Two years ago for me Albania was only Albania, now it is called Shqipëria.
Land of the eagles, mother earth: Mother Albania.
Durres, Vlore, Kosovo and Prishtina.
Illyria for us high school students.
Liri, freedom in Albanian, was the name of a family friend. Her parents had given her this name in honor of the good communism of Enver Hoxha.
This at least his parents believed.
My Albanian peers were children during the communist dictatorship.
They went to the May Day parades and sang the Internationale.
I only knew Anna Oxa, Italianized Hoxha! Hoxha is the Albanian translation of imam.70 km Durazzo-Otranto. The smugglers have made us a lot of money! I knew Vladimir, Milot's Catholic Albanian.
Of him I understood only that he missed his family.
In order not to suffer he rarely called home.
Young workaholic worker and kind to everyone.
It always confused Treviso with Trento.
When I returned to Treviso he told me to greet my parents and shook my hand.
Now I understand how their handshake is felt and I understood the value they give to the question "Are you all right at home?"
Merry Christmas said to me with a suitcase in my hand.
It was easy for me to leave.
But one summer Vladimir also came home.
Shqiperia ime sang Vaçe Zela to my pc.
But the first Albanian song I heard spoke of a mother's farewell to her daughter who had married away from her.
Slowly I entered the slightly Albanian spirit.
Tirana was still only the capital of Albania, the birthplace of Eri, the Academy of Fine Arts, Via Don Bosko and lots of dust in the streets.
On a personal level it was not always easy for me to talk to Albanian students.
They spoke to me with sharp irony and I often, not knowing how to fight back, pretended not to understand. The jokes, then, I almost never caught them but it was not important because if you earn their esteem you don't lose it anymore! I didn't understand nationalism, communism, pride and the sense of sacrifice.
I listened a lot and I felt good envy for them who love mother earth.
The young students are aware of the many shortcomings of their country but these are a reason to love him more.
It is the land that generated them and that constantly tests their temperance.
Talking about Albania to them is like talking about the mother.
Mother and Albania, even if with flaws, are always perfect for children
I listened and felt a great respect, a great admiration mixed with emotion. I too would love to love my beautiful Italy, but this is impossible for me.
Italy belongs to everyone, Albania does not.
Albania is his children who know its secrets.
To get into it, an Italian passport is not enough, you must welcome your children.
I read Kadarè and watched the film on Skanderbeg but it is not enough.
I fell in love with the stones of Gjirocastra, I wanted to count them one by one.
Now Gjirocastra is for me a beautiful canvas painted with love by my Love. I wanted to use it as a passport to be able to count the stones.
The hearts of the Albanians far from their land become stones to protect their homesickness.
I learned to cook some of their traditional dishes.
Eri translated the recipes word by word.
I tried to read the words in Albanian but most of the time I remained a prisoner of their sounds.
I laughed when he read the words of Turkish origin so different from those of our Indo-European languages.
Of Turkish, in addition to a few words, other aspects of daily life remained alive.
The Muslim religion remains with its mosques next to the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
In fact it was explained to me that in Albania the various faiths coexist peacefully.
For us Italians who have the Pope at home, or rather in the palace, this peaceful cohabitation is a bit far-fetched.
Even if you are an atheist, here in Italy, you have to justify yourself! Here is still my good envy for these young Albanian students who do not know the sense of guilt and confession.
Their moral is that learned from their parents.
Sacredness lies in respect for one's family.
It was difficult for me to explain the Catholic religion to them.
It is to them that they possess one of the most beautiful figures in Christianity: Mother Teresa, a Macedonian Albanian, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. If I remember correctly, Tirana airport is named after her.
Coming back to what there is in Turkish in Albanian, I could find it in the proper names like Ismail and those that end up in -at, so they explained to me.
Turkish is some food like the good Byrek I try and try again, without positive results! The kadaifi and baklavà, very sweet sweets that are also found in Greece! And how can we not speak of Turkish coffee? In Albania they call it that, in Greece they have made it Greek coffee! It's a hot drink that looks a little like barley coffee. In Albania, for a cup of coffee, it takes three hours or more, unlike our espresso, which is really espresso! In Eri's passport it says that he has Kafé eyes, a fine definition for a coffee lover like me! it is perhaps also the submission of women who in some more backward places are really beaten. I remember that in a movie you could see whole days working in the fields while their husbands were having long coffee ... I couldn't believe it! Stacks of wood on the female shoulders and swollen hands.
This is also Albania that they told me.
There is also something Turkish in the music even though often my profane ear confuses the Balkan melodies with the Turkish ones. Eri felt the music very much and when he danced he kept his arms raised and crossed his feet, I looked at him in ecstasy and in love.
It was so good to see him dance.
Now I know a little about the music of the north from that of the south and the center. They are very different music, even for them north, center and south are three characteristic worlds but without federalism! There is the cultured Gjirocastra of the south, the theatrical Shkodra of the north and Tirana, the capital with many faces, of the center.
In the north we speak of Besa, that is the word given, and of the Kanun, a code of strict rules of coexistence. In "Broken April" by I.
Kadarè these two concepts are explained very clearly and I do not take the responsibility of talking about it, given the complexity. I dare say that the Kanun has the flavor of our mafia's code of honor, but it is only a gamble! From what I understand if an Albanian gives you his word, he will keep it both for good and for bad.
The Albanian population has a sacred respect for their traditions, for example the marriage ones.
I was surprised to learn that for most marriages there are no religious authorities to marry. In Gjirocastra, once a year, the popular music festival is held. During the dictatorship the singers moved only the mouth, the rest of the body remained in plaster! I saw these musical pieces on youtube and it made a lot of impression to me to perceive this forced self-control.
But the dictatorship did not give more words, no more gestures, or nothing more than the others.
Eri told me that his easel professor at the Akademia Arteve in Tirana had been begged to confinement simply because he had Van Gogh books.
It speaks for itself.
Art had to be functional to propaganda, an exaltation of Enver Hoxha and the party.
The landscapes were already seen with a bad eye because they could remember both the subject and the brushstrokes of the misleading impressionism.
Enver is portrayed as reassuring, smiling and protective.
Enver embraces women and children.
Classes of children spend their hours of afternoon leisure writing the stone slogans on the cliffs.
The slogans are phrases of exaltation to the party composed, in fact, from letters of stones.
The masters were forced to use their time and the
their culture too.
But Enver smiled and assured everyone-little food! -Case and work. Twenty years ago there was work for everyone, precisely communism.
To get your small ration of food you lined up with the card, as in the time of our Fascism.
To cook baked food, public ovens had to be used, and there was also a queue.
Eri told me that once he came back from the oven with the cooked stuffed tomatoes, he and his brother stumbled and didn't report the parents' reaction! Eri's grandfather, at the time of the dictatorship, was dispossessed of his lands to be able to benefit from only a small piece, like all the others.
These are the contradictions of dictatorships.
Every time we went to the cinema there was the documentary of the party as an introduction to the film.
With the death of Enver his bust falls and the dictatorship falls.
The politics of the country tries to look slowly at the window of the west but as soon as there in Albania seems to fuel a little here is that everything crumbles with the cursed March of the '97.
I was told about the situation with the rightful benefit of the doubt since ten years later we don't know exactly what happened. I only know that from this moment onwards very poor, angry and armed Albanians come to Italy! The immigration of the '90 happens in the throes of the desire to finally leave an armored country in search of the West, in the' 97, instead, the situation it was somewhat more tragic.
In Italy, slowly, the idea that the Albanian is dangerous and bad! I am not interested in the prejudices of our ignorance, there are good and bad Albanians, traffickers and students, thieves and workers, like us Italians. There is an Albanian underworld but also a lot of good life. I believe that there will be racism for perpetual times, I don't delude myself that we can defeat it.
It is a human characteristic that serves to defend itself and to exalt itself.
Tolerance is perhaps a possible weapon to try to defeat it, but not love! Love fails to bring racism, oil and water together! I fortunately feel love for others and enjoy this privilege that the genetics and then my family! Eri, when he introduced himself to me as an Albanian, was surprised by my indifference to his nationality and even more by my curiosity about his land. In fact, I'm curious about the news brought by foreign people, that's why I'm here writing.
I was raised like this, thankfully! Thanks to my meeting I learned to know and love Albania and my Albanian from Tirana, or rather Tirona in dialect.
I met his country through the disenchanted eyes of an intellectual and the enchanted eyes of a son of his own land. He showed me around the center of Tirona, with its bars and its models.
We listened together with the modern music of Alban Skenderaj and the popular ancient ballads.
He invited me to admire the paintings of the National Art Gallery, he described them one by one historically and artistically.
He introduced me to his professors whom he esteems so much and really have as future models.
He offered me the long coffee with his best friends.
We laughed together looking at Portokalli.
We made love in our two lands.
I loved it without space and without time.
I learned the song "Tirona" from the West Side Family by heart.
I presented my capital to him.
He painted Alush Shima for me and my family.
We stepped on the stones of Gjirokastra and made a beautiful portrait of her stones, naked.
It made me feel sometimes Italian, sometimes Albanian.
He cooked the stuffed aubergines for me in his large economic kitchen.
We made love among the stones of the City of Stone.
He introduced me to Kadarè acting as an interpreter.
We made love in the mulberry trees of his maternal grandfather.
In Tirona I didn't take a shower for two days because there was no water and we ate by candlelight because there was no light for whole meals.
We made love between the melodious notes of Vaçe Zela and then again, and then again ... I warmed your cold feet in our damp Bologna and in Tirona you slept naked.
And I photographed you all night.
You made me smile in Bologna and Tirona.
I protected you wherever and wherever I will protect you.
I love you, I Dashur Im. Valeria
Author: Valeria Zannerio
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