By Rafaela Prifti/
“Writing a graphic novel is a good way to learn history,” said Anna Di Lellio, the author of Dimri i Gjate i Vitit 1945 Tivari at the book party held at Fadil Berisha’s studio on April 18. In order to relate the story, she has chosen the visual format with the illustrations made by her Kosova based co-author and designer Dardan Luta. Secondly, she has based the story from the oral testimonies from survivors. And the purpose of the illustrated book is to bring to light the tragic events that occurred in Tivar in the last winter of World War II. The killing of the Kosova Albanians at the hand of the Serb-Montenegrin forces is ‘a footnote’ in the history books, says Anna, who has extensive knowledge of the region both professionally and personally. She is a co-founder of Oral History project in 2010. Indeed it was through the testimonies and accounts related to this project that gave rise to the idea of the illustrated book, in which the voice of a Kosovo young man tells the story of the march of unarmed foot soldiers heading for Trieste, Italy. Three groups of approximately 7,700 men left from Prizren on a difficult march towards the Montenegrin town. For most of them, the journey ended there in what is known at the massacre of Tivar. As is often the case with Balkan history, the facts surrounding the mass killings are disputed and even denied by Serbia. The co-author of the book Anna Di Lellio maintains that the massacre is an important event of the silent yet unforgotten part of Kosova’s history and as such should not be ignored by war historians. For Anna, this novel highlights the importance of the survivors’ story. She writes that the historians’ documentation of the massacre is incomplete without the eyewitness’ account. Although she understands trauma from her own previous work in refugee camps before the Kosovo war, Anna Di Lellio, who teaches at New York University and The New School, upholds the academic approach of a professor with a deep appreciation for historical facts. In the book released in 2011, The Bar Massacre and the Responsibility of the Albanian State, released in 2011, historian Uran Butka’s maintains that the Albanian State was involved in the Bar tragedy. I asked Anna to comment on it. She responded by saying that there was no Albanian state at the time.
The purpose of the novel is to make this part of history known to the young generation in the format of an illustrated account based on the oral testimonies of the massacre.
Most authors know that releasing the book is only the beginning of its journey. The release book party in New York City, after its launch in Prishtina in March, was a good start. The gracious host, Fadil Berisha, a professional photographer and full-time social promoter in the Albanian community. The attendees included people of different generations and backgrounds. The event was supported by the Consulate General of the Republic of Kosovo in New York. Ambassador Teuta Sahatqija, and ranking diplomats of the Consulate were present at the book release in New York.
The authors Anna Di Lellio and Dardan Luta are hopeful that by including the survivors’ accounts, the historical documentation of the Tivari massacre will no longer be neglected. By choosing a graphic design, a medium favored by the millennials, the writers hope to reach out and impact the generation of fast communication but most importantly to not allow this chapter of history to be silenced from this point. Dimri i Gjate i Vitit 1945 – Tivari published by Oral History Kosovo is available in English. The price is $10.00