And just like that the city that we loved crumbled to the ground, never to be found again…

Along with it many more things were lost. We lost the memory of who we once were; the greatest civilization, the mighty kingdom. We lost our identity.

It’s a strange thing how it never occurs to one, how much can be lost alongside the demolition of a city. The crumbling walls took with them our dreams, every single broken brick representing the state of our hearts. Remaining staircases that lead nowhere, and the sporadically standing pillars that resemble the rebellious souls that withstand any catastrophe.

Winner | RTF Essay Writing Competition May 2021

Category: Essay: Complex Pasts – Diverse Futures
Participant: Rejhane Mazllumi
Profession: Student
City: Prizren

The foundations, however, were the saddest reminder of everything that was lost, being utterly redundant now that they had nothing above them to support. Because you see, all these elements, on their own, had no purpose whatsoever, being nothing more than mere statues, memorials of the places we once loved so.

They only serve their purpose when they are connected, supporting one another, thus forming something much greater than the individual parts.

The fountains in the piazza and all their mesmerizing sculptures now had turned into dust, and the marble stones took with them the laughter of the many children who used to play in front of it, the chatter of the elders who would go there at dusk, when the city would be washed into an auburn and golden color, or the many first kisses that were shared by lovers at the late hours of night.

This city that used to belong to everyone now had become ruins, a graveyard of broken dreams, lost hopes and forgotten memories.

And we turned into nomads, people without a city, without an identity. Now we were outcasts, the stories of what we called the greatest city had become some old men’s tales, who in the pain of losing their beloved homes would go at great lengths to embellish with such fine details their descriptions of their city.

To them, our finely carved majestic pillars, our blue marble floors, the heavenly gardens were a product of our inventive imaginations that longed for what we had lost. And frankly, who could blame them? How were we to prove it to these people who had never seen such greatness that something like that had actually existed?

Nonetheless, what really concerned me was that maybe our advocations were actually a means of convincing ourselves, more than anyone else. We desperately wanted to show that we were more than this, that we were craftsmen, warriors, builders; a civilized society that was known by the place they came from. And now it was like our roots had been severed.

History has often shown that there are different ways in which a city forms the character of people, be that in the individual aspect, or in the wider context, as communities and societies. It gives identity to nations as well as individuals, reminds us of traditions which have had a continuity for centuries, the moral norms and cultural values to which our ancestors were proudly invoked.

An organic connection of the present with the past is imperative for the stability and well-being of a nation. A demolished city is like a torn out page in history; it leaves a void, a blank space that severs that most imperative connection, leaving room for alteration and manipulation of history.

That’s how true stories become legends and myths, that’s how nations are assimilated, how history and identity is lost.

Our city was the kind of settlement which with the festive tradition had encompassed in itself great diversity of disciplines. In the narrow streets of its neighborhoods, man found himself surrounded by personalities and professions of various kinds, who during the time of rest, gathered in common squares (piazzas) and participated in very lively discussions which resulted in exchanges of information and knowledge, influencing a comprehensive formation of man.

At times I would still go back, stand there with my eyes closed and it would almost feel like nothing had changed. I could still picture the narrow alleyways that widened while leading you to the piazzas, the ever-lively market-place, always crowded with people shouting and trying to get the best deal, which I could almost smell if I tried hard enough. The path I took to go to school… Now it seemed so narrow, in an almost claustrophobic way. The ruins of the houses seemed like from another era and I just couldn’t believe that I used walk these streets every day.

As time passed by and mold covered the remaining pieces of what once used to be the greatest city on earth, we lost sense of its greatness. It now resided in the back of our heads as a misty memory of a feeling, more than an actual place. The irony is that now it had become a legend to its very own residents, the ones who would swear by its might and glory would now stumble on misplaced memories.

It is hard to tell which influences which more; humans the city, or vice-versa. However, it is an unequivocal truth that they are both indispensable to the existence of each-other, like the perfect symbiosis. Therefore, the importance of our cultural heritage, of those God-forsaken old buildings that have been staying in the corners of streets, watching silently their surroundings changing and becoming stranger and stranger, cannot be stressed enough.

Those very buildings are our organic and tangible connection to our past, to our history and to our identity. It’s the places we go to when we want to be part of the great stories; the castles where great kings resided, the places where the legendary battles were fought. It’s the buildings that are the time machines which can take us anywhere.

Unfortunately, ruins cannot play the same role. They serve as reminders evoking some bitter-sweet memories of that had once been and is now lost.

And what I had dreaded most had come to be; having nothing to remember it with, no one really remembered what our city was like. We all had our own descriptions of it, that emerged from vague memories and a good imagination, not wanting to let go, frustrated at the very nature of humans and the fact that we are bound to forget. Because in this case to forget meant to lose forever the last reminder of what our city had been, our memories.

We could not afford to lose anymore, as we had already lost enough.

And we were doomed to be nomads, an ostracized nation, like the orphan whose parents die abruptly and is left to his own devices. Wandering aimlessly in this strange place. We had lost our homes, we had lost our memories and consequently we had lost ourselves…


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