Didara: životna priča jedne Prizrenke, is one of those books that is particular shame that they were not translated into English, and available for wider audience. Therefore, I will try to summarize the book, and explain why is it a precious piece of history.
The book was published 10 years ago, but I read it only when my supervisor discovered it. Luckily, it was available in the UCL library, and there is a copy in the British Library as well.
Anyway, the book was written by Miroslava Malesevic, it is based on a series of in-depth interviews with Didara Dukajini. Malesevic then compiled these interviews into one coherent story, written in the first person as told by Didara.
Didara Dukajini was an Albanian woman born in interwar Yugoslavia. Through her life one could follow all Yugoslav state policies regarding Muslim women, and her experience of political life in post-war Yugoslavia. She is one of those persons who became the socialist role models, and who were fully influenced by the state decisions. At the age of seventeen she had to lift her veil when her father demanded it, but then she got educated, married in an interfaith marriage (with a Serbian communist), became a prominent AFZ activist, and even a member of the federal parliament.
Her entire life changed once her father made the decision for her to unveil, the promise he made at the local Party meeting. For her, such decision was the worst punishment. She was shocked, speechless, and cried all night. She wanted to get married, and not to be different to her veiled peers. She compared it as her father was forcing her to go naked in the streets, or to be a prostitute. Another shock happened when her father decided that she would enrol in a course for a teacher. It was a 3 months course, and the organizers needed Albanians who would then educate the local population. Her mother was not counselled either, but she did advised Didara to take the course, as she would not have a chance to get married if she stays at home.
Unveiling and attending a course was something Didara never imagined before. Nor she wanted it. These two decisions changed her life completely. However, once she made these first steps into the 'socialist modernity', there were no boundaries for her social mobility. One course after another, and then further education that eventually led her to the university degree, followed ever more political positions, all up until she became a federal member of the parliament. It was a career as taken from a socialist textbook.
Miroslava Malesevic did such a fine job putting all Didara's stories together, that she as author of the book is fully invisible. The story flows from Didara's early life, until her latest experience of the collapse of the Yugoslav state. The latest episode about the war, and her detachment from the society, tell us a lot about the suffering of those involved in the interfaith marriages, and those who invested themselves into crossing ethnic and religious boundaries. Hopefully, this piece of work will become available for the wider audience. Better soon than later!