Adem Jashari Memorial Complex

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September, 2020

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During our five-day trip to Kosovo, we stayed in Prizren at the “Hotel Kačinari”:, and used it as our base for day trips.

Our first outing was to the “Adem Jashari Memorial Complex”: in the village of Prekaz, an hour’s drive away. During the journey, our guide for the day, Enes, managed to tell us about Kosovo’s complicated history, from 12,000-year-old Neolithic sites through to the declaration of independence in 2008. This set the scene for our visit.

Adem Jashari was a founding member of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a militant group of ethnic Albanians who sought the independence of Kosovo during the 1990s. In March 1998, Serbian security forces attacked his family’s compound in retaliation for a series of attacks on police in the province, where the majority of the population were of Albanian origin. After three days of shelling, Adem Jashari and more than 50 members of his extended family were dead.

The memorial complex, one of the most significant war reflection sites for Kosovo and its people, is in three parts: the former homes, cemetery and museum.

We walked a short distance to the family buildings which had a large white marble statue of Adem in front. The family members lived together as a clan and the homes were expanded to take on and in, new additions. The ruined buildings were surrounded by scaffolding, with walkways and ladders: a satellite dish was full of bullet holes and through an open window, the fireplace could be clearly seen. Although a decision had been made to keep the buildings in their current state, they are a constant reminder for the surviving relatives who live in a row of houses to the side.

A red marble streak, signifying a river of blood, ran from the house, through a central area, down steps and across the road to the cemetery where the marble was replaced with a ribbon of red flowering plants. Here we found the identical white marble tombs of the family members, which were simply inscribed with the name, year of birth and death. The words at the cemetery translate as, ‘you are the blood in my veins, the breath that we are taking’. At 11am two soldiers from the Kosovo Security Force swapped duties as the memorial is always guarded to honour the sacrifice made. The distinctive Albanian red flag with its silhouetted black double-headed eagle flew in defiance. There were two event spaces on either side where various commemorations take place, including a torch light procession on the night of 7 March. When Kosovo appoints a new president, he is said to make an early pilgrimage to the site.

Opposite was the museum, tall and triangular in shape, designed like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Inside, was a striking photo montage of the 55 family members and 4 guests who were killed (various ages including the elderly, women and children). On the first floor landing a family tree depicted those killed in red and those who survived in white. Tools and artefacts belonging to the family were spread out, including a baking table that hid one of Adem’s surviving nieces. Newspaper cuttings from the time were displayed, including one made by Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary at the time. Books were for sale and there were toilets nearby.

Enes told us there were two views on the actions of Adem Jashari: that he was mentally
unstable, as who would sacrifice their own life and their families, or did he underestimate what the Serbs were capable of.

Helen Jackson

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