Cultural and Natural Heritage

During the development in his stages, the man has endeavoured to create as better living conditions for himself. Thus he has created miscellaneous objects, working tools, clothes and different items, which have served him for certain purposes. Therefore, in his endeavours, he has also created authentic values of the living culture and heritage; values, which their descendants have concealed, sometimes consciously and often unwitting while leaving no traces of life of their predecessors.     

Today, in different places of the world, there are numerous examples of objects and things, which belong to different civilizations that, in most of the cases, are treasured with the best possible care. But, on the other side, there are countries which did not pay great attention to the preservance of local heritage.

Kosova, did not have good luck with preserving its cultural heritage, perhaps not because it did not want to, but because the people of this land have always been exposed to severe damages.  

Kosova could not get away undamaged during the fifty year communist period either when in the name of building the country, there were destroyed entire town centers, objects with great architectonic values, of different composition, different architectonic styles and different periods. Not even causeways were spared, which had never a functional need for asphalting, but all of those were done in the name of a “New and better Kosova”; not even the arable land was spared.

During the recent conflict, all the Kosova’s remaining towers were destroyed, documentation was stolen from archives and museums in order to waste its ancient identity. Not even its old age dwelling and religious buildings were spared. That severe damage did not spare even the natural beauties that are numerous in this area.

Unfortunatelly, in the name of modern building, facilities with great architectonic and cultural values are not being spared even today.

People should have preserved with great fanatism the few remaining objects, which hardly got away from the time tempest with possible cracks and scratches. Our hand, assisted by better financial care, could renovate them, could protect them and then present them as treasures of a culture that has left traces.

Gjilan as a part of Kosova has that chance now.

As a settlement, Gjilan has been mentioned in documents since the XIVth century, while as an urban center, it has been formed by the Gjinolli family in the XVIIIth century. Having in mind the period when Gjilan dates since, as well as the fact that it was the center of Anamorava (Morava Valley), also this area has had its characteristics and identity. It has had the buildings it has been identified with, its clothing, folklore, working tools, linguistic terms and, by all means, its natural beauties that are not good few. As mentioned above, Gjilan could not get away at all the extinction of cultural heritage; its Clock Tower has been ruined, the old town center, buildings of high architectonic values, living and religious buildings older than 300 years were burned by the last conflict and earlier wars that have touched this area; also the earthquake has damaged many buildings of this area among which, the Big Mosque in the town center.

It has been one of the most characteristic mosques in Kosova and, perhaps in the Balkans, too. Its most peculiar characteristic was the lighting – great big windows, very good rhythm and symmetry as well as very big entrance doors. It should be mentioned that the construction of the Big Mosque had lasted over twenty years.

Also the building of the Gymnasium used to be one of the most beautiful objects of the town, which had the fate of being twice damaged by fire, and finally to be ruined and not exist anymore.

The building by which the town has been identified and belonging to the family that is also the founder of Gjilan as an urban center is certainly the Gjinolli Khan (Saraj). The earlier town center with the prefecture and the old hotel used to be a very good part with great architectonic values.

In the old town of Gjilan there used to exist also the Clock Tower. Another element to be mentioned are the town center causeways.

Doubtlessly, one of the oldest objects in the municipality was also the mosque in the village of Miresh (ex-Doberēan) that has been burned during tha recent conflict.

Sadudin Shehu’s house was also one of the buldings woth mentioning. We should also mention that many old and valuable buldings were ruined in the villages. While visiting the villages of the municipality, it has been noticed that there is no village that would not have at least two or more buildings older than 80 years that should be preserved.

Not only these are buildings which Gjilan does not have anymore, but there are many more that have been ruined; many others have been abandoned by the migration of inhabitants to the urban parts. There are entire settlements abandoned in our municipality now – no residents.     Nevertheless, there are still buildings, objects and places of special importance identified and proposed to be taken under custody by the Regional Center for Cultural Heritage.

One of the remaining buildings of special importance is Zekirijah Abdullahu’s house, which has been built one hundred years ago, has been quite damaged by the earthquake and has been time-worn.

Quite old and important a building is the Pogragja Castle. This building has been left fateful and without care till now, which has caused its damage. The building has good chances to be preserved and renovated.

There were towers in Gjilan region as well, but unfortunately they were damaged by different regimes traversing in this area as well as by the natural disasters, but also the financial difficulties of the owners to renovate and preserve them. We need to mention here the Hajdini Towers in Terzijaj, which make quite a good composition. There are three of them: Shaqa’s – built in 1850, Hajdin’s – built in 1942, burned and only one part of it existing now, and Xhela’s – built in 1947, which is still inhabited and is quite nice. Then there is the Zeqir Haxha’s tower that was built in 1880 and is very characteristic. The peculiarity of this tower is its windows – they are archwise from outside and square from the inside. We need to mention that this tower has ideal preconditions for renovation. Should not be forgotten also the towers of Kurexhaj; the one of Fetah Kurexha - built in 1850, and the one of Hazir Kurexha - built in 1880.

Beside the above-mentioned towers, in the municipality of Gjilan there are also other buildings that are old and that are of special importance for the cultural heritage of Gjilan. It is our task to preserve them and to possibly search for funds from different organizations and governments for their cure, and for the increase of public awareness for their preservance and greater care for them.

Nobody will take care of our identity if we do not do more and, often, even the impossible to preserve what our predecessors have created with great pain and sacrifice in order to leave it to us as a will to protect. Thus, it is no justification to say that we couldn’t have done more, and we cannot afford the destruction of our heritage and our age-long identity for a “New Kosova” as it’s got away the time tempest for centuries.

Among architectonic buildings of special importance in Gjilan, we can mention the Madrasah Mosque (1609), the mosque of Upper Sllakovc (1770), the mosque in Pidiq (1645), the building where the office of the Municipal President is, the building where the offices of the LDK (Democratic League of Kosova) are, the building in front of the post office where the Optika shop is, the Music School building, Sahit Aga’s tower and fountain in Kufca e Ulet, the Mausoleum (Tyrbe), Isuf Rexhepi’s house, and perhaps other buildings for which we hope to get the contribution of the citizens in the ways of provision of assistance and plentiful information.

The catholic church of St. Ana in Dunav, built in 1938 (now abandoned) is another building of special importance in the region of Gjilan. This one-nave church is built of stone.

The Regional Center for Cultural Heritage has suggested the state should take custody over the buildings built not only by the majority population but also some others of the minority, especially the Serb one. This Center has identified the Varvara Church in Kmetovc, The Draganac Monastery, the town church in Gjilan and the church in Pasjan.

During different periods, Kosova people have sacrificed even their lives in order to protect these lands, thus giving so many victims, heroes and martyrs. Therefore, in recognition, appreciation and respect of that, the people have erected monuments for them. The monuments at Hani i Zhegovcit and the one in Kurexhaj are among the most beautiful and in very good geographic positions.

Beside the cultural heritage, Gjilan has its natural heritage as well, and it is our obligation to take care of it, to preserve and maintain it. In this regard, we can mention the cave of Bresalc, Hoxha’s Stone in Perlepnica, Vrella (the source) in Pidiq, the castle, the cave and the falls of Resula in Pidiq, the stones (natural-artistic) in Malisheve, the Llapushnica river valley, the thermal water places in Uglar and Miresh, the two dams – in Livoq and in Perlepnica, as well as many other natural beauties of our municipality in general. We shouldn’t pass over even some of the trees, especially the Kermes Oak in Stanqiq that is very rare even in the Balkans perhaps.

All those mentioned above would remain incomplete if we would pass over the spiritual heritage of Gjilan and its region. We can say freely that it has been quite rich starting from the folklore, traditional clothing, miscellaneous games, working tools and kits used in this area. Miserably, only a little of the spiritual heritage can be found today, excluding some cultural and folklore ensembles that still preserve and cherish it with the youth.

Still more must have remained to be said and done, but let this be an initiative for the increase of our awareness to dedicate ourselves more to the preservance of our past. Hoping that all of us will contribute to making Gjilan and its region have its museum one day and that the people will support through the provision of old artefacts and information in order to preserve the little that has remained...

As a conclusion

Bearing in mind all the above-mentioned and all those missing buildings, but also the ones remaining, the institutions, different organizations, civil society and the population need to assign themselves the task to preserve and cherish the bright past of  our predecessors (at least what has remained of it). It is our duty to:

·  Increase our awareness for the protection of cultural and natural heritage

·  Exactly determine the authentic values of heritage

·  Have the government find options and donations (despite Kosova’s limited budget we are all aware of being symbolic) for the owners of the buildings of special importance for the cultural heritage; to assist them financially and with professional advice on how to renovate them

·  Have the Central and Municipal bodies regulate by law the protection of cultural and natural heritage

·  Stop the illegal construction that destroys the buildings of cultural heritage in the name of a “New Kosova”

·  Have all of us, first of all the government provide as better access to those buildings

·  Do as much as possible in order to increase the awareness of the public for the heritage

·  Pay special attention to protecting the heritage from natural disasters (precipitation, floods, earthquakes, etc)

·  Oblige the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning to incorporate as much as possible those buildings and places into the new spatial plans; to provide as better access to them and to project regulation of the area so they could function and not remain isolated 

Authors:  Muhamed Sadriu & Lumnije Tahiri