The first Ukrainian journalist to come to Kosovo, Lyudmila Makey, in an interview for The Geopost, talks about the hospitality and support of the Kosovars, the similarities and challenges that the two peoples have and the organization of the party in Pristina on the occasion of Ukraine’s independence few days ago.
Among other things, she also talks about the war in Ukraine, disinformation and Russian propaganda there, as well as its influence in the Balkans.
When asked when he thinks that Ukraine can recognize Kosovo, she answers with optimism that this should happen after the end of the war there.
Geopost: A few days ago was the independence of the state of Ukraine, how painful it is to be away from your country?
Independence Day is a special date for every Ukrainian, and for us Ukrainian journalists who were not at home during the war, but in Kosovo, these emotions are 10 times stronger. Because we felt how powerful the support of the Kosovars is, from the first day they surrounded us with attention, support, words of joy. They said that they know about our war, because they experienced their own war as well, and this is actually very sincere. Therefore, when we were invited to a meeting with Prime Minister Albin Kurti, for a festive breakfast, we saw that the entire terrace was decorated with Ukrainian flags and our colleagues also came with Ukrainian flags, and especially two Ukrainian boys who had just arrived in Pristina from Ukraine. These are the sons of our Ukrainian journalist colleagues from Kremenchuk. They covered their shoulders with Ukrainian flags.
There were such trusting conversations, there were such sincere emotions, and then we had a reception with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Donika Gerval and in the evening we had a reception with the mayor of Pristina Perparim Rama, and meetings with diplomats and journalists. The next day, the finale of the celebration of the Independence Day of Ukraine was the celebration at the “Armata” cinema.
I know that it is also a special place for Kosovars, because during the existence of Yugoslavia, it was a place where films were shown for the soldiers of the Yugoslav Army and after the independence of Kosovo, the building just stood. And then in 2017, with the help of foreign partners of the “Armata” cinema, another life took on a different meaning. And it was in this symbolic building that the celebration of the Independence Day of Ukraine took place, when there were more than 300 people in the hall, when the President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani, the ambassadors of America, Germany, Italy, France and other foreign countries sat in the first row, colleagues from Ukraine and Kosovo sat, from Afghanistan. You understand, at such moments, how much it is necessary to be together. Because the world is now divided into two parts. The first part is the evil represented by the Russian Empire, its aggressive policy. The second part is the whole civilized world, which has rallied together now and I think we will win.
Geopost: How do you now assess the situation from the Russian aggression in Ukraine?
2.Today is the first of September in Ukraine, children go to school, students go to universities. They go despite the fact that several dozen schools have been completely destroyed. Universities are destroyed, but their thirst for knowledge is so strong that they study even to the sound of explosions and air raid sirens. Unfortunately, this has become a moment in the everyday life of Ukrainians. Yesterday, my native Kyiv was again attacked by enemy rockets. I can’t sleep because I have apps installed on my phone that alert me to air raids. And until I waited for the answer from my relatives that everything is fine with them, that they are alive, I did not calm down.
Unfortunately, there is no safe place in Ukraine now. Russian missiles and drones are flying not only to Kyiv, but also to Lviv. We stayed with my friends when we left for Kosovo at the beginning of the full-scale invasion, there was a very young family, they helped us get on the bus and I have the best memories of them. Two weeks ago, the house where they live was hit by a Russian missile and they sent me a video of a destroyed apartment, where there are no windows, everything is broken glass, and it’s terrible. But it is encouraging that the Ukrainian army is beginning to dislodge the Russian occupiers on the steps of Ukraine with small but sure steps. I know that it is very difficult, it is just a titanic effort, but all of our own, all of the Ukrainian people are helping the Ukrainian fighters. By the way, we journalists who are here in Kosovo under the “Residence in Kosovo” program give almost all of our fees to support the Ukrainian army.
Geopost: How much damage are Russian misinformation doing in Ukraine and the Balkans?
Now there is not just a war going on, not just a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, now there is a hybrid war going on, and a very important component of this war is the information war. The first to enter Ukraine were not Russian tanks, but Russian propaganda entered, from television, radio, newspapers, it is still poisoning the heads of Russians who hate Ukrainians, who consider Ukraine their territory, but you need to understand if you do not know history, if you are not a thoughtful reader, if you lack critical thinking, then it is very easy for you to believe those fakes that are imposed by Russian propaganda.
I was told by former prisoner of war Maksym Kolesnikov, who was released from Russian captivity. He said that during the 10 months he was in Russian captivity in a Russian prison, Ukrainians were constantly told that Ukraine no longer exists, that Zelensky surrendered, Kyiv fell, but this is not true. When they came to Ukraine, they saw that Ukraine is alive, that Ukraine is fighting. Russian propaganda very skillfully makes people believe that we attacked ourselves, Ukrainians bombed their cities at the beginning of the war.
My brother, who lives in Russia, in St. Petersburg, told me that you watch Ukrainian television, that you read Ukrainian newspapers, you better watch Russia 24, there is the whole truth about your war. Nadal, propaganda penetrates into the Balkans.
As a journalist, I am interested in the media not only in Kosovo, but also in Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, and Albania. I saw on the bookshelves in Albania second-hand literature about Putin and Stalin, these books are sold freely. I periodically check what the Balkanist channel in Serbia writes in telegrams. It’s just terrible, everything related to Kosovo and Ukraine is presented so disdainfully, it’s not serious news, it’s not serious politicians, here we are Russians, here we are Serbs… By the way, the other day a stranger with a Serbian surname wrote to me on Facebook and wrote:” How much do Albanians pay you for anti-Serbian propaganda? I took it as a compliment, because my efforts and those of my fellow journalists from Ukraine are not in vain, because we write the truth, but this truth is perceived as propaganda, because some people do not like it. I wanted to ask this man how much the Russians pay him for propaganda, but I simply blocked him, because any discussion is a waste of time. Propaganda is not only media but also part of culture.
Unfortunately, during the war we realized that Russian culture can also be a weapon, it can be a Moscow net for milking Russian tanks. in Ukraine, they refused to perform the music of Tchaikovsky and Russian composers. Russian musicians are now persons non-grata on the world stage, unfortunately, in the Balkans and in Kosovo, including during music festivals, Russian music was played and even a Russian singer of Ukrainian origin came and Ukraine was written on the posters. And in Estonia, the concert of this singer was ignored because people read newspapers and do not believe Russian propaganda.
Geopost: When do you think Ukraine recognized Kosovo’s independence?
This question is often asked by my colleagues, friends and strangers in Kosovo. From the first day when I came here for the program, almost all interviews end with this question. I honestly and frankly answer – I don’t know. I think it is unfair that Ukraine and Kosovo do not have diplomatic relations. We have similar histories, similar values, but when our war ends with victory, I am sure of this, the issue of recognizing Kosovo will be the first thing that Ukraine should do after the victory. Ukraine should recognize Kosovo, Kosovo is taking a lot of steps for this, and readiness to accept refugees, and a unique program for milking journalists.
Kosovo businessmen and citizens send tons of humanitarian baggage to Ukraine to support Ukrainians. What Vjosa Osmani said, we are ready to maintain diplomatic relations with Ukraine, and I think that this time will come after the victory. Now Ukraine is full of blood, now there are issues that need to be resolved immediately, but our program also gives an impetus to politicians to think that Kosovo deserves to be recognized as an independent state at the highest diplomatic level. /Geopost/