For 20 years, the airfield of Malo Konjari in the vicinity of Prilep, in North Macedonia, ceased to exist. Recently, an initiative of local air pioneers, headed by Dimko Spirkovski and Gjorgji Mancheski, an economy professor at the local University, gathered enough resources to renovate the airfield of Malo Konjari, near Prilep.
Read Part One My life, the dream and the Western Balkans Fund http://westernbalkansfund.org/2022/11/03/my-life-the-dream-and-the-wbf-project/ _____________________________________________________________________________
And now, thanks to the Western Balkans Fund intervention, the airfield has become a hub of large-scale friendship and reconciliation.
We visited the airfield during the 3-day event of “Bird’s Perspective from Balkan Clean Sky” project earlier in September. During the event, which promoted air sports and a clean and safe environment in the Western Balkans Region, we met with Fadil Gërguri, the founder of Fly Dardania Air Club.
With Aero Club Nasa Krili Paracin and Center for Innovation and Development Inos Prilep, Fly Dardania was a partner and an integral part of the successful project implemented by SkyRiders Prilep.
The project supported financially by the Western Balkans Fund has already set an example, which Mr Gërguri is eager to implement in his town, Podujevo, Kosovo*.
WBF – Mr Gërguri. Tell us something more about the history of your club, the Fly Dardania?
Mr Gërguri – My club was formed six years ago. Before that, I used to be the President of the Aeronautical Federation. Our activities concentrate to paragliding, but now, thanks to this project funded by the Western Balkans Fund, which we sincerely thank, we are diversifying to new air activities, such as gliding. With SkyRiders Prilep, we have long-standing cooperation, starting from 2003-04.
WBF – How did you fall in love with air sports?
I am a parachutist. I have been jumping with parachutes since the eighties. I had the fortune to start at 16, thanks to the vicinity of my home with the airport of Batllava, in Podujevo. Later I become a pro parachutist while serving in the army. I served in Nis, Serbia. Unfortunately, in the nineties, many things were destroyed. Still, now things have improved, and I am pleased to see more and more youngsters all over the Region approach our clubs and become part of the unique adventure that only air sports can offer.
WBF – Tell us more about the current situation of air sports in Kosovo. And what are your plans for the future?
After the War, only the enthusiasm of people who shared the same passion as me allowed jumping, gliding and other air sports to return to prominence. It was tough, and it is still hard. There are many difficulties, one of them being the control of the low airspace by KFOR, which currently permits freely only paragliding activities, while for the rest, it is very hard to obtain a permit. Moreover, the Batllava airport in Podujevo is currently inaccessible due to a Court decision. Still, I am confident it will be resolved soon, and we hope to do something similar like was done here in Prilep. Thanks to the project, we now have many partners, and we aim to make it happen next year, a similar, why not an even larger event in Podujevo.
WBF – What is your approach towards young people? Do you have any plans on how to reach them?
It takes work. Our financial capabilities are minimal. Sponsors do not come easily because our sport consists mainly in jumping from mountains. We need to do flyovers over cities to obtain funds, but we don’t want that. However, on the bright side, many young people feel very enthusiastic about what we do, and thanks to funding provided by organizations like Western Balkans Fund, we hope to have many more resources to push forward not only our passion, but also reconciliation and cooperation at a large scale.
*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.