It's a complicated story, the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia.
Kosovo, formerly a province in southern Serbia, declared its independence in 2008. The United States, and most of the member states in the European Union, have recognized this. But for Serbia, and many other countries, Kosovo remains a rebellious province with an ambiguous legal status.
Once again, there is fighting on the Serbian/Kosovo border. Here is a report from Reuters.
The situation in the northern part of Kosovo is volatile because the population is predominantly Serbian and Orthodox Christian. The rest of Kosovo is overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian and, for the most part, moderate Muslim.
The situation in Kosovo has come to feel a lot more personal for me lately.
Last month, I tried to send a couple of packages to Pristina, the capital, to a family member who is living and working there. I had done so in the past with no problems.
But this time, those two packages came back, in quick succession. You can see the most recent one in the photo.
Each package was stamped RETOUR, in big letters.
In smaller letters, there was a longer message. It had the rhythm of a strange haiku:
DUE TO UNEXPECTED SITUACION
OCCURRED IN REGION OF KOSOVO
AND METOHUA TRAFFIC IS INTERRUPT
TEMPORARY 11003 BELGRADE
I had read stories about the practical implications of Kosovo's unresolved international status. They don't yet have their own country code for telephoning, so a call from someone in Kosovo may appear to be coming from Slovenia or Serbia. There are problems with e-commerce. Passport issues. And problems with the mail.
When I mailed the first package, the Post Office employee had questioned me. "Isn't this address in Serbia?"
No, I assured her, it was in Kosovo.
I should have listened. Evidently, I would have had better luck if I had written out the complete address and then simply added "Serbia" at the end. On the other hand, I've read that some people in Kosovo refuse to accept mail that includes "Serbia" in the address.
It's complicated, all right.
Although the packages looked a little battered, the contents were undisturbed. So now my husband and I are enjoying the homemade Passover mandelbrot I tried to send to Kosovo last month. The cookies are intact and tasty, despite their three week journey to the Balkans and back.
I hope the people are as resilient.
On a more positive note, I have just had some of my Slovenian "food-and-roots" writing published in Kosovo. It appears here, in a youth-oriented publication called, appropriately enough, Kosovo 2.0. They have a diverse array of voices. And everything is published in three languages: Albanian, Serbian, and English.
So that's one more reason why Kosovo, Serbia--and the Balkans--matter in a whole different way to me now.
Causes Blair Kilpatrick Supports
Louisiana Folk Roots, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Habitat for Humanity/Musician's Village New Orleans, Doctors Without Borders