by Antonina Zhelyazkova 

III. The Perception of the “other” Albanian or the three Albanian identities

Albanians about their brothers from Kosovo and Macedonia
In the Albanians’ consciousness Kosovo is a province which has greater opportunities for economic development and prosperity. In the beginning and the middle of the 90s, even in the beginning of the Kosovo conflict, the prevailing opinion in Albania was: ”What do the Kosovars need, they live well, much better than the Albanians themselves, why should they bring ruin upon themselves?” Respondents from Albania spoke in details about the vast prospects that the Albanians had in former Yugoslavia /Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro/. They stressed on the great number of family representatives who worked in Western Europe, which made them not only richer but more different as well. To the question, “How did it happen that the Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia grew even richer than the Serbs and the Macedonians”, they gave the following answer: “The local ethnoses and the authorities kept them away from all state institutions and jobs, they dismissed the Albanians from any state positions, they were not given access to the administration, the army and the police. The only way to survive and provide for the family was to work to the utmost in the private sector, i.e. trade, crafts, agriculture, and as hired laborers abroad. One should not forget the illegal traffic, of course. That’s how they grew richer”. “The Serbian and Macedonian authorities forcibly directed the Albanians where they could profit better and now they should not be angry that they are poorer. Because, it seems that here, in the Balkans, all are clever but all are naïve too”. And they added, “Kosovars are very industrious. They are the most industrious people of all Albanians, of us and of the Macedonians.” Jokes about the proverbial laziness of the local Albanians circulate in Albania. When NATO officers saw the wretched state of the roads they allotted funds to patch up the holes. The Kosovar refugees asked straight away to take up the road patching, because they felt rotten when they had nothing to do. The local respondents told us that in Albania one could often see the following picture: NATO soldiers and Kosovars working and a big group of local Albanians-idlers standing round them commenting, laughing and smoking for hours. When those working felt quite exhausted, the idlers around shouted “go ahead, go ahead”, but they will not even budge to help them. “That’s how it was during the Great War,” some of the adults remembered, “the Italian soldiers built up many things and we were watching them”. This is a self-evaluation, which they pronounce good-naturedly and with sense of humor. 

According to the opinion of the interviewed people, who had communicated all the time with the refugees, the Kosovars are colder and inhospitable. Drivers who provided the camps with foodstuffs and after the end of the war drove the refugees to their native places, and conveyed goods to Kosovo, spoke with outrage: ”In spite of the hospitality that we showed them here, they refused to be our hosts in Kosovo. We spent a month in Pristina, in Ðakovica, in Pe´c, but they did not invite us to take a cup of coffee with them, they pretended they did not know us. And we worked non-stop for them, as for brothers. They even stopped our truck, which conveyed goods and they sacked it. They jeered at us saying that if this misfortune had befallen us /the Albanians from Albania/, we /the Kosovars/ would not have accepted you.”  Quite surprising for most respondents was the fact that one of the most important and traditional values of the Albanian ethnos was neglected, i.e. hospitality and gratitude towards those who had helped them in hard times. They made the following comparison: “Even the Macedonian Albanians who are more backward and less educated than the Kosovars are more hospitable people and they observe the tradition as it is according to the ancient rules”. “Kosovars are arrogant and they like nobody but themselves, they think that their wealth gives them the right to that. Our Macedonian brothers, however, are no less rich, but they are not haughty to us – they feel for our poverty and they respect our erudition and intelligence”. 

Albanians worry that the events in Kosovo and the future status of the province could have influence, to some extent, on the reactions of the Albanian population in Macedonia. The dominating attitude among the Albanian society is that the Albanians in Macedonia should not have separatist claims. “Macedonia is a wonderful country and our brothers live there freely. They need not separate and destroy Macedonia. What is important for us is that the Albanians had their own place in policy there, as it is now”.