Ambassador Braathu spent a day in the Municipality of Decan, meeting friendly people and seeing interesting sites and projects. The day started in the office of the Mayor of Decan, Mr. Rasim Selmanaj before it continued with visits to the villages Isniq, Lebushë and Baballoqit.
In Isniq, you find the House of Culture Berit Backer, named after the Norwegian humanist Berit Backer (1947-1993), who did a field study in the village in the 1970s. Here, the Ambassador met the people of Isniq; both children and the elderly – people that Berit Backer once lived among and got to know. Mr. Braathu thanked them for the commemoration of Berit Backer, and for showing their friendship and respect to her and their gratitude to Norway. Mayor Selmanaj explained that it is important for the municipality and for the people to honor Berit Backer and to show their appreciation. As the Mayor said, it is their moral obligation to honor humanist Backer and that “her name is in the hearts and minds of the people of the community”. She was their friend. Ambassador Braathu pointed out that Berit Backer’s study – “Behind Stone Walls” - from her fieldwork in Isniq is read and studied all over the world.
The Embassy Fund supported a much needed sidewalk in the village of Lebushë. The children used to walk to school on a dangerous road with a lot of traffic. The Ambassador is very pleased that the Norwegian Embassy could help them in making their way to school safer. The day of the visit, he inaugurated the one-kilometer sidewalk, cutting the ribbon along with the Mayor, the pupils and the media. The children seemed very happy that the Ambassador came to visit them, making it a big and fascinating day.
At a lower middle school, in a neighboring village, Baballoqit, the Ambassador participated in the opening of a sports field. This is a joint investment by the Norwegian Embassy and the Municipality of Decan. When we arrived, the children and youth were playing football and having fun. Ambassador Braathu met the children, and again, he was very happy to contribute.
Ambassador Braathu, Mayor Selmanaj and around forty men from the local village (and two women from the Embassy!) came together for lunch in the “oda” (men’s chamber) of a “kola” (house made of stone; stone walls) The food was lovely and the hospitality fantastic. “Fantastic” – a word Mr. Braathu repeated several times during the day. He thought the day in Decan, because of the nice people, was absolutely fantastic and he thanks them very much for their hospitality.
Photo: PRIOBerit Backer
Behind Stone Walls. This is the name of Berit Backer’s social anthropological study of traditional Albanian society – more concrete, the community in the village of Isniq in the 1970s. Household formation became the main focus of her field work. Up to the 1970s, Kosovo Albanians had lived in relative isolation from the rest of Europe and their society had not been affected much by globalization. The late 1970s was a turning point, with foreign influence and change. As Robert Elsie writes in the book’s preface “Berit Backer was a great friend of the Albanian people and, during the 1980s, became a leading human rights activist, in particular in defense of the cause and rights of the Kosova Albanians”. Berit, pronounced “Berita” in Albanian, received the nickname “Merita” (merit) because of the respect and reputation in which she was held by the Kosovo Albanian people for her knowledge and for her work to inform Europe about their situation.
Berit Backer’s life was brought to an end in 1993, when she was killed in Oslo by a disturbed person from Kosovo. At this time Berit Backer was working for the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI). After her death, Berit Backer’s collection of Albanian books was donated to the Ethnographic Museum in Oslo, now part of the University Museum of Cultural Heritage.
To this day, Berit Backer is much remembered and revered in the village of Isniq in Decan municipality
Berit Backer. Behind Stone Walls – changing household organization among the Albanians of Kosova (1979). Dukagjini Publishing House, Pejë 2003.