Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Lord's Prayer in Tosk (Albanian)


This red flag with the double eagle (that's what the figure is, not a Rorschach test) is the flag of Albania, the country where my wife's parents were born. Her father came to the U.S. in 1917 at the age of 22, and her mother came in 1927 at the age of 19 after Pop went back, married her, and brought her over. Pop became a naturalized American citizen in 1924 and Mom in 1943. They were married for almost 57 years. He died in 1983. She died in 1986. Both of them are buried near Orlando.

One of the most precious possessions my mother-in-law owned was a New Testament that she was given after she arrived in America. It was written in Tosk, the variety of Albanian she spoke (there are two varieties of the Albanian language, Tosk and Gheg.) Mom's New Testament was precious to her because in Albania only the priest was allowed to have one. It was kept chained to the pulpit in the church except for rare times when it was borne aloft among the people for them to venerate (not worship) at a distance. A mere lay person was not allowed to own or even touch a Bible. (A missionary named Brother Andrew who smuggled Bibles into Communist countries attested to this: everywhere he left Bibles, he said, they were snatched up in minutes. Except in Albania, where people put their hands behinds their backs and wouldn't come closer to the book than four feet.) And the Turks, who ruled Albania for centuries, did not permit the development of a written Albanian language until early in the twentieth century. So to have her own copy of the Word of God in a language she could read meant a great deal to my mother-in-law, and every time she picked up her New Testament to read, she kissed the cover before opening it.

Here is the Lord's Prayer in Tosk, a prayer I heard my mother-in-law say many times:

Ati ynë që je në qiell: u shënjtëroftë emeri yt.
Arthtë mbretëria jote. U bëftë dëshira jote, si në quiell, edhe dhe.
Bukën tone të përditëshma jepna neve sot.
Edhe falna fajet tona, sikundër edhe ne us falim fajtorëvet tanë.
Edhe mos na shtjerë në ngasje, po shpëtona nga i ligu.
Sepse jotja është mbretëria e fuqia e lavdia në jetët të jetëvet.

You may not realize it, but you know at least one Albanian, a woman whose name was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. You probably call her what the world called her: Mother Teresa. Two other Albanians (well, Albanian-Americans) you may also have heard of (and this is going from the sublime to the ridiculous) are the brothers Belushi, John and Jim.

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