But why the Balkans? Maybe bacause this neighbourhood, wedged into Europe’s flank by the East, might contain symbolisms and codes that define how its peoples think and are. Because this geographical matrix of contradictions, a mould -the official history tells us- that turns out irredentism, rivalry and strife, is often branded -fairy or unfairly- as the pariah of Europe; as something other to it, a powder keg packed with new democracies deformed by contradictions and unbridgeable divides even us the come into being. In the Western imaginary, the Balkans are a dystopian blot on the landscape, a land of second-class citizens….
….peoples, religions, ethnicities, customs and habits produce an alluring hotchpotch which comes with a luminosity and profound humanity; with the Balkan soul,which may seem coarse and alien, but becomes spontaneous and captivating when it catches light. So it wast these Balkans, in all their harshness, that i began to discover on my journey.
….the symbols of the Balkans aren’t only hatred death and revenge, the graves in Srebrenica, economic primitivism, nationalisms. They are the children, too, playing in the ruins of an abandoned factory at dusk, an antidote to decay; they are the newly-married mixed-faith couple; they are crossing from its one side to the other with faith in the future, as Rigas envisioned it, your only passport.
Preface: Aimos. Wanderings in the Balkans. Agra Publications. June 2019
Translated from the Greek by Michael Eleftheriou