22 November 2010

Tringe Smajl Martini~Albanian Joan of Arc

Tringe Smajl Martini Ivezaj (or simply Tringe Smajli) was an Albanian young girl from the region of Grudë, within Malësia in southern Montenegro, who went to war against the Ottoman Empire army after her father Smajl Martini, the clan leader was kidnapped in 1911 at the Battle of Vranje, his body was never recovered.

Her legend lives on throughout the Balkans as one of the most heroic women warriors in the history of the region. She never married, never had children, and did not have any siblings. She is buried in an unmarked grave covered with ordinary field stones at the ancestral burial grounds of her family in the mountains of Gruda withiin the village of Ksheve, Montenegro.

In 1911 the New York Times described Tringe Smajli as the "Albanian Joan of Arc".

ALBANIAN JOAN OF ARC.; Handsome Heroine Takes Father's Place and Vanquishes Turks.

CETTINJE, May 9. -- A young girl, whose first name corresponds to that of the given name of the Maid of Orleans, is now being sung in the songs of the Montenegrin bards in the inns and coffee houses of Podgogritsa. When at the battle of Vranye last week her father, the hereditary commander of his clan, fell, she immediately stepped to his place and led the Martinais to victory against the Turks. Aside from the romantic phase of the affair, for Yanitza Martinay is very beautiful, the battle is important as showing that the Montenegrins on the frontier had joined with the Albanians.

According to a person who is well acquainted with her, this new Joan of Arc is not yet 22 years of age, and is "a tall, handsome, well-developed young woman. All the Albanian women are brave, and are trained from their girlhood to the use of firearms, and in times of war, as there are no mules, they carry the provisions and ammunition for their soldiers and go into the firing line to distribute them."

"And are sometimes killed?"

"Yes, often that happens."

"Yanitza would probably have carried a Martini rifle; or, as many of the Martinis were collected last year by the Turks, her weapon may perhaps have been one of the old-fashioned Albanian rifles, which are handsomely decorated with silver and have very long, narrow barrels."

Shooting is almost the only amusement of the young men and women in Albania. Both boys and girls learn to shoot when they are 12 years old. At weddings and parties amuse themselves by dancing and shooting; at christenings shooting again is the principal amusement -- firing at targets for some little prize -- and at festivals there is shooting all day long. It is one of the great difficulties that Turks have to contend with, for it is part of the national life; the people use their rifles by day and sleep with them at their side by night. The custom has grown up with the prevailing insecurity from vandettas at home and border troubles abroad.

Physically, the Albanians are the finest race in Europe. Their women are handsome, with dark hair, though their eyes are sometimes gray. To see them walk is a delight. We like to see the ballet is Servia. The first time I saw the Albanians walk it gave me just the same pleasure. Their movements are so graceful, elegance and strength together.

Yes, they are a very fine and a very gifted race. They are like the Scots in the seventeenth century, and they will be by and by the finest race, intellectually as well as physically, in the Balkans. If you go to Constantinople you will find that many of the finest men, not only soldiers but also statesmen, are Albanians.

Their fault, due to their present degree of civilization, is that they cannot grasp the idea of State. The clan is their highest organization; they are unable to see the importance of combining the clan with the higher organization of making a state. But that will come.

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