I was amazed at Kosovars’ resilience. They have this ability to convert suffering into opportunities and refuse to stand still in a contextual lack of opportunities. Kosovars in-country are building institutions and Kosovars abroad are helping the country and their families in ways that demonstrate how strong national ties can bring hope for the future generations. Kosovars do not seem to expect the government to solve all their problems. The strong sense of community is paired with a sense of individual responsibility, building a society where trust is the common currency and help is often near. Argentinian society could benefit from this approach, encompassing civic cohesion beyond political parties and government.

Argentina, on the other hand, is home to one of the most studied peaceful processes of reconciliation after the last military regime of 1976-1983. This dark period for our political and civil liberties led to thousands of people killed and thousands more disappeared, as well as abuses from the government and rebel forces that opposed it. We teetered over laws and regulations once the country regained its democratic system. Of course, this process had its flaws, but overall justice was achieved in many cases. Today, many of those wounds have healed. Now that the reconciliation process is beginning, Kosovo could benefit from examining the Argentinian model.

Two years ago, I began to research the image Kosovo has in Argentina. I studied the official position of Argentina on the Kosovo issue, and interviewed ambassadors, public officials, and people in academia. The European immigrant influence our country has gained in the last century has created a tie between our two countries, and it is time to truly recognize this.


LauraAgostaLaura Agosta is a development practitioner, raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Laura holds a BA in Political Sciences from the Universidad Catolica Argentina, and a Master of Public Administration from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University  in New York City.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect Kosovo Diaspora’s editorial policy or the organizations she is affiliated with.

Sislej Xhafa’s Art exhibited in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Napoli

Sislej Xhafa is known for his artistic investigation into the social, economical and political realities associated with the various complexities of modern society. His investigations, for example, into phenomena of tourism or forced illegality use a minimal language and they are at the same time ironic and subversive, practicing indifferently a wide range of media, from sculpture to drawing, from performance to photography.

“Reality is stronger than art. As an artist I do not want to reflect a reality, but I do want to question it. My social upbringing does not embrace, rational linear actions. I approach the world and life with primal instinctive behaviour”. The social results of economic theories, and on the whole the conceptual outcome that derives from their complex relations, have been for years at the heart of Sislej Xhafa’s artistic research, that questions the legal status of his country of origin, Kosovo, presenting himself as the Clandestine Pavilion at the Venice Biennale; or in the shoes of a broker who does not sell shares but buys and sells the departures and arrivals of trains in the performance “Stock Exchange”.

In a square in Torino, he sets up a temporary job centre which in reality is a sort of stage set; in New York, he reflects on the concept of security and stability, and in Manhattan he gets a truck of the 1950s full of young lawyers to go up the main road as they recite aloud the page of the yellow pages under the entry “Lawyers”. “It’s a politics of interruption, upsetting the configuration of forces determining what is visible and what is not, what forms of speech are understood as discourse and which are only perceptible as noise, who is designated as a speaking subject and who is merely spoken to”.

Source: Mario Codognato, “Still Untitled: Sislej Xhafa,” Museo D’Arte Contemporanea Dona Regina Napoli

Sislej Xhafa, TEDx Lecture


More articles about the work and exhibitions of Sislej Xhafa