Claudia Ermel | 21.12.2020
Foundation and the Life and Environment Foundation, Marko Dinié and Elona Beqiraj presented Presented by the Refugee Council of Lower Saxony together with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation their latest works.
The ZOOM event was part of the accompanying programme of the exhibitions Signum Mortis and the installation 40.555, photographs and collages by Wolf Böwig on the window fronts of the Pavillon Hannover as well as on the Weißekreuzplatz. While the installation 40.555 in cooperation with Seebrücke Hannover addresses the current situation at the European external borders, Signum Mortis is dedicated to the northern Balkans, the former Yugoslavia and its successor states. This topic was also touched by the online reading evening discussed here on 17.12.2020.
The protagonists of the successful event on a virtual stage were the aforementioned authors as well as the moderator Jehona Kicaj and Kai Weber from the Refugee Council. In the online chat, questions from the audience could also be asked, which were answered and also discussed in a joint conversation at the end of the event.
People were only tolerated
The introductory words of Kai Weber gave a brief outline of the war in Yugoslavia, described the circumstances at the time and the situation of the war refugees in Germany at that time, who only experienced years of toleration. "The outbreak of war in Yugoslavia was 30 years ago," explained Kai Weber, "(...) Tens of thousands of refugees have been in a state of de facto tolerance for years. From 2009 onwards, there were even more deportations to Serbia and Kosovo."
Now the descendants of this generation of war are speaking out. In their works, both authors deal with the culture of remembrance, with the here and there, the foreignness in the homeland. The return home becomes a foreign return because belonging has been lost. However, Elona and Marko have used quite different forms of literary expression for their concerns.
You know the war only from stories
Both - Marko's novel and a volume of poetry by Elona - are about finding the identity of a generation that doesn't really feel right anywhere. The younger generations know the war only from the stories of parents or grandparents. They have nothing to do with the old resentments and enmities. In the diaspora, the supposedly former enemies face the same rift, after all, the visitors of the ZOOM event learn.
Elona Beqiraj was born in Lower Saxony in 1997 to Albanian parents. Growing up in Verden, she has been studying political science in Hanover since 2018. Marko Dinié is a Serbian author. He was born in Vienna in 1988 and spent his childhood and youth in Belgrade. Marko studied German and Jewish Cultural History in Salzburg. In their respective books, Marko Dinié and Elona Beqiraj offer two very different approaches to the topics of war, flight and exile, homeland and diaspora.
Serbia and Kosovo in the sign of the conflict
The presenter Jehona Kicaj emphasized in her welcome the special nature of this virtual reading stage, as the two authors each have an individual perspective on two Balkan countries, which are still under the sign of conflict. The literary scholar from Hanover and winner of the Victor Rizkallah Foundation 2019, was also born in Kosovo. She led carefully through the entire reading and discussion evening and also brought her own experiences and insights.
In Jehona's conversation with the authors, the visitors learned how similar the rift swell can be to those whose ancestors come from a country they themselves only know from visits. Marko Dinié and Elona Beqiraj, both not personally raised in the Yugoslavian war turmoil, yet affected by their origins, each address in their own way the fate of their ancestors, to whom they still feel connected.
While Elona's book of poems deals with visits to the relatives left behind in Kosovo, Marko has written a fictional novel about a refugee who returns home as a visitor. Both are about belonging, about division, about finding identity. The feeling of always sitting between two chairs is only too familiar to both, the audience learns. Neither in the homeland of their ancestors nor in the diaspora do they feel fully accepted. Elona goes one step further, only those who are also "foreign" can understand. "I often feel like I'm in foreign communities. The diaspora can also be a home," she said in an interview.
What is home for you?
Asked what home to him is, Marko said: "Homeland is where I am ashamed. It's about taking responsibility for the society you live in. Then you also have to deal with the unpleasant things."
This is also how identity can be understood. Elona, however, turns the tables completely: "Germany can't help but accept parts of us. I used to be so ashamed as a child. not have a German name. Meanwhile, so much has changed. Being intercultural is simply one of them. I know so many bio-Germans who compulsively try to align themselves with other cultures, today it is totally fashionable to belong to this bubble. Germans want to be foreign at all costs. There has been an insane change. I also feel at home in my diaspora, whether the people are from Bosnia, Serbia or Turkey - I don't have to be defined, but I can redefine myself again and again."
For both, it seems that home is no longer a given quiet place. Rather, they want to help shape what their homeland could be.
Here is the whole excerpt on YouTube
The books of both authors