At Mother Teresa Airport last week, we were greeted by a sign saying "Welcome to Albania" and underneath it said "Mirëpritur të Shqipëri". We asked Merita about this - and she explained that Albania is the old, medieval name for the country, but Shqipëri is the name the people use - it means 'land of the eagle' - and they called themselves Shqiptarët, 'children of the eagle'
A youth was hunting in the mountains. An eagle flying above him landed on top of a crag. The eagle was especially large and had in its beak a snake. After a while, the eagle flew away from the crag where it had its nest. The youth then climbed to the top of the crag where he saw, in the nest, an eaglet playing with the dead snake. But the snake wasn’t really dead! Suddenly it stirred, revealed its fangs and was ready to pierce the eaglet with its deadly venom. Quickly, the youth took out his bow and arrow and killed the snake. Then he took the eaglet and started for his home. Suddenly the youth heard above him the loud whirring sound of the large eagle’s wings.
“Why do you kidnap my child?” cried out the eagle.
“The child is mine because I saved it from the snake which you didn’t kill,” answered the youth.
“Give me back my child, and I will give you as a reward the sharpness of my eyes and the powerful strength of my wings. You well become invincible, and you well be called by my name!”
Thus the youth handed over the eaglet. After the eaglet grew, it would always fly above the head of the youth, now a full-grown man, who, with his bow and arrows, killed many wild beasts of the forest, and who, with his sword, slew many enemies of the land. During all of these feats, the eagle faithfully watched over and guided him.
Amazed by the valiant hunter’s deeds, the people of the land elected him king and called him “Son of the Eagle.”
The nation's flag has borne the double headed eagle to represent this for over a century. It has seen many changes down the years - the last change being the removal of the Communist star which was added between 1946 and 1992 [from 44-46 there was a hammer and sickle] The two heads represent north and south, the Albanian ladies told me.
Certainly the Albanian people have been determined and strong despite the many adversities and occupations and foreign rule they have suffered, not just in the 20th century but before that.
Listening to the stories I was told last Sunday [which I am going to be sharing incessantly with friends and family I suspect] I am sure that many of the WDP Albanian ladies must share my affection for Isaiah Chapter 40. Always a comfort to me, this great passage ends with these words
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. [Isaiah 40]