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Welcome  ~  Mirë se Erdhet

This website is dedicated to the Albanian families in Kosova who welcomed me into their homes, let me into their lives, and taught me about their history, their culture, and their way of seeing the world. I created the website as a place to share some of my photos, videos, and writings with my Kosova friends, and as a repository for the treasures of Albanian tradition - a place where others can also share their memories.

My memoire: "An American Woman in Kosova"

Download the Albanian version: "Një amerikane në Kosovë"

Download the English version: "An American Woman in Kosova"

I lived with the Kosova Albanians for eight years, between 1981 and 1997: first as an anthropologist doing research and later as a humanitarian aid worker. My understanding of Albanian life came slowly, through all my senses—dancing with village girls and sharing their secrets late into the night, sweeping the courtyard at dawn, washing my hair with a cup and bucket, pouring tea for visitors, roasting peppers and eating fli with my neighbors, and sitting crossed-legged by the fire with the old men, receiving their wisdom.


My memoire is a collection of these experiences—an intimate glimpse into a traditional lifestyle that has, for the most part, disappeared. It is my odyssey with a people poised on the brink of war, ready to give their lives for self-determination.

It is intended for people outside of Kosova who want to know more about the Albanian people and their traditions. And it is for Albanians -- a chance to revisit the traditional lifestyle and learn about remote regions they may have never visited. It is also an expression of gratitude, affection, and deep respect I have for the Albanian people and their country.

I also wrote a master’s thesis and a doctoral dissertation about Kosova, but those are detailed academic works. This book is my personal story.

“I just finished your book about Kosova and really loved it! I found it to be deeply informative regarding the nuances of culture and politics there. Other books I read about Kosova did not come close to helping me understand as your book did. I congratulate you for writing this beautiful memoir and I am impressed by your courage and strength in your life's work! The book made it clear to me why you are held in such high regard in Kosova and why so many people are so grateful to you. Your life and work there reflects the authentic love you have for that country and its people.” - ​Leah Hurwitz (Kosova Ethno-Tour Traveler 2023)

I am deeply grateful to the skilled and generous team that made the publication possible! ENGLISH: Editors Ann Lederer, Barbara Kate Repa, Genevieve Feiner, Jack Reineck, Jeremy Reineck, Jojo Barker, Juanita Johnson, and Elizabeth Ricard. ALBANIAN: Translators Nazim Haliti and Artan Aliu, and Publisher Arsim Canolli.



Between 1981 and 1983, I conducted research for my Master’s Degree in Dance Ethnology at UCLA. My thesis looked at Albanian wedding customs and dance traditions with a focus on the region of Opoja in southwest Kosova. Between 1986 and 1988, I made a detailed study of Albanian social structure and worldview for my PhD in Anthropology at UC Berkeley. My dissertation, The Past as Refuge: Gender, Migration, and Ideology Among the Kosova Albaniansexamines the effect of out-migration on the lives of people in the sending communities, again with a focus on Opoja.

In 1994, I returned to Kosova with my son Jeremy to direct rural development projects in the counties of Viti and Gjilan for Oxfam and International Rescue Committee. My Albanian team and I worked to strengthen civil society in communities suffering the effects of injustice and inequality. We mobilized the local people, and together were able to build schools, dig wells for clean water, and construct proper latrines in primary schools. We formed a group of young women activists, "Legend," that led bi-weekly Health Education courses for village women and encouraged families to let their daughters attend high school. I also taught English to village children and worked on special projects to help families in need.

In 1997, with war on the horizon, my son and I had to leave Kosova. We settled in Santa Barbara, California, where I found work raising funds for local humanitarian aid organizations. In 2010, I brought together my background in dance and humanitarian aid to create World Dance for Humanity, a nonprofit that offers daily classes with all proceeds going to projects in Rwanda (East Africa), where we are helping 13,000 Genocide survivors in 28 communities survive and build new lives.


During the 1980s in Kosova I took 4,000 photos, 25 hours of video footage, and recorded countless interviews, stories, and songs. Little did I know that within twenty years the way of life I was documenting would be changed forever after the war in 1999 that affected every aspect of life in Kosova. Kosova declared independence from Serbia and became a sovereign nation in 2008. In less than a generation, Kosova has been transformed, but it is still struggling for universal recognition as a sovereign nation, economic security, and gender equality. One-sixth of the population lives below the poverty line and one-third of the working age population is unemployed. With the youngest population in Europe, half of the young people are working abroad, bringing back new ideas and dreams.


In the Publication section, you will find my Master’s Thesis, Doctoral Dissertation, excerpts from the memoire I wrote about my years in Kosova, and other writings. Contributions, suggestions and comments are welcome! 

Janet’s Email    Janet’s Facebook    Janet's Instagram

Note: Out of respect to people in the photos and videos, the materials on this website MAY NOT be used for commercial purposes. Please contact me prior to any public display, publication, quotation, or reproduction.

Opoja Janet.jpg
Aid Janet talk 1MB.jpg
! President Rugova Janet.jpg
Kosova Map Jan 2022.jpg
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