by William Dorich
Six hundred years ago, on St. Vitus Day, Christian army of Serbian Prince Lazar and Islamic conquerors under Turkish Sultan Murat fought a great battle on the plain of Kosovo. Serbs were defending themselves and Christian Europe from the Ottoman invasion, but at Kosovo, they were defeated. Prince Lazar and the cream of the Serbian nobility all died heroically.
Over the centuries, historians have praised the sacrificial courage of Prince Lazar and his army on that day in 1389 – and, as we enter a new century, that same courage is embodied by the spirit of all the Serbian people.
These are our heroes and they were warriors, but the heroes of the 21st century will show themselves to be a different kind of soldier. It is those who fight the lonely battle of conscience – who stand up against tyranny – whose praises may well be sung in the textbooks of the future.
Some wear courage like a badge of honour, but there are those who do not march into the sun with bright ribbons and yet who still possess the gallant spirit of Kosovo. Their battle continues, but the centuries have dramatically altered their theatre of war.
We Serbs are a proud people who have endured throughout history – and, still, our homeland suffers the agonies of war. We respond with pride and courage. Never have we needed it more.
It is courage to be merciful. It is courage to heal. It is courage to show compassion and humanity. It is courage to sacrifice.
Before the Battle of Kosovo, Prince Lazar told his gallant knights that it was better to die heroically than to live under the enemy yoke.
More than ever, we must hold Kosovo dear for all the world to see, for it is a testament to the courage of our people.
For centuries the territory of Kosovo was the centre of our national and Church life. It remained so even after all the destruction by the conquerors, for on it are found the remains of the most important accomplishments of Serbian church architecture, art, and literature. These Kosovo remnants are lodged in the midst of the remaining faithful of the Kosovo region.
The lesson of Vidovdan (St. Vitus Day) for all of us is that eternal values must be placed before earthly ones, that spiritual force superior to the force of arms. The legacy of Vidovdan teaches us that the forces of darkness and evil are always defeated in the end and that those of light and virtue ultimately triumph, even when such victory may seem impossible.