Manchester Peace Park, Kosovo
The Eden Project has been working in partnership with Manchester Aid to Kosovo to develop a peace park in the town of Podujevo, which experienced 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.
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, a humanitarian charity founded in response to the moving news reports of ethnic cleansing, took up the 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. On the cards are an all-weather five-a-side football pitch; a pond; an older-children's play area and signage that tells the park's powerful story.
The peace park's legacy
While our landscapers have returned to the site to transplant larger trees and instruct an eager group on planting techniques, four 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 80% unemployment.
Eden has plans to help develop the horticultural skills of this new Peace Park team as well as raise awareness of sustainability within the community, where ecological projects have begun in the local school.
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 even held an art exhibition at Stockport Art Gallery; Fragile State – the first time that Kosovar art has been shown in the UK.