Novel My Prishtina

      My Prishtina is a coming-of-age, historical novel set in the province of Kosova in the former Yugoslavia. 
It follows two boys, one Albanian and one Serbian, as they grow to manhood during a time of ethnic cleansing
attempted by the Soviet-style government of Serbia.  The dedication page, table of contents and sample pages
from chapter one are shown below.
                                                            Copyright © 2004 by Paul Roebling
                                                                  Dedication Page
       This book is dedicated to the thousands of Kosovar Albanians who were slaughtered during the ethnic
cleansing carried out by the Serb military and paramilitary forces of the Soviet-style government of Serbia. 
The refugee stream in the photograph above consists only of women and younger children.  Men and older
boys were often separated out, taken away and executed. 
                                                  1. A Last Good Summer.............................1
                                                  2. Autonomy Is Taken Away.....................45
                                                  3. School in a Tent...................................92
                                                  4. The War Starts Elswhere.....................133
                                                  5. Arrested on Suspicion..........................174
                                                  6. An Improvised University.....................220
                                                  7. Off to Tirana.......................................260
                                                  8. A Summer of Smuggling.......................329
                                                  9. Rame's Silence.....................................375
                                                10. The KLA Becomes Home.....................402
                                                11. Attacking the MUP...............................443
                                                12. Our Base Is Lost...................................489
                                                13. Protecting Refugees...............................531
                                                14. Back into Kosova..................................576
                                                15. Help from the Air..................................621
                                                16. Justice in Belgrade.................................663
                                                17. Return to Prishtina................................709
                                                18. Safe in England.....................................752
                                                        Chapter  One
                                A  Last  Good Summer
                                                                                  Page 1
      Our scout camp on Mount Germia north of Prishtina in the province of Kosova was a beehive of activity.
Tanned boys in a mixture of green scout uniforms and jeans were rushing excitedly about, preparing for the
much-anticipated tug-of-war arranged by our troop leader Dren Hamza.  A heavy rope had been laid out with
a flag tied to the middle of the rope.  The flag was poised above a strategically-located mud puddle.  The lead
boys of the losing team were sure to be dragged into the puddle.  It was an extra bit of fun that we all looked
forward to as we lined up on opposing sides.  Niko Tadic, my best friend, was the lead boy on our end of the
      "You had better not let me get dragged through the mud, Sali," Niko said looking back at me.
      "Don't worry.  We have Rizo on the end of our rope," I said.  "It would take a tractor to move him."
      "But they have Bajram on their end, and he is heavier," Niko replied.
      Rizo Mirena was an assistant troop leader who was tall and muscular.  Bajram, our other assistant troop
leader, tended to the fat side.  I figured that muscle would win over fat any day.  Then Dren Hamza gave the
signal for the contest to begin. Grunting, I pulled with all my might on the thick hemp rope between my hands.
                                                                               Page 2 
      For a time nothing happened.  Then, ever so slowly, I felt myself being dragged toward the mud puddle.
      "Pull, Sali!" Niko shouted at me over his shoulder.
      "I'm trying!" I shouted back, digging my heels into the ground.
      After going ever so slightly backward, we were drawn forward once again.  Then, with a lunge that almost
sent me toppling backwards, the rope began to pull the lead boys of the opposing team nearer to the puddle. 
I saw them digging in their heels, but to no avail.  When the first boy reached the puddle, his feet gave way
and he plunged into the puddle, letting go of the rope in the process.  The next boy was dragged into the
puddle headfirst, much to our delighted laughs.  Dren Hamza called an end to the contest just as more boys
were pulled into the puddle and the outcome was no longer in doubt. 
      In a gesture of good sportsmanship, Rizo Mirena  told us to go over and shake hands with the boys on
the losing team.  All the boys in our troop respected Rizo.  It wasn't just because he was bigger and taller
than the rest of us.  We knew we could confide in Rizo the doubts and fears that we could not share with
our teachers or even our parents.  Rizo was like an older brother for all the scouts. 
      The physical exertion of the tug of war had made me hungry.  The boys who had been pulled through
the mud puddle were sent to wash off in the nearby stream while the rest of us started preparing the evening
meal.  Several chickens were already baking in clay pots in the coals of the campfire we had built earlier in
the day.  Rizo set us to work preparing the vegetables that would accompany this feast.
                                                                               Page 3
      "Will you play your guitar for us at the campfire tonight?" Niko asked Rizo.
      "Don't I always?" Rizo answered with a chuckle.  "Mind what you are doing, Niko.  There's almost
nothing left of that carrot you are peeling."
      I admired Rizo even more because he was an Albanian treating Nino, a Serb, with kindness.  Things
were changing in Kosova in that respect.  For a time we had all gotten along reasonable well.  In the past
Albanians and Serbs had even married each other on rare occasions.  But there was something unsettling in
the air.  Serbs were leaving Kosova in increasing numbers for Belgrade and other cities within Serbia proper.
Almost all the boys remaining in our scout troop now were Albanians.
      The boys who had been dragged through the mud returned to assist us with the meal preparations,
wearing only their damp underwear while their clothes dried on nearby bushes.
      "You looked funny trying to swim in that puddle, Osman," Niko said to one of the boys who was a
friend to both of us.
      "We'll get you next time," skinny Osman Naziri answered good-naturedly.
      "It will have to be next year," Niko said.  "We go back to Prishtina tomorrow."
      I would miss the comradeship of camping out on Mount Germia.  For some reason we never found cause
to fight with each other here in the forest.  Perhaps it was the nurturing guidance of Dren Hamza and Rizo
Mirena that prevented the usual boyhood conflicts.  Or maybe it was facing the dangers of the wilderness that
drew us all close.  It was a happy time that I looked forward to every year.
                                                                             Page 4
      "Well, you lads have butchered these vegetables enough," Rizo said.  "Time to put them on the fire to
cook.  You boys can get busy slicing the bread while I do that."
      We attacked the loaves of bread with knives too big for such a task.  We had all purchased the largest
knives our families could afford.  I suppose we expected to use them to fend off any wild beasts we might
encounter on Mount Germia.  
      When Rizo returned from setting the pot of vegetables on the campfire, he just shook his head in
disbelief at the pile of ragged bread that we had created.
      "Well, you boys will be the ones to eat this mess," he said, holding up a mangled slice of bread between
two fingers.
      That comment and Rizo's manner got us all to laughing.
      "Now let's see if you can spoil the tea," Rizo said.  "Sali and Niko, you handle that.  You two I trust...
      Inside I felt proud at Rizo's grudging compliment.  Although Rizo was in his late teens and only slightly
older than the rest of us, I valued his praise much as I would being commended by an adult.  Rizo was our
natural leader with a charm that made us want to please him.  His was an easy yoke, applied with humor
and affection.
      Niko and I went off to the stream to fill two pots with water for the tea.
      "Let's go upstream a ways," Niko said when we got to the stream.  "The mud larks must have washed in
this part."
      "This is good enough," I insisted after we had walked upstream a ways.
      "Will you be coming to our Krsna Slava after school starts?" Niko asked as he began to fill his pot from
the stream.
                                                                            Page 5
      "Sure.  I always do," I replied.  "But I like Christmas better.  Some day I'm going to find the coin in the
Christmas cake."
      "You just let a bug float into your pot," Niko said.
      "It will flavor the tea," I said with a chuckle.  "My grandfather doesn't like me joining in Orthodox
celebrations.  He especially doesn't like it when we put up a Christmas tree, but a lot of Muslims do that at
      "Old people," Niko said with distain.  "Young people don't care about such things."
      "Do you mean about mixing religions or religion in general?" I asked. 
      "Both," Niko replied.  "Oh, I respect our traditions, but I'm not a fanatic about it."
      "I feel the same way," I said as I finished filling my pot with water and the occasional bug.
      When Niko had completed the same task, we started back toward our campsite.
      "Our fathers have their shops practically beside each other in Prishtina," Niko said.  "I don't see why we
shouldn't share other things...customs and Easter and Christmas."
      "I'll tell you a secret," I whispered to Niko as we walked along.
      "What's that?" Niko asked with a smile.  "Did you have another wet dream?"
      I shook my head and tried to keep from laughing.  "No, not that," I replied in exasperation.
      "Too bad.  I did," Niko said with a laugh.
                                                                             Page 6
      "If you are through being silly, I will tell you," I continued on.  "I like what you mother cooks better than
what I eat at home.  That's the secret."
      "So you only come to my house for the food?  I am crushed, Sali...I am really crushed," Niko said in
mock hurt.
      "Stuffed cabbage rolls...plum pudding...the Christmas cakes with nuts...I love it all," I said ignoring Niko's
playful sarcasm.
      "The plum pudding is made with plum brandy," Niko said.  "You are flirting with losing Paradise by
drinking alcohol."
      "I don't drink the pudding...I eat it.  That doesn't count," I said with a chuckle.
      "Then I absolve you of your sins," Niko said, making the sign of a blessing before me.
      "Where did you two get off to?" Rizo asked when we arrived back at our campsite.
      "We went upstream to get clean water for the tea," I explained.
      "That was good thinking, boys," Rizo praised us.  "If there is ever a war I will enlist you two in the
commissary corps.  The tea always tastes better if the water comes upstream from the latrines."
     Niko and I both looked at the pots we were carrying.
      "Our latrines are downstream," Rizo said with a laugh.
                                                                           Page 7
      The evening meal of baked chicken and vegetables was a special celebration for our last night on Mount
Germia.  In the gathering darkness, our troop assembled around the campfire for our nightly sing-along which
Rizo accompanied on his guitar.  Niko and I sat close to Rizo on logs arranged around the campfire that we
had built especially large on this final night together.
      The faces of my happy comrades shined in the dancing firelight; our squeaky voices drowning out the
night sounds
around us as we sang the American ballads that Rizo seemed to favor.
      Then Dren Hamza got up to entertain us with a folk tale, as he always did toward the end of our singing.
      "We are here on Mount Germia tonight, lads, so I will tell you the story of a boy who had an adventure
on a similar mountain many years ago," Mr. Hamza began.  "A boy...not much older than most of you boys...
was hunting in the mountains one day.  A large eagle with a snake in its beak flew over the boy and landed in
its nest on a rocky crag high above.  When the eagle flew away, the boy climbed up to the crag.  There he
found an eaglet playing with the snake.  But the snake wasn't dead yet.  As the snake was about to strike the
eaglet, the boy shot an arrow and killed the snake.  Intending to keep his rare find, the boy took the eaglet
from its nest and started on his way back home.  Then...suddenly...the eagle reappeared...its angry wings
beating the air."
      Rizo was strumming his guitar to accompany the tale; hitting a dramatic chord now to punctuate the
eagle's reappearance as we all listened intently; the campfire, crackling and popping, to send a burst of
sparks into the air.
      Dren Hamza continued the tale.  "Why have you taken my child!" the eagle shouted at the boy,
      "The eaglet is mine because I saved it from the snake that you failed to kill," the boy answered boldly.
                                                                            Page 8
      "If you return my child to me, I will reward you with eyes sharp as mine and the powerful strength of
my wings," the eagle said.  "You will become invincible, and you will be called by my name."
      Rizo extended a chord to raise the anticipation we felt in awaiting the boy's reply.
      Dren Hanza continued on.  "The boy handed the eaglet back to its mother, but the eaglet remembered the
boy who had saved it and the eaglet always flew above his head.  As the boy grew to manhood, he was able
to kill many beasts of the forest with his bow and arrows.  With his sword, the boy...who was now a man...
defeated the enemies of his land.  And he knew it was from the eagle he had saved that his strength emanated.
The people of the land were amazed by these deeds, made him king and called him Albanian...Son of the
Eagle.  His kingdom came to be known as Albania...Land of the Eagles.  And that is why the Albanian flag
has double eagles on it to this very day," Dren Hamza concluded his story.
      We all broke into applause to acknowledge our appreciation of Mr. Hamza's charming tale of our
Albanian roots.
      "Tomorrow we return to Prishtina and our duties and obligations there," Dren Hamza went on.  "I want
 you boys to take back with you the warmth and comradeship we have shared this summer.  Be successful
in life, and always be proud of your heritage."
      Then Rizo began to strum a familiar tune.  It was an appropriate choice for that night - Flight of the
Condor.  I became dreamy and my eyes watery as I gazed at the singing boys around me.  Niko placed his
arm around my shoulders and we smiled at each other.
                                                      Copyright © 2004 by Paul Roebling