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One village in war and peace

One day early in 1999, as Serb forces closed in on the Kosovan village of Studenica, its residents embarked on a mass exodus. Abandoning their homes, the entire population trekked across the snow-covered mountains into Montenegro in a desperate attempt to escape the fighting. By the time George Georgiou first encountered them, the village had been reconstituted in a derelict tobacco factory in Albania, where they were among 6,000 Kosovan refugees to have taken shelter. As he photographed them struggling to survive without electricity, bedding or sanitation, he struck up a friendship with many of the villagers and promised to visit Studenica when the war was over. The joy of their homecoming that summer was bittersweet, for almost all of the village's 250 homes had been destroyed and 23 bodies were recovered, dumped in the well or buried in shallow graves. Georgiou was there in those first days after the return, and would go back again twice the following year, as life slowly returned to normality. In 2006 he visited once more, to find the individuals he had befriended in the midst of the war and ask them about their memories of that time, and how their lives have panned out since. Each has a fascinating story to tell.
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