Lindita Aliu Tahiri


There was a real war in Kosova, and in times of war, intellectuals, just like everyone else, have two choices: to fight, or not to fight. I am not pondering over this ancient dilemma, as I think concrete facts talk enough about it. I want to give my own viewpoint for the role of the intellectual in periods of violence and human degradation, which have been lasting for almost two decades in Kosova.

I abandoned Kosova in 1992, because of my husband’s political activities. We settled in Skopje (I have Macedonian citizenship), and my husband went on working as a journalist for the Kosova newspaper “Rilindja”-“Bujku”. We had been living there for two years already, when one night, at 2.30 a.m., four Macedonians, who said to have ordered from the Ministry of Internal Affairs searched the house for two hours, and left taking my husband away. The next morning, a cousin went to inquire at the Ministry about him, and was told that we had probably had a nightmare. I did not know where he was until 65 hours later when he was released.

Five years later, when Bllace happened (the Macedonian border to Kosova was closed and refugees were left for many days outdoors with no water and food), I often thought about that night, when an unnamed force took away my husband. I remembered how scared I was, and how I tried to calm down my baby (seven months old) breastfeeding him, how I covered the head my other son (two years old) so that he wouldn`t hear the noise of the “police” and would go on sleeping.

I remembered how I did not utter a word, and how I wished them to leave as soon as possible, without doing something to my children. Those people arrogantly pulled down everything in our apartment, until they collected every scribbled piece of paper and some valuables they liked, and when they left, I said nothing, and my husband said nothing, as we both wanted everything to end quickly. I remembered how my husband stepped out of the door staring at the baby in my hands. As soon as the door closed, I started making telephone calls to everyone I knew, of whom very few were surprised, and even fewer could help.

I recollected all this in Tirana (where we moved soon after my husband`s release), when the war started, when refugees ran away, and especially when Bllace happened. I saw photos of people fighting for a loaf of bread, and there were daily reports of people dying from thirst and hunger. Intellectuals were also pushing their way in the crowd to fetch some food, they were also protecting their wives and daughters from being taken away or raped, they were also shitting outside, wherever they could find some empty room. They belonged to a mass of bodies, fighting for their own existence, merged in a totally meaningless lack of power.

In privileged historical retrospect, I can only break the bad news to those who think that intellectuals play a significant role during periods of violence: they are left with a powerless, even bizarre role, coming from the shocking realization that one has little control over one`s life in such times. There was a rare case of the intellectual power to act, the case of Fehmi Agani, one of the most remarkable political figures of the pacifist movement, who chose to hand into the Serbian police, rather than have twenty young men were executed in front of him. He stepped out of the train crowded with Kosovars fleeing to Macedonia: maybe he couldn`t imagine himself as a future leader of the people he could easily allow to be executed in front of him, maybe he was pointing to the future, to the young men like his son, who will build a free Kosova. For me, he is a real intellectual, implying here the ambiguity of this term, which stands not only for professional achievements but also arouses many positive connotations of one`s personality.

Now, in the postwar period, intellectuals first of all need to go back to a normal life, they need work environments that should enable them to create freely without having to subserve to any political force. In order to prevent the repetition of our tragedy, there is a strong need for the change of the dominant discourse of hatred, which has provided for nationalist prescriptions, a need for the true intellectual voice to be expressed, a voice which has been customarily silenced.

We need to change something about the specific isolated and frustrated upbringing of our children which have led to particular sets of moral ideologies which now need a European integration. Unfortunately, the rationalization of the Serbian view for domination over Albanians seems to have been preferred From most of the Western countries up to now. What bothers me is a kind of a universal willingness to commemorate suffering experienced rather than suffering caused. Historical actors of the Kosova crimes must be given the chance to experience feelings of guilt and shame, by the opening museum exhibitions or by other ways, especially if, judging by interviews of Serbian paramilitaries, few of them were cured of their war enthusiasm by The actual experience of its horrors. Historical interpretation and school education must help to heal the exposed scars of memory: Serbian children have the right to learn that their fathers had built a totalitarian state which aimed at the extermination of another nation. We, Albanians, attribute great moral and ideological power to literature, even to poetry, which elsewhere is the most elitist genre.

This is partly due to the fact that many important political figures in our history belonged to the field of literature, and partly to the fact that in socialism literature has striven to become less “privileged”, more popular, and “simpler”, available to “common folks”. Consequently, there has been quite a lot of “popular political” poetry published, wherever Albanians live, some of it written as visionary, prophetic, or oratorical pieces about a new world, with tones of delight and enchantment, which few if any modern writers would think of producing nowadays.

I think that after this war, Albanian writers are made to realize that they are not supermen, that the political character of literature is not necessarily its main quality – it is rooted in the personal awareness of the writer, just like in any other kind of literature. The war we experienced does not possibly breed virtues like chivalry, courage, honor, manliness, or even patriotism : there was ethnic cleansing, and Kosova was almost empty for quite some
time. This picture arouses nothing else but the experience of bare destruction, humiliation, and shame.

After the transformations which have taken place during the afterwar period in Kosova, there is no room for rhetoric or ideology to limit literature. There is room for images which must be thrust once again into the foreground of our consciousness, if we want to see ourselves and the world around us truly. I wouldn`t like to exaggerate the role of the text and of the writer, as may be “Write now”, might slightly suggest, with its bare imperative form in the present tense, which besides the urgency, straightforwardness and direct insistence also emphasizes a metaphor of the intellectual potency. The Kosova writer, just
like everyone else in Kosova is a war victim, a piece of body without a name, and this causes crises in his/her moral values. As Brecht puts in lines a kind of feeling of guilt:
“Ah, what an age it is When to speak of trees is almost a crime

For it is a kind of silence against injustice!”
(“To posterity”, trans. H.R.Hays)
Writers, stereotypically as more delicate souls, are probably
struck more harshly by the feeling of guilt when there is terror going
on, as well as by the burdened conscience during periods of violence and
degradation. This feeling may reach even skepticism about writing at all:

You are free now, the word was told
Worn out, it could not say I don`t care
Why should I care
If I wasn`t uttered when I should have

The word was told you are free now
It is so hard it said, it is very hard
to believe one is free
after having gulped one`s own syllables

You are freedom, it was told
The word believed it
opened her mouth
and instead of sounds
blood came out
(From “Word” by Xhevahir Spahiu, trans.L.T)

I hope and wish that our words will refill with meanings and
wisdom of times of freedom, but they need strong, free, and self-confident
personalities to utter them, a strong and free state where real
intellectuals may exist.

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