Day two. Sasa was limping. The failed jump on day one of our road trip had left him in a lot of pain. This stopped him from sleeping but, fortunately, not from driving. At 6am, we set off from Skopje, a little apprehensive about what a journey through Kosovo would bring.
Even those with the scantest knowledge of global politics will know that relations between Serbia and Kosovo are complex. There’s a general sense that it wouldn’t require much to trigger a descent into another violent conflict. With so much history contributing to this situation, it’s difficult to write anything, as anything written is a reductive simplification, inevitably doing an injustice to one side or another, or missing the infinite complexity buried inside any single piece of information. Let me say only this: during the existence of Yugoslavia, tensions were suppressed; there were no ethnic, religious or regional identities – everyone was Yugoslav, united under the (comparatively benevolent) regime of Marshal Tito. With Yugoslavia’s collapse, this changed, leading to the emergence of six – or arguably seven – countries, some of whom are still a hair’s breadth from being at war with one another.
This is why the close relationship between the Croatian and Serbian parkour communities is so powerful, and also why I regard those two parkour communities as being the two most important in the world.
Invariably, the region’s history shapes every practitioner’s identity, but parkour creates a mindset of openness and exploration, causing us to see international borders as opportunities rather than points of division. Parkour people from Former Yugoslavia are not separate from their country’s past, but they do have an attitude that allows them to look to the future, rather than being trapped by history. Being part of the global parkour community means being connected with an amorphous, fragmented but digitally interconnected network of like-minded people, all of whom love to train and go on adventures together, with no concern for ethnicity, religion or nationality. ‘Otherness’ is something to be explored and embraced, rather than feared.
Read the full story on the Skochypstiks website – the drive across Albania, the drawn-out battle to get on top of this monument, and the police who rushed to prevent a suicide attempt.
As always, I’m indebted to the information on SpomenikDatabase.org. If you want to learn about these incredible structures and how to find them, go visit the website. If you’d like to read about why we decided to photograph parkour on these structures, click here.