A 2011 report left in the drawer, filmed in the wake of the Italian Army on a peacekeeping mission, opens a window on the reconstruction of Balkan countries after intestine wars.
Earplugs, from Pratica di Mare military airport to Giacova military airport, on the Italian Army’s C27. Random places, lives mixed in the deafening noise of travel: military personnel who had just left their wives and children at home to return to Kosovo on a mission, journalists curious to observe postwar reconstruction.
Noise and peace, serene faces, faces of a clean Italy, harbinger of a future for many who had one day stopped believing in a tomorrow.
It does not take much courage or recklessness to recount a conflict that has now been over for more than 10 years.
It takes a lot, though, and a lot, to tackle the sharp turns of a country blessed by Mother Nature and much less so by History, where bombs have left their mark. Of collapsed buildings and scratched souls and orphaned children.
And trust is needed, to rediscover oneself as an Italian and to watch chest out and eyes shining as the tricolor flies among the mountains of Kosovo.
Italy and 28 other NATO countries, with the KFOR mission, which has evolved as that piece of land misled by the sacred fire of independence has evolved, have provided protection and security to the places most at risk, garrisoning them day and night, to the population, to both Albanian and Serb communities. And it is in the thanks to the mission and its fruits that the Kosovar people, regardless of background and ethnicity, were unanimous.
The Multinational Battle Group, the heart and operational base of KFOR, was stationed in Villaggio Italia, among the Pec valleys.
In Pristina, on the other hand, the MSU headquarters of the Carabinieri and the Casa Italia embassy.
Lots of flags, military vehicles, tents and cots to share. Wake up at 6 a.m., in an uncomfortable bed to make us and them, the sacred ritual of the flag-raising, the march and then the story, bare skinned.
Among the places guarded by the military are the Visoki Dekani monastery and the Pec patriarchate. Orthodox, Christian Catholic and Muslim religions can coexist if one has a memory of respect. This unequal, to the cadence of the klepalo that gathers under the guise of St. King Stephen the monks, and to the slow pacing of the nuns.
But right there, where it was silence and prayer, the fear was stronger that certain divisions would come back as blinding and deadly, of bombs and destruction.
No more tanks in action but trucks on standby, price and compromise between past and future.
War makes money, post-war as well.
Diplomats at EULEX, a European outpost of legality, have the delicate task of monitoring local crime, checking the equidistance of the judiciary, ensuring the proper movement of goods and curbing the appetites of foreign mafias. First and foremost is the ‘ndrangheta, which is sensitive to the business of arms trafficking.
Mouths sealed, in EULEX as in embassy on the dense network of mafia connivance, fundamental but always on the edge, cooperation with local police forces.
Western luxury light years away, from the hollowed-out faces of the elderly and the streets filled with markets, gas pumps and the smells of cooking.
On the mountains guarding the valleys, the nails of those who had clung to the possible dream of a peaceful future.
Hope, in young college students who had invested in culture, to change their country.
And in the Balkan music of radio Goradzeva, a jewel of freedom from a pertinacious and masterless journalist, Darko (“the situation for the media is difficult, but we will make it,” his prophecy).
And then through the streets of Pristina and Bill Clinton’s words etched on marble under his statue.
And again in the red and white ribbons of the celebrating bride and groom.
Hope, among cemeteries and death camps, Albanian and Serbian flags hoisted within a stone’s throw of each other, to mark differences.
I saw life, and a better tomorrow, in the true and cheerful eyes of the children at Caritas.
Orphaned and abandoned. Yet happy, just from hearing about the happiness of small things.
A plate of rice with olives and basil prepared by them to welcome the Italian “guests,” colorful braids to cross with ribbons, and music to dance to.
Light, clean, confident war babies.