Empty, unfinished, decaying houses at village entrances are a common sight in Kosovo. But who owns them, why they are left in decay and their history is often an unresolved mystery.
A lonely house in the midst of changing landscapes has for years been left abandoned in the middle of a large meadow at the foot of the village of Bivolak.
Like a single frame capturing a larger story, the house serves as a landmark, a visual marker of time and space for all the other houses of its kind.
As time passed, the house remained unchanged, leaving many questions unanswered.
These abandoned houses have existed since anyone can remember and have slowly become part of the people’s collective identity. But there is still an unresolved mystery around their existence.
In the early 1990s, many of them had a clear purpose. They served as communal areas for Kosovo Albanians who had been expelled from Yugoslav public institutions of that time. Parallel education structures used them as school classrooms.
Some years later, their role changed. During the 1998-99 war in Kosovo, they were used by Serbian paramilitary and military forces to interrogate, beat, torture, rape and even kill Kosovo Albanians.
But 20 years on, they stand empty as eerie reminders of forgotten dreams and unfinished plans. The decay that has taken hold of these houses adds to their unsettling aura, as the elements slowly erode once-promising constructions.
But they have not disappeared. Instead, they stand as stubborn, silent sentinels, their unfinished state a stark reminder of the fragility of human existence.
Intrigued by the purpose of their existence, Prishtina Insight visited several such houses in the villages of Peja, Skenderaj, Gjilan, Vushtrria and Klina.
Most of their owners, whether Albanian or Serbian, migrated at different times, either for political or economic reasons, never turning their heads back for their abandoned properties.