Manchester Peace Park, Kosovo
We helped develop a peace park in Kosovo as a sign of hope for the future in a place that experienced ethnic cleansing in the civil war.
Formally opened in 2009, the public space offers a sign of hope for the future as well as a way to remember and recover from the community’s trauma.
Why a peace park?
The residents of Podujevo, a small but strategic town in eastern Kosovo, were victims of the short but vicious civil war in the Balkans in 1999.
Just five children survived a tragic massacre, during which they witnessed the death of friends and family by a paramilitary unit. Traumatised and with terrible injuries, they were evacuated to Manchester, UK, for surgery and the slow process of rehabilitation.
It was there that the recovering children found hope and comfort in the city’s safe, well-tended public parks where Kosovar refugees gathered. Inspired by these scenes, Manchester Aid to Kosovo (MaK), a humanitarian charity founded in response to the moving news reports of ethnic cleansing, took up the children's idea of creating something similar for the people of Podujevo themselves.
Restoring degraded lands and re-building shattered lives often go hand-in-hand. Eden has gained invaluable experience of landscape restoration from the construction of the Eden Project itself, within a former clay pit.
A team of Eden horticulturalists, landscapers and artists worked closely with MAK and Podujevo's residents to develop a suitable design for the space.
But it was local children and volunteers that put in much of the hard graft, planting some 10,000 bulbs and 2,000 trees and shrubs, many of which were chosen as favourite plants of lost family members.
As new funds are secured, more and more of the inspirational plans for the 22-acre site are becoming reality. Work is now underway on much needed grass sports pitches.
The peace park's legacy
While our Horticulture Team have returned to the site to transplant larger trees and instruct an eager group in horticultural techniques, local people are now employed to guard and tend the garden – funded jointly by the municipality and MAK – a positive step in a new country with high levels of unemployment.
The group of young Kosovar artists who came to Eden to work with our artists on the design of the park have now gone on to forge new collaborations and friendships too. They have now held art exhibitions in Britain and Kosovo. Fragile State at Stockport Art Gallery – was the first time that Kosovar art had been shown in the UK.
The Peace Park has been a catalyst for a wide range of initiatives affecting a broad cross section of the Podujeve community. Every summer, the park is used as the venue for a popular summer club involving over 500 local children. The first Manchester Peace Park Run took place over 5 years ago and has now evolved into the Kosova half marathon. Donated computers have been installed in new IT suites in schools around the town.
The Eden Team continue to provide technical support to the Peace Park and related projects as well as regularly hosting MaK and members of the Podujeve community.
Image credit: Phil Young