Regardless of nationality, age, gender, this pandemic changed everyone's lives, putting an extra burden on our shoulders. There are many who have nonetheless kept doing their jobs, even in times of quarantine. It was those who could not choose to be in their homes, with small battles supported themselves, but also others. Arlinda Murtezi, Adonjeta Zymberi, Orhidea Reka Shehu, and Dragana Milosavljevic are just some of the women whose story has reached the public. As participants in the European House competition "COVID-19: Women and Their Stories", they won the first three places. The winners were announced in early November, and recently they were presented with the awards. The four stories, which you could read on the European House Facebook page, still have not lost out on current affairs because the pandemic isn't getting weaker. Read their stories below.
Selfless giving is the art of living: Caring for your neighbours
Arlinda Murtezi from Fushë Kosovë takes care of her five children, working as a tailor. At the beginning of the pandemic, she couldn't sell her handicrafts. But she wouldn't stop tailoring.
"I realized it would be good to help my community by sewing multi-usable masks. Someone suggested I should sell them. But why should I become a millionaire when the neighbors get sick?" asked Arlinda in her story, which won the first place in the competition.
She contributed to the fight against pandemics, to the health of her neighbors: "I am also glad that I had the opportunity to teach the other women to sew masks".
My quarantine mask: The future is still blossoming
At a time when the world was stopping and everyone was changing its way of life, the humanity had been locked up in their homes for several months - Adonjeta Zymberi reminds us.
"As the humanity faced and still faces a pandemic, nature triumphed amid it all, and breathed differently during this period. And this connection between the silence of the streets and the blossoming of nature inspired me to create this mask filled with nature, which at the same time has a strong message - that even in difficult times the future flourishes, "she writes in her story.
A photograph of a mask with newly blooming flowers picked in Butovac is Adonjeta's quarantine mask, created, she admits, at a difficult time, but also as a positive message for her son Ylldrit: "We breathe with nature, while taking care of ourselves and each other!".
Those who care for others: Dragana and Orhidea - women on the front line
The nurses have been on the front line since the beginning of the pandemic. They are the ones who, independent of the intensity of the pandemic wave, remain on their jobs.
Dragana and Orhidea won third place in the competition. They are not accidentally third-place finishers - they are both nurses, mothers of three.
"As a nurse, I saw the frightened faces of patients who didn't know at first how to treat this unexpected situation. In them, however, I saw a desire to fight, and particularly the struggle that was expressed on my colleagues, doctors, and nurses. We really did our best to give people assurance and hope that this would pass quickly, but still calling for the responsibility of respecting epidemiological measures,” Dragana writes.
"The situation worsened later when my husband and I tested positive for COVID. I remember one night when I woke up with pain and difficulty breathing and I wanted to go to the nursery to give them one last hug, because I felt like I was living through the last moments of my life. My legs would not let me move. But we won the war, we beat COVID-19. I haven't recovered emotionally yet"- writes Orhidea.
Hard work was not everything these two women did. Orhidea and a colleague of hers organized a voluntary blood donation action, and Dragana would not stop working at her little bakery.
Recognizing the challenges women go through
These four women are just some of those who have shared their stories with the public. Eighty of them participated in the European House competition, a special publication with their stories, that will include stories from public figures and civil sector representatives is being prepared, explained from the European House.
"The main goal was to recognize the challenges women go through during quarantine," they said, reminding that the competition was open to all women and girls in Kosovo.
It is women who are the most vulnerable and most affected in both families and social and economic life, said the European Union's Ambassador in Kosovo, Tomáš Szunyog, who presented the awards to the winners at a ceremony at the European House in Prishtina during the campaign of 16 days of activism against violence against women.
He also said that it was obvious to them that they should do something concrete for women, and that they decided not only to financially support different activities, but also to organise a competition and show a public demonstration of their support for women.
The campaign of 16 days of activism is behind us, but we should remind everyone how important the support is and that everyone needs it.
Let's go back to the beginning of the text - empathy is the art of living.
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Photo: European Union Office
This project is supported by the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and is implemented by the New Social Initiative. Expressed opinions represent the authors’ views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations, UNMIK or New Social Initiative.