Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead; Farrar, Straus
and Giroux: New York, 2001; $16
When people thought the Holocaust was over, it wasn’t. For the Jews it may have been over in the 1940s, but for the Albanians it wasn’t over until 1999. Girl of Kosovo is a marvelous book. Beneath the cover unravels a story thick and chock-full of courage, hope and sadness, which I think is written so eloquently and precisely
Throughout the book Zana Dugolli, an eleven-year-old girl, struggles to keep the hatred of the Serbians out of her heart. Zana is an Albanian girl growing up in the time of a holocaust against Albanians. Every day she faces the struggle to survive and is alert to any gunshots and bombs, which may crumble her life to itty-bitty pieces.
Zana is an amazing character, who out of necessity has converted her heart into a rock. In an attack in her village her ankle is obliterated and shrapnel weaves its way through her hip. Zana is sent immediately to a hospital in Belgrade seven hours from her home and family. Although wishing she didn’t have to go, she finds the courage inside of her. This amazed me because I wouldn’t want to be alienated from my family during war. I have never been separated from my family for more than a couple of days, and if at all I was separated it was with trusted close friends. Zana was sent away with absolute strangers. This I thought was a wonderful example of spirit. I realized how fortunate I was living in the USA, where unprecedented medical treatment is taken for granted.
It was so unfair that the nurses at the hospitals chastised and called innocent Zana a terrorist for being an Albanian. Zana tried to ignore them but somehow the obnoxious comments won her over, and filled her heart with even more sorrow. At several such points in the book tears filled my eyes. I realized the Albanians were treated like dirt and pebbles on the road. After reading about so much injustice, I wanted to make a difference. I decided I had to make children my age read this book, and experience the aftermath of war from the perspective of a girl their age. Especially during today’s times, when the news is primarily about the US going to war with Iraq and biological terrorism threats on us.
When there was no spirit in the air and sadness was just down the road, hope was still not defeated. An example of hope is when a British doctor helps Zana’s injury heal, and when a Serb takes Zama to the hospital. Both these incidents surprised me because from Zana’s point of view the Serbs were horrible. Also, it made me think why would a British person want to help an injured girl. Just as every cloud has a silver lining I realized that all Serbs weren’t bad; some had a side covered in sweet honey.
What I thought made this book such a mandatory read is that it helped me understand the politics in this world. With North Korea threatening to send out nuclear bombs and Osama Bin Laden supporting terrorism, this book sends a special message out to its readers. “Don’t let anyone fill your heart with hatred,” as the author quotes in the story. Also, do not tolerate injustice.