In the mid-1920s the prominent German photographer Kurt Hielscher was invited by the government in Belgrade to travel to Yugoslavia and create a book with images of the state, founded only a few years earlier. Kurt Hielscher had already published similar and very successful books about Italy, Spain and Germany, so he took up the invitation with enthusiasm.
In Belgrade he got an interpreter, letters of introduction to all local authorities and cars were at his disposal. Hielscher gratefully acknowledges all help in this endeavour. He also thanks the Zeiss-Ikon and Agfa factories for their outstanding cameras, lenses and photo plates.
The journey - from the Alps to Novo Mesto towards Bulgaria - produced 1200 photographs, from which he chose 191. In Hielscher's words, those were the few "which would try to show the attractive, diverse character of the landscape, the architecture, and way of life of the Yugoslavs... I didn't want to create a collection of postcards".
The result is a stunning and often moving collection, published in a book in 1926 in Berlin by Ernst Wassmuth AG.
On Agfa Chromo Isorapid plates.
Serbs lived for centuries in Prizren, the capital of their medieval state. Some of their houses occupied the area of Marash, on a hill overlooking the historic town and surrounding the 14th century Church of the Holy Saviour.
In March 2004, nearly five years after the Kosovo war, most Serb cultural monuments in Prizren were damaged, set on fire, or destroyed in one single day. Empty and derelict, the old Serb homes in the Marash area bear silent witness to the acts of vandalism. In 1999 almost ten thousand Serbs were living in Prizren, while today there are just a handful of them.
People in Prizren say that the owners of the Serb houses, now far away, should either come back to repair them, or sell them. The owners feel that no one can force them to sell some of the town's most prestigious properties, nor would they return to an area where they do not feel safe.
What do you think? Do you recognise your old house here?
We would like to hear from you.
Photos summer 2013
© Velislav Radev
Prizren. Second largest city of Kosovo. The only trilingual city in the Balkans, with Albanian, Turkish and Serbian/Bosnian spoken. Capital of the medieval Serbian Empire in the 14th Century. Preserved its Ottoman character better than any other city in the Balkans. Natalya Grebenyuk is a Moscow-based photographer. She is a fan of motor-rallies and daunting car journeys. Natalya crossed the Balkans from East to West at the height of the winter 2010: from Kosovo via Montenegro to Albania and Bosnia.
© Natalya Grebenyuk
© Velislav Radev