Litany for Kumanov​ë/Kumanova/Куманово

Litany for Kumanoë/Kumanova/Куманово is a poem written by Livia Durdia

I wrote the poem after feeling a deep sense of heartbreak with not only how the events in Kumanova progressed and were handled, but also as a response to the construction of various Balkan identities as inherently opposite and incompatible, and the effects such an institutionalized process has on those who are deemed the Other, especially Albanians in Macedonia (of course, this is a long and heavily present practice in most of the Balkans; I just focused on Macedonia in particular). The events in Kumanovo, the destruction of some of the city's neighborhoods, the heavy police presence, and a long, systematic history of anti-Albanianism in Macedonia made me write this poem in pure and simple hope, of togetherness, of a demand to stand for even those who you have been taught not to stand for, and to rise up for justice and truth, no matter whose side it falls on.


I want to tell the late poet Ali Podrimja: I know why Kumanova causes me such anguish.
I truly know why Kumanova causes me such anguish. 1
Would he laugh? Understand? Suppose- an arm around my shoulder, shaking his head saying
But, child, that’s just the Balkans squeezing your heart again! More of the pained laughter.
No matter, he who doesn’t know why he longs for Shkup; I, who know why Kumanova wounds-
We are the both of us stumbling, or else falling in this futile attempt of navigating
this treacherous sea that swallows whole-
In this howling rain that only falls to uncover
more bodies-
the undying symphony of the Balkans.
I the wannabe poet. He speaking what mountains could say if they talked, we- the both of us- beating an already dead chest in mourning.
Ever since the border.


Come sit by me, Kumanova. (My side of the border or yours?)
Meet me on Ohrid’s shore and sing me your song. However many languages you want to sing in (was it Bardhyl Londo who said “those of us who know the language of freedom/ Have no need of an interpreter”?) 2
My people whose dialect I do not hear over the collapse of the buildings over the gunfire and tears; Wounds louder than the poetry of the Albanian language.
Sing so I can hear dancing on your streets Kumanova, heavy, heavy dancing, like we call it in the South.
A Macedonian Hand
An Albanian Hand
Fists in the air together against tyranny and the poison for others that rots hearts Dance.
May God bless you.
May the Macedonians one day enter our home as guests with the same fervor with which their police step on our skulls.

One day, I’ll pass them in the street. Tap on my shoulder.
Sorry, I thought you were my sister.
But don’t you see, I’ll laugh.
I am.

One day, I’ll pass them in the street. Tap on my shoulder.
Sorry, I thought you were my sister.
No, you’re mistaken, I’ll laugh.
I’m not.

I do not have to be your sister for you to stop burning the buildings stop entering the houses stop saying Шиптар
I do not have to be your sister for you to stop making the children cry the men and women fearful the country on a breaking point it has waltzed on dead bodies since there was a border.


Contrary to popular belief and will,
We Balkan children were not born to nurse dying countries.
What if we deserve(d)
Playgrounds, instead of ruins.
Find something better to give to us. A better inheritance.


(Remember that border- the one that falls on water in some places, remember?)
You stand on the lake at Ohrid and tell me where the border is. Draw a line and stop the Earth. Tell me which water is Macedonian and Albanian. Tell me to choose and tell me the sacred difference.
Because when they ask for my head; they’d be just as fine with yours.
That’s your blood bleeding; though I was the one killed.
Join us.
When they ask for my head; they’d be just as fine with yours.
That rotting voice that claims itself civilization. That claims Europe.
I have chosen to kill him. You have chosen to try and become him.
That’s okay. Maybe when they ask for my head I’ll give them yours.


Reminders, from a sister/ from beyond the borders.

  1. A multiethnic space means nothing when Albanian is only an official language of the prisons and of the grave.
  2. If you want the spring to return you must water flowers with something other than tears and blood.

  3. I have been your brother and broken your bread. Do not forget me. 

1 see Podrimja’s Agony
2 see Londo’s Meeting with Leonidas