The right to two
Die Diebe in Switzerland, Die Diebe in Kosovo
Initial credit: One Swiss passport and one expired Kosovar passport.
To found a NGO in Kosovo I need a Kosovar passport. I have the right to it and because I already have a passport and it has expired, I only have to extend it. That’s what I’m doing today.
For this reason I go into a building on the outskirts of the city. I see an entrance. Quite big, but inconspicuous. White. It leads to a medium-sized room, divided in the middle by a counter, wood and glass, reaching from one side of the room to the other. The glass seems impenetrable. Only a little sound can cross the sides through a small gap between glass and wood. And my gaze. I can see everything. A man and three women move about on the other side. The man seems to be the most important person there. He commands and the women obey. Well-rehearsed and functional. Spacious and calm.
It is loud on my side. It smells strongly of people. Very strong. Of sweat of different ages. My gaze remains fixed on the other half of the room. The wall of wood and glass seems to be divided into three counters. Three inscribed A4 sheets describe what where to ask for. Pass here, it says on one. ID here. And we take the photos here. But how do I extend the passport? No counter for that. No counter for what doesn’t fit in. No counter for information.
We on our side are over a hundred people in a room whose oxygen content has been used up. I am not asking on our side what to do and where to go, we are the sheep. Automatically I approach the wall to ask a person on the other side where I have to queue. But a man stops me immediately, an old man who seems to have smelled my plans beside all the sweat. He insults me as a jumper of the queue. Where is my respect for his wife? She stands next to him and seems to almost cry. She had been standing there for over six hours, he says. Because she misspelled a letter.
I smile well-behaved and explain: I just want to be told where my passport would get extended. He continues to insult me and tells me that there is nothing to laugh about and points his eyes at his wife. In the process, individual droplets of body fluid from his lips spick on my forehead, on my left eye, and I can no longer pass him. Instinctively I try to remove this spit by blinking quickly, although I know that it is inside. Interrupted by my moving eyelids I see other people who probably look like me. Confused to have landed here, unclear where they are, where they should go. Waiting, like everyone else.
The old man still frowns at me. What else should he occupy himself with? Behind me appear almost magically new people with new smells and old ideas. Now I am somewhere in the middle of one half of the room. And I wait and see what happens next. My disgust has calmed down a bit. I’ve already gotten used to it.
The man behind the glass wall shows a teenage girl on our site how to sign on a signature pad. The top plastic layer is arched and I think of puff pastry. The device looks familiar to me. Probably it is second-hand from Switzerland or Germany. Just like the old VWs everywhere. Or like the buses, which still show German advertising and thus constantly remind of the Kosovar position of being downstream. The girl needs several attempts. It’s all so slanting. The man seems to explode and blow up the house. Suddenly he becomes patient. He writes her initials D. D. on a piece of paper and it seems as if she is rewriting them. Next to it, a woman of the other side conducts a man from my side, without words.
He goes to our measuring device. Another man, perhaps hoping to speed up the process a little to his advantage, moves the measuring device towards the man’s head and smiles at the woman behind the wall. I breathe in to ask him how much money he’s charging for this, but the room is too cramped for that. She reads the numbers and again it’s like nothing happened.
In the back right corner of the room there is a family with twins. Two girls, about ten years old. They stand there like two dolls. Strings in their braids, pinkish red. White skirts with pink edges … One girl sucks her spiral-shaped lollipop and looks worried, although the lollipop doesn’t seem to taste bad. Somehow everything is shit. Her sister next to her screams because her father tears a chewing gum out of her hair.
The man on the other side suddenly comes out of a door that didn’t exist until now and measures the teenage girl exactly. She has brown blonde hair and blue eyes. Her mother and two sisters are there as well. This way the room empties faster than expected. It seems that I am the only one alone. At the same time more people come in than go out. But we can queue quite well.
Suddenly there is a fourth woman of the other side at the big, inconspicuous, white entrance and doesn’t let anyone in anymore. And the room empties half. For an hour I have progressed one meter out of three. It’s the old man’s turn with his wife. “Uncle Skender, Uncle Skender,” he calls to the man on the other side. “How are you and your family? Not seen for a long time!“ The man on the other side gives the old man a tired smile. The tiredness of the smile flows into his whole body. He does a thousand things at the same time. Then he, who is now called uncle Skender, says: “Go to the other side, make a copy and pay”. But his other side is outside this room.
Now it’s my turn and I’m already holding my passport in the window slit: “I want to extend”. The man takes the passport, does something on the computer, fills out papers. “Still 1.87?“, and then I have to sign. The room continues to empty. I have to leave the room. On the other side of the street is the cash register and the cashier makes a copy. In front of me is the old man again, who is annoyed about another old man.
The other old man seems to have one leg shorter. He talks so much, this old man says, it is unbelievable. This old man is right. The other old man does not take any breaks. He talks a lot, some understandable, some confusing. He has no focus in his eyes and seems drunk. But he doesn’t look that way. It is unbelievable now, the other old man says. He never experienced anything like that, he says. It used to take him ten hours! For what, I ask myself. Now he had been stuck in traffic for ten hours! Why, I ask myself. Ten hours in a traffic jam! There is no such thing! Where is that going to lead us? What, I ask myself.
This old man tries not to listen to him and asks me where I am from. So it turns out that he is the neighbour of my aunt, who has not lived where he lives since the war. Now he is nice to me. It’s his turn to pay and copy. And then mine.
On the other side of the street again, back at the other split up room, the fourth woman opens the door for me. I have to take photos. The old man’s wife is waiting in front of me again. Behind the only door to the other side I hear the seemingly drunken other old man complaining about how the world has changed. This is not a state, he says. You can’t get anywhere like that, he says. The old man’s wife tells me how bad it had been so far, just because of a letter! Because of only one letter! She waits six hours! Now she is being photographed. Then me. I am allowed to sit down. I have to look into the camera. Just look. Sit correctly. Photo done.
I want to see it. This woman of the other side here seems to have a tick. Again and again she clicks several times with the mouse. But it’s the technology. The mouse does not transmit the commands. Then index finger: “Which one?”, “One and then the other”, it doesn’t matter.
Now I’m waiting for a passport. For a passport that nobody wants except those who can’t have another.
Is a person freer without the knowledge of being able to possess such a passport than in possession of such a passport?
I probably couldn’t have more opposing identities. A Swiss passport with which I can travel more than 99% of the earth’s surface. And a Kosovar passport with which I can only travel to Albania. At least to the sea. The area of Kosovo and Albania together corresponds with the area of Switzerland. Imagine you are just allowed to be in Switzerland with a Swiss passport. And maybe to Calais. What’s the passport good for? My Swiss passport allows me to move. My Kosovar forbids.
The earth has a surface of 510,000,000 km2. Kosovo and Albania just under 40,000 km2. For a Kosovar, Kosovo and Albania are like a goldfish bowl for a goldfish. North Korea is three times bigger.
And why do I make such a passport? Because of an idea. A very simple one.
Birds fly wherever they want. Fish swim where they want to. All land animals can move where they want to. Agriculture may limit them, but not a constructed national border. Insects crawl wherever it leads them. Bacteria multiply as it happens. What is a human worth to humankind?
Die Diebe are founding an NGO. With this NGO we show Kosovo the world and the world Kosovo. To make people meet each other. To make people see what people do, want, can do, where it leads them and where they can go and how it can come.
Case A: S Festival. It’s in the post- and pre-preparation for 2020: www.diediebe.ch/en/s
Case B: Garazh. In the financing and networking phase: www.diediebe.ch/en/garazh
Case C: Tour. We start with DIE DIE BE and the winner of the “Prize for Relevance” just after our label night: www.diediebe.ch/en/ln
See you soon