Yugoslavias geography, before the 1970s, consisted of lots of small villages around the periphery towns and cities – deep inside the mountains and hills. As the country started developing economically, work, schooling, and commodities generally became more available to everyone, but were conveniently located for those who were living inside, or close to an (industrial) city or town; inconveniently located for those living in close-knit rural societies located in the far periphery of towns and cities. Hence where the saying ‘‘When I was your age, I had to walk 10 miles to school and back… and so on.’’ comes from. As time progressed, and the standard of living started to change, people from these close-knit rural societies started migrating closer and closer towards the city, until finally the Yugoslav war hit, ultimately dissipating most of what was left of these small villages; leaving nothing but abandoned houses, and in some cases a few elders.
Last Oktober I had a chance to visit one of those villages, dubbed as ”Podove”, where my mother was from (you probably won’t find this place on Google Maps under this name). A family friend – guide – took us all the way to where a car could drive to. The rest we had to walk by foot. They walked me trough of what was left of the old village, and we met up with two of the final residents of that village. It was a place where time had stoped ticking. Where nature had taken over. My mother told me that, although there are nothing but ruins there, the people that had to leave because of the war still have a strong sentiment towards this place.
Although this place has been upkept by many generations, urbanization caused some, like my grandfather, to leave for better opportunities closer to the city. The war, ultimately, caused this village to dissipate. While this is a story of what is left of a formerly brimming rural society, it is also a reminder that social phenomenons like urbanization, and disaster-caused-emigration are still a thing of the present; phenomenons that cause more and more people to move to cities and highly populated areas. While this is a common trend that has benefits, the growth of urbanization also has its downsides. With the world being more and more accessible and inter-connected, maybe these desolated places offer refugee to solutions and opportunities to rethink how we structure our societies? Should we therefore think about giving new meaning to places that have become obsolete?