Tuesday, October 2, 2012

So Where Is Kosovo Anyway? Kosovo Tales: Two Hearts, One Love

Available beginning October 3, 2012

Against a backdrop ranging from the American heartland to the war shattered mountains of Kosovo, Kosovo Tales: Two Hearts, One Love is a collection of inner connected short fiction featuring  Albanian freedom fighter Nikolla Shqiponja, Nick, and his American love, Tina.

Together they must face separation, war, danger, and other crises.  Their powerful passion and eternal love spans two continents as they weather everything from illness to extreme weather.  Both are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for love but fate intervenes.  In Kosovo Tales: Two Hearts, One Love, this man, that woman share a love to last through the ages and beyond.

So where is Kosovo? Although the name of the relatively new nation has featured in the media since its creation in 2008, I suspect a great many people are more than a little hazy about where Kosovo can be found on the map.  Most of Kosovo is what many of us named as Yugoslavia back in geography class but then Yugoslavia, no longer a country at all, was once part of the Austria-Hungary empire until after the end of World War I.  Yugoslavia, a new country at the time, is now a memory. Go back to Roman times and it was the Roman province of Dardania, even earlier is was the Dardanian Kingdom.

One of the things which becomes confusing in a hurry is that Kosovo has a Serbian minority and an ethnic Albanian majority.  In short, it means everyone wasn't necessarily happy to see Kosovo formed.  The wars dividing the region were harsh and often bloody and there's still some lingering echoes today.  Although Kosovo was named an indepedent nation for the first time last month, there's still dissent over the possiblity of partitioning Kosovo.  But I'm not here to talk politics or even pretend I understand the diverse, difficult issues of southeastern Europe one hundred percent.  I'm here to share some stories.  I like to think the tales are poignant, heartbreaking, and also a reaffirmation of both life and love.

I'm sure some will wonder just how and why I was inspired to write Kosovo Tales.  The answer, in short, is that I had the privlege and pleasure to know some Albanian immigrants to the United States.  I found them to be warm, intelligent people who endured many things in their native land.  This isn't their story, not at all.  My stories are fiction but they were inspired by some of the realities.

Here's two  maps to help reference where Kosovo is located:

And here are two photographs to show the beauty of Albania as well as the stark mountains of Kosovo, part of the setting for my tales.

And an excerpt from Kosovo Tales: Two Hearts, One Love available beginning October 3 from Rebel Ink Press at All Romance Ebooks, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and Bookstrand.   Check back later this week for active links as well as a Kosovo recipe to share.

From Kosovo Tales: Two Hearts, One Love (Rebel Ink Press, October 3, 2012)

            Stern mountains as rocky and barren as the lunar landscape stretched out before Tina as they traveled a lonely highway through Kosovo.  The strangeness of the place smote her and if she hadn’t had Nick at her side, felt his love around her as tight as a fist, warm as a blanket against a frigid winter night, she might have quailed and run away.  Since arriving on a long flight, she’d felt jet lagged and out of place.  Nick embraced the foreign culture, sank into it as if he belonged, which he did.  Here she stood out as the stranger.

            Tina didn’t begin to understand the intricate factors of the ongoing struggle for freedom or what some might call the patriot game like some Irish poet or singer.  Although the poet wrote about a different struggle for nationalism, for independence, she thought maybe he understood far better than she.  Maybe being here, beside Nick, she’d come to understand.   For now, though, all she really knew was the depth of the danger surrounding them. 

            She’d always known he came from a war shattered place, known just how and where he earned his scars, but until they reached Kosovo Tina couldn’t imagine.  What news footage she recalled seeing before she knew Nick didn’t tell a true story.  None showed the stray dogs everywhere, ribs prominent, thin and weak or how the animals fought like wolves for any scrap of food.  Watching the dogs put an ache into her heart, but the children, the dark haired, dark eyed beautiful children cut to the bone.  Some of them begged for MRE’s, others asked for money.  Any hearing her accent knew Tina to be American and thought she must be rich, wealthy beyond their dreams.

            Tina grew up in a blue collar household, but she’d never gone hungry or cold.  Compared to the wan faces she met on the street, the sick people coughing until she’d swear their lungs might come up in pieces and the battered housing where families still lived, she’d been rich, but never realized.  As they moved through neighborhoods she’d call ghetto if she entered them in America, Nick moved with ease.  He spoke to everyone and they responded.  Her command of Albanian was almost nonexistent so Tina could follow little, but she caught the admiration flaring whenever someone realized he came back from America.  She tagged along behind Nick, afraid to be separated, but always glad he brought her.

            The first night they spent in a hotel in Korisha and although small the place offered every amenity any American could want.   Under any other circumstances Tina would’ve reveled in the luxury, enjoyed the experience, but having stared into the eyes of children who’d seen more violence in their short years than she had in her lifetime, guilt gnawed at the edges of the experience.  Nick poured them both a glass of wine and they drank, Tina staring out into the unfamiliar place.

            “Maybe we should have stayed somewhere simpler,” she said.

            He arched an eyebrow in question. “Don’t you like it here?”

            “It’s lovely,” Tina said and meant it.  “But it makes me feel like a decadent American.”

            “Aren’t you one?” he replied, without smiling.  Hurt pricked her heart, but then he smiled. “I’ve been one, too.  Don’t worry.  When we get into the mountains where the fighting is, you’ll suffer with the rest of us.  Enjoy while you have the chance.”

            Two days later they headed north toward the borders to block two control posts.  Their protest against the Serbians turned ugly.  Batons came out to bash and injure, water cannons drove their side back, pepper spray and tear gas brought burning tears to Tina’s eyes.  Gasping for breath with a stitch in her side, eyes watering, almost blind she staggered off to collapse.  Nick followed her and picked her up.  Trembling with fear, shaking with rage, she wept in his arms and when she finished he put her on the ground.

            “Can you handle this?” he asked, his concern real.  “This is just the beginning, my soul.  It gets truly ugly from here.”

            If things became worse, Tina wasn’t sure she could deal, but she nodded. “I want to be with you,” she said, the simple truth making the choice. 

            He gazed down at her with his eyes, the deep brown color she could drown herself in, and touched her with his soul.  Then he smiled, the quirky little bemused expression she’d never seen him show anyone else and said, “Then you shall be.  Let’s go off, just me and you.”

            Tina stared into his face hoping he would read the same truth in her face she saw in his.

I dashura ime,” she began, the endearment one of the few things she could say in Albanian. “I would go anywhere with you.”

Albanian flag left, Kosovo flag right


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