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Attack him with your teeth!

UCK - Albanian for the "Kosovo Liberation Army"
UCK - Albanian for the "Kosovo Liberation Army"

The war began in earnest in 1998. At first the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) based in Drenica in central Kosovo did well, pushing the Serbs back, but in fact – they met virtually no resistance. That was to come later. What Judah points out here is that for the Albanians mobilised for war there was no doubt in their minds that they were simply carrying on the struggle of earlier generations. When young Kosovars came to join the KLA they gave their besa. "In a literal translation," notes Judah, "it means 'oath' but somehow, in our modern societies that word seems too weak:"

In the Albanian mind it is something almost mystical, a word entwined with ancient notions of blood and honour.

In front of my flag I give my besa and my life that I will die for freedom and for my land and I will obey my army. If I betray my comrades they have the right to kill me. Now I am a soldier who fights for freedom.

This song was sung by a Drenica man who later was killed as he tried to cross the mountains back from Albania to Kosovo at Christmas in 1998:

Sun and moon shine on our land,
Mother Kosova where I was born
Where I grew up,
Where I shed my blood,
Where I drink the water from the land,
Mixed with our mother's tears.

When my mother rocked my cradle,
And sang me a lullaby,
"Bless you my son,
Keep your sword and your gun always in your lap."
She stroked my eyes and my hands,
And covered my face with the banner,

The double-headed eagle.
"Listen to your Albanian mothers,
If you don't die for your homeland,
You'll never rise from the dead!"

I grew in stature,
From stone to stone,
My eyes and my gaze,
Came from the flag,
How can we get to freedom?
All the roads begin in the gun turret,
I was taught how to shed my blood,
By my old grandpa.

"Oh my son don't hesitate to die,
For this land and these mountains,
Our way is to wear the white hat,
If someone tramples it,
And you don't have a gun,
Attack him with your teeth.

[pp.99, 101-102]

Kosovo: War and Revenge. 2002, Second Edition. [Yale University Press]

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