This Saturday, September 8th, the doors of the half-charred, half-deserted Boris and Ramiz sports hall in Prishtina will be open to the public for a series of artistic performances and installations entitled “PRISHTINE – mon amour”
Like many formerly important and beautiful places in the world, the once proud Boro and Ramiz center now serves as a place to park cars. The enormous structure was built during the 1970s, when life in Yugoslavia was still pretty good. Boro and Ramiz reflects this fact, and the “social-cultural-sports-economic center” was designed to the highest standard of Yugoslav architecture.
The Boro and Ramiz center is named for two partisan heroes, one Serbian and one Albanian, who fought side by side against the Nazis and who subsequently became the universal Yugoslav symbol of Serbian-Albanian friendship.
And for as long as it could, the Boro and Ramiz center apparently lived up to its name: as one manager of the place remarked in the wake of mounting interethnic tensions in 1986, “When Lepa Brena sings here, they sing ‘O Yugoslavia’ with her in the hall… In the darkness of the discoteque one can see no differences.”
Of course, Yugoslavia succumbed to its violent Balkanization anyway. In 2000, the sports center mysteriously caught fire. As one UN volunteer wrote mournfully at the time, “Boro and Ramiz center burned down while foreigners were taking photos. Named to be the symbol of the multiethnic society Tito wanted to create… we hope that Tito’s idea will remain alive somewhere in the ashes of Boro and Ramiz.”
This Saturday’s event will be the culmination of months of work by local artists, as well as a few friends from the larger Balkan neighborhood and beyond. During the 1970s, every working person in Prishtina had 2% taken from their monthly salary to pay for Boro and Ramiz. This weekend, some 40 plus years later, everyone in the city is invited back inside the sports hall they or their families worked to create.
The free event starts at 9 pm.