Thus begins the story: ‘Once upon a time, the mountain near the existing church of Letnica burned down, but the sacred Lady of Letnica managed to protect herself.’ This made people believe in miracles again. It is of no wonder that this church was the place where Mother Teresa got her call to sanctity and became inspired to unite the world around shared humanist values. The church of the Blessed Lady is today a home to everyone and reflects the harmony between different nations and religions coexisting in the village.
Three meridians east from London, on the same parallel with Vienna, bordered with mountain formations and stretched on a hill, the economic-craft centre of Kosovo grew in the 19th century. Just the same as the other two cities’ roles for the economies of their countries in the time of industrial revolution, with an impact on the overall economy of the region; a similar movement with smaller proportions was taking place in the central part of Kosovo. This economic movement had an extended impact across the Balkan Peninsula. Behind it all were the traders of Croatian nationality keeping this economic branch alive.
Regardless of demographic, social and political changes, a deep connection to their roots and nationalist bigotry affected the survival of these settlements. Letnica is the best example of how a place survives against modern ‘threats’ such as technology and cruel human hand. It is an example of the preservation of purity. When inside Letnica’s territory, we can feel a connection to inside the basic nature of being human. Letnica connects you with your natural instincts springing from land and nature, it reminds you that simplicity is the highest virtue and shows you that what makes you unforgettable is the unifying image of human and inhuman qualities.
‘Only a few people know me, but those that do, can never forget me’ is what the small village of Letnica conveys to us.
I’m sure none of the 30 participants of the Heritage Lab workshop, organised by CHwB Kosovo, will ever forget Letnica. It was our shelter for 12 days of the workshop, from 10-22 October, giving us an amazing experience in three important fields of built and cultural heritage, with a special focus on the built heritage. These three fields were:
conservation; adaptive reuse; and interpretation of cultural heritage.
In the conservation group, students of architecture, together with their Master supervisors, Besfort Axhanela and Fadil Krasniqi, partook in the remediation of the faÃ§ade and roof damage of the only mill of Letnica, Frok Dokiči’s Mill.
The adaptive reuse group consisted mainly of architecture students, enthusiasts in redesigning existing spaces for further use. They, together with the workshop coordinator, Faton Hasani, designed furniture that adapted to a building’s new functions.
The ladies of the interpretation group, where I participated, collected oral histories and stories from the locals, so this distant, but oh-so-idyllic village could persist in maintaining its identity. We had to find the best way to present the result of the workshop, Letnica’s story and the key (touristic) points of the village. While in Kosovo there is still no official tourist map, the touristic line inside the Republic’s territory is yet not defined. Our extraordinary tutor, Janja Sivec, and amazing workshop coordinator, ErÃ«mirÃ« Krasniqi, paced our way into the best and most efficient storytelling and signage that gets applied in cases like ours. As a product of our workshop, the main roads of Letnica are left with indicating posters with basic information about the village’s landmarks. And also, since the mill was transformed into a living museum, we produced a booklet for visitors with the tools found in the mill. It must be mentioned that all these tools have a proper exhibition place thanks to the work of the conservation and adaptive reuse groups.
Experiences like these are one in a lifetime, and we will apply the lessons learned here in all the other times of our life.
Melisa Syla is a young architect, graduated in MA. Studies of Technical Sciences of Architecture from the University of Prishtina. She works in an architectural firm in Prishtina, completing the technical documentation of the current state of existing buildings. Since she comes from a young country with a huge cultural background, she’s interested to be the ‘voice’ of those structures that tell us a lot of history but are rarely heard. You can get in touch with her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To cite this article:
Syla, Melisa (2018) ‘Heritage Lab in Kosovo: Letnica – an unwritten history’. In Interpret Europe Newsletter 4-2018, 28.