You Took Away My Flag

The story

Arian, 18, has fallen in love with his best friend. His sister, Vjosa, is bonding with a Serbian police captain.

This might present each of them with only medium-sized challenges, except that they live in Kosovo, raised in a traditional Albanian culture—a culture that denies that any of its men are gay, and which keeps its women away from the dinner table while the men eat meals they cook. Traditional families kill any male who shows unnatural affections and any female who develops a romance with a Serb.

Now, however, the Albanians are rising up against their Serb oppressors. Arian is determined to lead the resistance, a determination nurtured by Fahri, the focus of his love interest. Vjosa is helping her police captain, Dragan, realize that escape to America is the only solution to his disgust with what he must command his policemen to do to the Albanians. 

As the war intensifies, the old prisons are becoming more porous. Conflict is loosening the tethers that have tied national pride to the past.

There are many, however, who see armed conflict as an opportunity to enforce old values. Among them are Fatmir, Arian’s and Vjosa’s father, and some of Arian’s fellow members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the guerrilla insurgency.


You Took Away My Flag follows Arian and Vjosa as they develop the courage to be who they are in the middle of a geopolitical earthquake.

It’s the late 1990s, and violence is spreading in Kosovo, a small country in the Balkans. Arian, an eighteen year old Albanian boy, dreams of fighting back against Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic. Arian’s special friend, Fahri, challenges him to get stronger and to join the insurgency rather than just reading about heroes from the past. As Fahri coaches him, Arian is terrified to realize that he has fallen in love, only to see Fahri killed by the Serb police.


Arian’s 20-year old sister, Vjosa, is facing her own struggles. Not only does she reject the traditional Albanian woman’s life of cooking, child-bearing, and hovering in the background, she has her own unconventional love to hide: a romance with a tormented Serbian police commander, Dragan.


Their Father, Fatmir, does not understand what is wrong with his kids. He belittles Arian’s romantic notions of joining the the Kosovo Liberation Army, and believes that Fahri is a “bad influence.”. And he confronts Vjosa, demanding that she not “forget her place.”


Can Arian convince the KLA to take him in? Can he be as brave as he dreams of being?


Rescued from Milosevic’s tyranny by NATO, will the Albanians enforce their own tyranny of tradition, locked up in their folk and family pathways, instead of embracing freedom and the enlightenment of the outside world? Will they ostracize their women and men because of whom they love? Must women stay in the shadows even as the men fight for their places in the sun?


Will they dishonor their bravest because friendship developed into something more?