For many years it seemed that the entire former Yugoslavia used to go to Trieste for lunch and coffee on Sunday. When the wars started in the early nineties, and the visa system was introduced to a large part of the former country, almost everyone I knew began to talk about this mythical lunch and mythical coffee every now end then. This myth became a symbol of freedom and happiness, of normal life that seemed irretrievably lost.
During the wars people became countenance fallen and sometimes you would be embarrassed to even ask the courtesy question How do you do? so not to provoke an avalanche of discontent. Then the wars ended, the region began to normalize, and has gained “a certain European perspective”. However, the grim facial expressions have remained.
In November last year in Pristina, I drank coffee with Driton Hajredini, one of the best Kosovo artists. Driton was talking about the movie that he was finishing at that moment, and I was talking about a project that I was in Pristina for – The Culture Lobby. Of course, I asked him what he thinks will change in his life when his country joins the European Union. Driton responded without a twinge of hesitation with "I will smile more."
This still seems to me to be the best answer I heard to this question, since it contains everything that people in the region have been struggling with for years - from wars to the corruption. What here used to be called the West and now the European Union, has remained the symbol of a normal, happy life, the one in which you have lunch in Trieste on Sundays. I'm not sure how many of us know exactly what this “normal life” that we are all striving for, actually means, or how to achieve it but dozens of possible answers were offered through this project. However, Driton was right, it seems to me that, whatever it means, it will be closer when we start to smile more.