From Piana Degli Albanesi to Kosovo
Kosovo Force soldiers are here on a peacekeeping mission
to achieve a safe and secure environment for all citizens
of the region.
But this is a very old country that has a long history
and, sadly, this is not the first time that the rider
of war rode through this country. This region of Europe
has always been an appetizing bite for nearby empires.
In the fifteenth century the Turkish invaded the Balkans,
ruling the area until 1918, although Albania had reached
its independence in 1912.
Portions of the population had to abandon their homes
looking for a secure future, some finding it in Sicily.
Some of these nomads arrived in Palermo where King Juan
II of Aragon, the island’s ruler, allowed them to
stay and preserve their Greek culture. In 1488 the Albanian
refugees founded a town in the south of Palermo and called
The old Hora was named Piana degli Greki, and finally,
over time it changed into Piana degli Albanesi, which
is the actual name. As years passed, these citizens were
able to keep their language, customs, clothes and worship
with Greek tradition. A Greek Catholic bishop has had
jurisdiction over all the groups observing the Byzantine
rite in Sicily since 1937.
Today, Piana degli Albanessi is a tourist town of 6,000
people located 24 kilometers from Palermo where visitors
can enjoy the monuments, the Byzantine iconography and
the spectacle of a whole Easter in Greek rite.
What is not so well known is some of those refugees'
descendants have come back to Kosovo as NATO peacekeepers
with the Italian contingent in MULTINATIONAL BRIGADE SOUTH
WEST, to bring relief to Kosovars and help them rebuild
what was destroyed in the conflict -- the same thing their
ancestors were looking for in Italy more than five centuries
This is the case of Giorgio Salerno, a 21-year-old Italian
soldier with the 2nd Regiment of Engineers from Piacenza
(MNB SW). He was born in Palermo in 1982, but he has been
living in Piana degli Albanesi, since birth.
Since arriving in Kosovo, he has served as a generator
operator with 35 Italian, German and Argentinean colleagues
repairing a road that connects Malisheva to Suhareka.
The road officially reopened 27 July.
"Although several centuries have passed, we have
never forgotten our language and traditions. We still
continue to speak our language and take care of our culture
and traditions. Our grandparents have always spoke this
language and we continue to speak it also," he told
the newspaper "Zeri" during an interview at
a ceremony marking the reopening of the road.
He greeted the journalist speaking Albanian and speaking
in Albanian during the interview. "It is the same
typical dialect that we read in poems written by De Rada,
Serembe, Gavril Dara I Riu, and other well known poets,"
said Asllan Bekteshi, the interviewer.
"The country is beautiful and the people love us,"
said Salerno, when RTK TV interviewed him 18 July.