The Book

The comic opens with the inspiration for Heather’s thesis paper; she has a rigorous intellectual debate with a professor as to the inevitability of war. She argues that war is avoidable. The professor holds that it is not. Heather cites the example of a Former Yugoslav Republic called Macedonia, which was widely predicted to go to war twice in its first fifteen years of independence, and which seemed to have averted war both times.

Heather expands upon that idea for her thesis that night. She asks: Had the international community successfully prevented war in Macedonia? If so, were the broad-based legal reforms undertaken as part of war prevention enough to resolve future conflicts between the Macedonians and the large minority of Albanians living in the country?

Heather provides ample background on Macedonia’s complicated past and present, while traveling to the unknown country. On her way, she stops in Berlin to see a friend, Ronen, who questions her sanity in traveling to the Balkans. She then stops in Istanbul to see her sister, where the two are beset upon by lecherous men, and then to Greece, where she meets another friend takes a train up to Macedonia.

Once inside Macedonia, Heather is immediately introduced to the rift between Albanians and Macedonians; she meets a Macedonian nationalist, who insults the country’s ethnic Albanian minority, saying it is essentially corrupt and violent. Heather wonders again, can Macedonia’s broad-based legal reform—complete with newly-hired Albanian police officers—be enough to keep this dangerously segregated society free of inter-ethnic war?

As a result of several interviews and encounters, Heather learns her way around the complex, dysfunctional, but improving Macedonian legal system. She meets Macedonia’s legal Ombudsman, who helps ordinary citizens understand and build trust in the law.

Heather and DeLisa travel to Belgrade, where they witness a healthy dose of anti-American sentiment. They then travel to Skopje and Heather sends Delisa back.

Heather is working alone now and quickly sets up a number of meetings to more deeply investigate the situation in Macedonia. She especially wants to visit Tetovo, the largest majority-Albanian town in Macedonia. She is warned by several people to avoid Tetovo, but goes anyway. At a controversial international university there, she meets an embittered professor, who tells her the “real story” behind the university’s corruption and waste, and discovers the overwhelming sense of suspicion that pervades the city.

Once back in Skopje, Heather talks to a law professor and—once she has convinced the faculty that she is not a spy—is granted several more interviews.

She meets with the Organizations of Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is training new Albanian police officers and re-training the entire Macedonian police force. A police trainer there explains the great pains taken to match the composition of Macedonia’s police force to Macedonia’s demographic realities (25% of the population is Albanian = 25% of the police force is Albanian).

She also meets a man in Skopje who heavily champions anti-gun efforts and fills her in on more of the history of the Albanian-Macedonian conflict. Having made friends with a number of international workers, she decides to move from her hotel—a controversy in its own right—and into the apartment of a Frenchman, Fabian.

Before she leaves for the US, she again meets with her friend Ronen in Berlin and the two discuss the confusing relationship between humanity and peace. Though Macedonia has avoided war, it remains divided between the Macedonians and Albanians.

The comic strives to identify the complexity of peace and expose the realities of conflict in order to make strides in the direction of a truthful pursuit of peace.

(c) 2009 Heather Roberson, All Rights Reserved

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