The Journey Back Home

  By Shqipe Malushi

     Hundreds of women from KWNmember organizations and their beneficiaries joined workshops and individual coaching on “Resilience and Wellness of Being” in villages and cities throughout Kosovo from 4 Jun. through 1 Sep. 2014. Workshops helped women reflect on the past and find new ways of moving forward. The journey for women was painful. Memories of war were still very fresh in their minds, and no one had really helped them heal or given them tools for releasing their pain and nightmares in order to find forgiveness.
     In the city of Gjakova, women held pictures of sons and daughters missing since the war. They cried for hours for the injustice done, powerlessness and lack of support. After hours of mourning, release came by remembering victims in light of the living: by bringing out their values and qualities, not their loss; by focusing on their contribution, not their disappearance.
     “For 15 years I have never felt lighter than today,” said one mother. “You are late. We needed this 15 years ago.”
     In another village where many women had suffered rape, they called themselves “faceless women” without hope. There were many heartbreaking stories. One mother was gang raped by nine soldiers. She swore to fight this evil act for the rest of her life to protect her daughters. She encouraged other women to stand up and be proud for being survivors. She asked them not to carry the burden of shame because they were not guilty for this act. Together we managed to build a bridge of hope, a net of support through positive thinking and a new vision for life. In Prizren many young people with disabilities joined the workshop, finding hope for their future. A blind girl, the first in Kosovo to study for her master’s degree in Law, expressed a desire to study psychology in Turkey. We connected her with a Turkish university that expressed a desire to offer her a scholarship.
     In the village of Krusha e Vogel, where almost all the men were killed, half the village had moved forward. From a single sewing machine gifted to her in 2003, one woman now had 10 machines and employed many women as successful tailors.
     KWN members considered the workshops a breeze of fresh air. They gave me an opportunity to connect with people’s pain, and together we turned pain into hope. We created a platform of positivity where women could identify their pain, commit to healing and release their pain. Workshops helped women bond, forgive and let go of the past. New critical thinking and communication tools were taught. Many women regained their self-confidence in creating a better life. For me, this journey back home was very insightful. I was able to reconnect with my own land, my own people; to remember my heritage; and to discover some of my own shortcomings that I, too, had to forgive and let go. Love is in every heart of my people who need healing in order to move forward and regain all of their values, which were stripped away from them. I am committed to raise my voice to all professionals, artists and humanitarians to ask for helping my people heal and build a new vision of hope.
     Born in Peja, Kosovo, Shqipe Malushi has lived in the U.S. since 1980. A woman’s rights activist, she has worked in New York and travelled the world, providing mentoring, healing and empowerment to women and men. This summer, after many years away, she returned home to Kosovo.