Romeo and Juliet in Kosovo
It was the summer of 1995 when Drita met Zoran, and war was beginning to look inevitable in Kosovo.
Zoran, a Serb, was a lifeguard at the city swimming pool. Drita, an ethnic Albanian woman, liked to spend the hot summer afternoons by the water. Somehow, despite a rebel insurgency that was surfacing in the countryside, despite decades of ethnic hatred, the two fell in love.
Serbs and Albanians rarely interact in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. They go to different stores and cafes, watch different television channels, speak different languages, and practice different religions. In the countryside, the separation is even greater. The two ethnic groups rarely live in the same villages.
"I don't think I have to tell you that this is unusual," says Drita, a petite blonde, who, like her boyfriend, changed her name for this article to protect her safety. "I think maybe we are the only mixed couple in Kosovo."
As Zoran and Drita have grown closer over the years - on a recent evening they cuddled at the corner table of a cafe and spoke of marriage - their people have only drifted further apart. Their story, they say, is not one of hope. Rather, it is a tale of desperation and fear, marked by violence, threats, and, in the end, a desire to flee the country.
"If there were any signs of progress here, I would stay and suffer," says Zoran.
Zoran, who has chiseled Slavic features, is as cool as Drita is nervous. "People here are narrow-minded, so we can't wait 100 years for them to get clever," he says.
Ethnic Albanians, who are 90 percent of the population in Kosovo and are mostly Muslim, are seeking independence in a land that they say is rightfully theirs. Serbs, Orthodox Christians who rule Kosovo largely by police force, refuse to loosen their grip on the territory, which they call the historical basket of their culture.