Checkmate! Older people in Kosovo find solace – and rivalry – in the ancient game

Elderly players have invested their minimum pensions of around 100 euros per month to repair the place where they play, for lack of institutional support.

Aziz Sallahu, from Krasaliqi in Skenderaj / Srbica, said that if necessary, he would live the last days of his life playing chess in the shade of the trees.

Sallahu, who has lived in Pristina for years, is regarded by his friends as a man who takes chess more seriously than life.

“I get angry a lot while playing, but I don’t have a lot of stress because I started playing chess a long time ago,” said the man in his 50s. “What can I do” I don’t like to lose! »He adds, after suffering the defeat of one of his townspeople.

Collecting the chess pieces at the end, which they take in turns to take home to bring back the next day, the elderly complain about the damage and theft inflicted on them.

Misini says that in 2014, Mayor Shpend Ahmeti then entrusted him with the task of preparing a project for real chess tables, “but nothing was done. Unfortunately, it only remained on paper ”.

Therefore, the responsibility remains with the elderly to take care of the place where they play.

Former physics teacher Hajrush Emini from Pristina, who built the tables and chairs for playing chess, complains that people are destroying the space where they spend most of their time.

“I’ve been cleaning this place for two years now. I watered this whole part. But the young people come, smoke and eat, and leave the place like that, ”he growls.

Above the chess tables is a cabinet where players once stored the chess boxes. But since it was stolen some time ago, they have to bring the boxes home.

“Chess is a puzzle game. Books and chess help me remember, ”says Emini, explaining that he had been playing chess since he was 22.

Another player, Riza Veselaj, from Katuni i Ri de Peja / Pec, who has lived in Pristina for 35 years, said she split her pension money to repair where she spent most of her life. time. Veselaj started playing chess at the age of 15 or 16, before joining the army.

He learned by watching his father, who had learned the game in the military, and his cousin, who had also learned in the military.

The 68-year-old says that in order to repair his chess corner, each of the players gave 5 euros from their board and improvised with planks removed from the doors of the apartments.

“We did everything ourselves,” says Veselaj, adding: “We gave two euros each to buy chess boxes. Another time we gave 5 euros each to fix the tables. The municipality does not have time to take care of us. With our small pensions, we do everything ourselves. The municipality did not help us at all.

Checkmate ! “,” Go, good people, the queen is coming! “,” You lost your sheep [the pawns]Are just a few of the phrases players whisper as they move.

Sometimes with a high intonation and sometimes with a lower intensity, sometimes even with shouts, they manage to guide the course of the game.

In the end, even if the loser does not accept his loss, they hold out their hand and go for a coffee.


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