Yet another prestigious recognition for the young emerging Albanian writer Eltjon Bida, who with his first work Once upon a time there was a stowaway is achieving a resounding success among readers and literary experts.
A few months after its publication, this splendid and lucid autobiographical account of the experience of emigration will be worth its author's Critics' PrizeMilan International 2019', which will be given to him in a ceremony that will take place on Saturday 23 November at 20.15 at the Sala Barozzi of the Istituto dei Ciechi, in Milan.
The Milan International award comes a few months another important recognition, the 'Books for Peacereceived the September 14
The writer also has a website, eltjonbida.com , in which you will be able to read the interviews he released, the reviews of his book and the photo gallery relating to the presentation of his book in various parts of Italy (here is our interview)
Born in 1977 in Albania, in a small town near Fier, he spent his adolescence in the Land of Eagles between family and studies, for which he proved to be very gifted. Then, as happened to all the Albanians in the period immediately following the collapse of communism in the 89, the life of Eltjon is overwhelmed by the unrest that, a few years later, will bring Albania to the brink of civil war.
The young man does not think twice. The boldness of his 17 years loads him enough to make him take the 'leap into the void' of the Adriatic crossing. It is February 1995 when it arrives in Italy.
The rest is the story that he masterfully described in his debut book. That of an unconscious young man, who arrived in Italy without the filters of adulthood and did not miss anything, but nothing at all.
Once upon a time there was a stowaway ...
Are you aware of those scenes from American films where high school kids get their documents falsified to enter the disco?
Here, for many years we Italians have had beyond the Adriatic people who have literally made 'false papers', at their peril, in an attempt to leave their tormented land and create a new future for us in Italy .
Not that Italy has been the definitive port of all the Albanian emigrants, many have diverted to other countries then, but the people who decided to choose Italy as their new home did so with their heart, because they already knew it from mass media that, even clandestinely, allowed to have more or less updated news.
Eltjon is the prototype of the immigrant Albanian of those years. Young, too young, and therefore perhaps braver.
He has the bad luck (he still does not know it) to see himself put on the false documents prepared in Albania a name that in Italian has a negative declination and he discovers it at his expense when he arrives in front of the policemen who control him at the border. Sent back!
First trip by ship failed, but try again with the raft. Which in Albania is called a motorboat and scares many. It is much faster than a ship, generally they are Italian boats off-shore, they literally fly on water. If you don't hold yourself tight, you risk diving into the sea and, with the night crossing at breakneck speed, if you fall into the sea, nobody will notice ... The stories about these sad episodes are wasted.
For parents whose children have said they want to go up there to get to Italy is an added concern. Eltjon's parents know this, but how do you stop a frisky teenager who already has a failed first trip behind?
One who thinks he can make a trip just barely worthy and instead has to think again when he gets water from all sides, the cold dog of the night and the smugglers who order the parents to silence the cries of their small children, who are technically a presence alert 'and can they risk the success of the crossing?
Among threats of not being fished out if one falls into the sea and intimate prayers addressed to the black night sky, the crossing ends. A few hundred meters from the mainland. Too dangerous to be intercepted by the Coast Guard.
You throw yourself, you reel, the willpower keeps you up. You arrive to touch the Italian land.
The sea journey is over. Another one will begin, made up of many different jobs to maintain itself (to tell the truth, a career that, in its improvement year after year, would certainly envy many Italians), of adolescent hormones in full explosion, of the first shameless approaches with another sex.
And then the desire to scream 'I did it'!
The intrinsic message
A happy parable, that of Eltjon, of so many Albanians from our house, who have shown their value day after day, have known how to integrate themselves into the Italian social and working fabric. And somehow they wanted to thank the country that welcomed them many years ago.
Eltjon, for example, does not hide the fact that, at the beginning, he was helped by the Italian Caritas, when he had nothing to eat or cover for himself. Now let him pay his way. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of his book will go to charity to the 'Pane Quotidiano' Association in Milan, the city where he now lives with his English wife and their two children (the reputation of the polyglot Albanians has not been denied even now !).
Hot topics, those of emigration / immigration and reception / integration.
The Italians, the people of great emigrants, need to refresh their memory from time to time. Why start with the preconception of the 'different' that comes to our home to mess up our lives?
We are different every day, all of us, when we slip into a context that is not the usual of our life. Like on the first day of work in a new company, when we arrive on tiptoe and the old people wall up. We need hospitality, a spirit of understanding first and then collaboration.
And so much openness to accept that 'the different' can also be an added value. Down with the mental schemes, the emigrant has a past that he jealously guards and that he often hides out of simple modesty, or because it hurts to remember.
But why deny the possibility of a better future? We all deserve it, without but and without ourselves.