I graduated in violin in the '97. I was with Ingrid from the end of the 95 when she arrived in Udine from Trieste. Hosted first by a lady who had welcomed her into the house - but who also concealed personal interests behind the generous gesture - and then by a priest, who in addition to asking her to clean up the rectory tried to get phantom oils smeared back, Ingrid decided at one point to change quarters and share the apartment with a Nigerian friend of ours, Dominic (aka Achoson Perfect Ikediala).
Of course I always kept an eye on the situation because as far as I trusted he was still a man. But he always considered her as a sister. Now Dominic is in America, in the end he left without saying goodbye, but we will always love him.
Young, beautiful, talented violinist Ingrid had a very hard past behind her: daughter of Ferdinand Shllaku, accordionist and scutar turner, he carried on his shoulders the half-century repression of Enver Hoxha's regime towards his family because his grandfather, diplomatic in the immediate post-war period, he was persecuted, arrested and executed with uncleared charges. Even today, the family - all emigrated from Albania - claims its bones.
Dead Hoxha, during the regency of Ramiz Alìa and at the end of what in Italy was the Middle School, removed her violin and the possibility of continuing her musical studies started at the age of 6 years. The first day of school was notified: "But how? Don't you know that you can't attend art school? Do you know why, no ...? " Basically it was considered anticommunist and moreover catholic, as much as "catholic" can be an Albanian raised under the regime ...
He remained at home a few days in despair, then gave up and had to start school, a sort of scientific high school in a suburban area of Scutari known as Kiras. Kiras was already then a disreputable neighborhood, Ingrid found herself the only Catholic in the enormous class of students. All this allowed her to receive a broad and not strictly humanistic education as on the contrary it would have happened if she had continued with the musical high school.
At eighteen, after graduating from high school, he joined his sister, who was married in Italy with one of his fellow citizens who had obtained the opportunity to stay thanks to distant Italian relations.
In Trieste, 18-year-old Ingrid, fresh from high school, enrolled in another Italian high school in order to obtain a residence permit, a linguistic high school. To obtain the documents she was helped by a Jesuit father who lived in Trieste, who followed the practices. Father Mariotti, who died a decade ago, was a very important character, he gave a radical change to the life of the young woman. At 18 years, therefore, he was attending a high school with the fourteen-year-olds again, cleaning in some apartments to contribute to the rent of his sister and try to maintain himself. But her "obsession" was the violin which, being "of state" had been torn off along with its future.
He took the courage to go to a private school located near his home in Trieste. They loaned her a violin, they did not charge her for it and so she started again after 5 years (There are still people of the heart).
In the space of a year and a half he gave all the basic and complementary exams (Albanian studies were not recognized) working and studying, astonishing the teachers and anyone he met for the determination and the immeasurable talent. Another religious who later became a very dear friend of mine and who unfortunately left us, Father Silvio Bellotto, represented another important piece: he first tried out some tools so he got one, to be restored, which Ingrid plays today and which many violinists have offered to pay tens of thousands of euros, but do not sell a piece of the heart!
Among a thousand ups and downs and a great desire to do, he arrived in Udine where we met, I graduated from the Conservatory, she was newly enrolled.
The first sentence I learned in Albanian was "You have": I eat you. It was Valentine's Day of the Year 1996. On February 10th there was the first affectionate exchange, the 20 February of the 1999 we were married in the Municipality, the 3 July of the 2003 in the Church with the Catholic rite even though I am a Catholic in a manner of speaking ...
Albania came under my skin between the '97 and the' 98, the years of the unrest that I call "civil war", which reduced it to shreds for years and which is slowly recovering despite the fact that people find it hard to live with what they can earn honestly: today many are maintained by remittances from emigrant relatives. In the '96 my father-in-law came to Italy on a work visa, but in order to stay a few days near his daughters - who had not seen the leave for years. Meanwhile, in May of the 97 the unrest reached Scutari and he had to return furiously to Albania by taking a ferry from Trieste: at home, among the bombs, there was his wife, his mother-in-law and his young son Armando. With this sudden exit from Italy he did not have time to return to Bari where he would never have checked the documents at the border, so he "caught" an expulsion that made him suffer as an unjust condemnation for the worst crime.
We tried to keep in touch, they didn't have a telephone and we were able to take the line from the booth once a week with exorbitant costs, most of the times the 10.000 lire cards ran out without even being able to speak for line errors. We had to call the neighbors. Hang up and wait for your family to arrive. Try to call again. Often without results. And we heard on the news every day of deaths and attacks ...
Between the '97 and the' 98 I did the civil service at Caritas and I worked with Ingrid. We had decided to live together, thanks to the dispensation of Caritas from the nights in the community together with the other conscientious objectors, we rented a very humble little house and ran a private cultural club, but to finance ourselves we did a little of everything, in particular we cooked and we were there create a nice circle of associates / friends ... glutton! Very popular prices and Balkan dishes (in addition to Mexican cuisine evenings, paellas and other specialties!). In the morning I lent my civil service to the Caritas offices as a quartermaster of the 20 objectors, in the afternoon social services: for the elderly, mad and AIDS patients, in the Bronx of my city, they did their shopping, fixed appointments at the hospital , at SERT or CSM (Centro Salute Mentale) or simply spent a few hours with them to mitigate the grief of life.
They never let me work at the emergency office where many Albanians were talking: "conflict of interests" they told me, knowing that I had an Albanian girlfriend and fearing that I could abuse the office with the excuse that "I was too emotional", that I I got too involved in poverty, emotions ...
However when the Kosovars began to arrive from the borders of Slovenia, they "rehabilitated" me for my Albanian albeit still macaronic, I should have spied on them and brought their speeches back to the police station, but I gave a great help to the Kosovars on the other hand but ... they didn't know never all of what they told me ... it's certainly better this way. In the evening at the end of the service I started again with the Club and ended around the 2 or 3 in the morning. Ingrid literally fell asleep in the kitchen: she was cleaning in a pub in the morning, then spent the day studying violin in the Conservatory and then ... it was normal she was tired! I survived, but it was a very hard year when a disease began to appear in me that continues to accompany me like an old dog too tired to die.
I had prepared the documents to obtain a study visa for my brother-in-law who was 18 years and that in Albania was in danger of being drafted, the period of my "ordinary" license came and I enrolled him in a hairdressing course (paying out 3 million lire, all we had in part). I asked the authorities for permission to leave the country (almost unthinkable during the draft) to go to Albania, retrieve the eighteen-year-old, and return.
A Marshal granted it to me in exchange for which I promised a bottle of Cognac Skenderbeg.
We left Trieste by ferry. 25 sea hours. 25 hours of hope. 25 hours of Ingrid's memories and tears. 25 hours of questions for which only today I have answers ... and not for all!
We disembarked at the port of Durres where swarms of gypsies asked us for money. I was carrying a mountain backpack with canned food and powdered food, a grinder for my father-in-law, a pressure cooker, and God knows what else because he weighed more than 40 kg. The policemen, seeing the Italian passport, asked me for money, but I literally ran away because I was carrying in the 800.000 lire wallet that my parents had given me for Ingrid's family. I was afraid they would steal everything from me. It went well.
Ingrid's father had to wait for us at the harbor, but we spent more than an hour waiting between hisses of bullets and crazy mercedes led by gypsy children and horrible-looking mountaineers. There was nothing but earth and dust. Fear. Abandonment. Everybody wore a Kalash on their shoulder and everyone fired bursts into the air. Explosions here and there, deaf blasts. More dust and broken glass.
Then we saw far behind a Ferdinand railing calling us. We hadn't left the port, but we didn't know it: once we passed the gate and saw the comings and goings of the cars, we were convinced we were out of it! Eventually we managed to rejoin my father-in-law and set off on his rickety Talbot Horizon.
They had killed a man during that wait a few meters from us. But it seemed to be part of that set design.
Ferdinand was pale, white. He feared the journey. We drilled the covered tires three or four times who knows how many times because the asphalt was practically impassable without a Mercedes or an off-road vehicle, luckily there was an improvised tire shop almost every kilometer. But Scutari was very far away at 30 km on average. It took us almost 7 hours with the terror of passing, at dusk, to Torovica, an infamous area where the women threw boulders from the mountain in order to hit the vehicles, stop them and ensure that the men in the valley could plunder them. .
A nightmare that took us to Scutari. Unharmed. But seriously injured inside.
Entering that city made me understand the value of life, I could have died but instead I was being born again without dying. I finally felt at home and Shkodra became my second hometown for me.
21 years have passed since that '98, we managed to have my in-laws come to Italy about a year later and now Ingrid has no more close relatives in the Land of the Eagles, where I worked for several years, up to 99 for projects of tourism promotion through music and music education.
But from that '98 onwards I was no longer just Alessandro, my name is also Skender and I am also part of the Diaspora.
Skender in the '96 has published a book of poems entitled "Sevda", a tribute to his Balkans and the years he spent traveling on behalf of a UNDP project for the promotion of the territory and the artistic, historical and naturalistic resources where Skender he dealt more with Albania and then gave birth to some poems among which we chose:
Durrës - Trieste
It is this diaspora
to detach ourselves still
like swifts and swans,
which the thread broke
The goodbye squeaks
in tearful embrace
at the entrance to the port,
tattered with boarding passes
And you remind me of that 97
when I whistled blind bullets
imitating the mishmash
between the unconscious skulls
of mountaineers sitting at cafes
So now you chase the windmill,
I drive my cold plow,
Xhani is a veterinarian
in New Orleans
Each furrows its own flowerbed
of vegetables or flowers,
but remains dissolved in the chest
the lullaby she sang to us
repeated on the insistent theme
of radio Tirana
"Venice" 22 / 11 / 2005 ferry
Other notes by Skender on