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Opoja is a remote region of southwest Kosova in the Sharr mountains on the Albanian border. To get there, go to the town of Prizren, head west toward Albania, make a sharp left turn at the village of Zhur, then drive 45 minutes (36 thirty-six kilometers) up a steep serpentine road. At the top, the beautiful Opoja mountain valley unfolds before you, shimmering green in the spring and summer, snowy white all winter long. Keep driving along the main road, past the 20 villages, past the county seat of Dragash, and the road narrows into a twisting, chiseled path through the town of Dragash and region of Gora into Macedonia. 


Opoja is a beautiful place, but underneath all this beauty is a painful history of poverty and isolation. Through the ages, that steep, twisting mountain roads served as a mighty barrier between Opoja and the world beyond. The shortage of good farmland forced most families to send their men abroad to other parts of Yugoslavia and northern Europe to make a living for the families back home. Decades of out-migration had a big influence on the way of life in the villages: the men found their dignity, their identity, not in Beograd, Linz, or Stuttgart, but at home in Opoja. When they returned home once or twice a year, they expected to see family life just as they left it, with everyone upholding a strict moral code and Opoja traditions and worldview.


Most of my research in Opoja was from 1986-1988. I learned everything I could about life there and took part in the local traditions. I am so grateful to everyone who made this possible, especially the Shefiku’s in Belobrad and the Berisha family. These photos and videos reflect a life that has changed fundamentally. Hopefully these memories will be enjoyed by Opojans, young and old. 

Berisha Family

New Berisha Fotos

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