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In one divided city four young people were brought together by music.
Rock music introduced young people from Mitrovica with their peers from ”the other side”, but in the same time they had met ”the same side” of their home city.
Since the Kosovo war in 1999 Mitrovica has been divided on southern, mostly Albanian part and northern, mostly Serbian part. The city has been recently administratively divided on South and North Mitrovica. People who live there live their lives separately from each others.
If there wasn’t a school of rock music these four youngsters would probably never meet each other.
”I like the atmosphere here. It is so cool. Everyone is willing to help. Music brings us together”, says Zlatko, the pianist.
”Mixing bands and young people from south and north is a good thing. I have met new people and I am spending time with them. Beside music, the most important thing is friendship, as well”, underlines vocalist Ilda.
Ljeka from southern part of the city states that Mitrovica definitely deserves school of rock music, considering the fact that this town was relatively known for rock music before.
Mitrovica Rock School was launched by an American who lives in Netherlands, Wendy Hussler-Forest.
During the establishment in 2008, the school has functioned separately as nongovernmental organisation, south and north from river Ibar that divides the city. Young people from Albanian, Serbian and Bosnian coummunities would meet only in Skoplje (Macedonia) during summer or winter school and they would play, sing and create together in mixed bands.
”It used to be frustrating sometimes because after our succesful unification in Skoplje that children loved we would go back to Mitrovica. One group would go to the south, the other one to the north and that would be the end,” says Hussler-Forest.
But, in 2011 there was an idea according to which the best students from both parts of the town would form the band and work on their own songs.
That mixed band functioned successfuly for five years, and its members were the current teachers of Rock School. Today this school has 13 similar bands, instead of Skoplje the meeting point is Mitrovica, and they even started to play together on their shows in Kosovo.
”Last year we asked participants whether they would feel secure if we provided safe transport in Mitrovica, without medias, with protection of identity and they said ”yes”,” says Hussler-Forest.
They were guests in Pristina and in Gracanica, but they have never played yet in their town, Mitrovica.
”There is a fear of what might happen if they went to the other part of the city, if someone tries to hit them while they are on stage or if they call out on them,”she says. Forest adds that amongst the participants exists great concern that involves reaction of their community.
”They are dealing with the huge pressure from their communities”, she points out.
Still, Hassler-Forest is satisfied with the accomplishments of this school and the fact it functions today as one school.
”We set this goal in 2008, so people could work together every day. In those days it was unattainable, situation was not so good, there were problems in 2011 on the border and everything became even more difficult. We did not have clear goal in front of us. Now, it is a bit more relaxed. The situation is relaxed by Brussels process, altough not everyone is happy about that”, said Hussler-Forest.
School currently has about 50 students and majority of them now goes to the other part of the city.
”I have never been in the South Mitrovica before”, says Zlatko from the northern part.
”I thought it was dangerous before, but now I see people are much more peaceful. Of course, I don’t feel safe, but I know I have people that I am familiar with. I didn’t have unpleasant situations and so far everything is great,” he adds.
Tringa never visited North Mitrovica before, either.
”I had practices in the north several times now. I didn’t have any inconveniences. On contrary, I feel really well. My transportation is secured and everything is fine”, she says.
Ljeka did not have the opportunity to meet his peers from Serbian community, until now.
”We have a quay near the river Ibar, we live near each other, and we never hang out before, like we are living in different worlds. Now we know each other, we stay in contact via social networks and we know what is sort of happening in each part of the city”, he says.
They all hope one day will get a chance to present their work to public in Mitrovica.
By this model, the same school got the city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mostar Rock School.
Source of picture and text: slobodnaevropa.org