Getting to Know EUSTORY Alumni: Zana from Kosovo

Zana from Kosovo  | Photo: private
From Prizren to the world – keeping in touch with friends from abroad is important to Zana | Photo: private

Traces of Transition

Sometimes roads are rocky. So was Zana’s, when she made her journey to last year’s EUSTORY Summit in Berlin and so is Kosovo’s until the present day. The history of her home country taught her to see every obstacle as a chance for change, both on the large and small scale.

Name: Zana, born in 2001

Lives in: Prizren, Kosovo

First EUSTORY activity: EUSTORY Summit 2019


Family in Transition

When turmoil shaped the Kosovans’ lives in the late 1980s and early 1990s, culminating in war from 1998 to 1999, Zana hadn’t been born yet. Her parents and grandparents, however, experienced suffering and pain and went through the uncertainties of the subsequent transition to independence and democracy. Ever since then, the society has changed, and so has Zana’s family, she explains: “For a long time, restrictions were imposed on women in my family, for example they were denied an adequate education. By letting us decide about our own future, my dad has always supported the independence of his daughters.” As structures still tend to be patriarchal in Kosovo, her father’s attitude constituted a profound transition for Zana.

However, in discussions with her family, a typical generational conflict becomes visible sometimes, especially concerning the use of technical devices: “My parents regard a smartphone as unnecessary. I often argue that it facilitates the communication with friends from abroad, for example with peers I met at the EUSTORY Summit. I think in general it is sometimes difficult for them to accept me and my sisters being much more mature than they were at our age – it is simply another generation.”

From Melancholia to Progress

For the 18 year-old Zana from Prizren in southern Kosovo, the past is present every day: In songs being played on the radio, the painful memory of the Balkan Wars at the end of the 1990s is being kept alive. Moreover, the Kosovan language still includes many words and expressions from pre-transition times when other languages were spoken in today’s Kosovo, she explains.

As political tensions and an enormous unemployment rate shape the Kosovans’ lives, Zana understands that especially older generations tend to feel melancholic about the past. What happened should not be forgotten, she says, and also we must learn from mistakes. However, she misses an openness towards further changes in society, “a forward-looking perspective which strives for developing things to the better.”

The End of the Comfort Zone

“It was horrible: I missed my connection flight, lost my luggage and was stuck at the airport in Dusseldorf for six hours”, Zana remembers her first time travelling alone. Her worst memory: The discriminating behaviour of the airport officials who first asked for a sheer endless number of documents at passport control and then made jokes about her in German. What they did not know was that Zana understood every single word as she is attending a German school where she has been learning the language for seven years.

Outside the Box

In the end, Zana arrived at her destination: the EUSTORY Summit in Berlin – luckily, the journey’s complications were worth their while, she says. Apart from getting to know more than 120 different perspectives and learning to reconsider her own, Zana herself contributed to improving the awareness and knowledge about her own home country. “Many of my European peers had no or only a vague idea of Kosovo’s existence. This is why international encounters are so important: they enable us to think outside the box.” For her, sharing experiences with other young Europeans is fundamental in order to foster improvement and progress in her own country.

Heading North

With one eye on the future, Zana is curious about leaving her home country behind, as her sister did, who studies in Germany. To get the best education as possible and one which fosters her individual development, she wants to apply to universities abroad as soon as she finishes school in 2020. Her first preference is studying medicine in a Scandinavian country. She likes the cold. Will she return to Kosovo one day? She doesn’t know.

The interview was conducted by Melina Heinze.

Kosovo in a Nutshell:

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

For centuries, Kosovo’s affiliation has been disputed between its neighbouring countries Serbia and Albania. Although Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, its status remains contested to the present day: While Belgrade still regards Kosovo as an autonomous province of Serbia, its sovereignty as a state has been legitimated by more than 100 states worldwide – except by powerful states like China and Russia. Tensions between the Albanian majority (88%) and the Serb minority, as well as unemployment – especially among the young generation – belong to the core problems in the Kosovan society. Kosovo is a potential candidate for EU-membership.


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