Monday, November 30, 2009

Few Albanians hanker for communism

By Sami Neza for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 30/11/09

When the Berlin Wall fell in Germany, Albania was still under dictatorship. Facing the pressure of events, the regime released its grip slowly, holding multiparty elections in 1991 and finally ceding power altogether the next year.

Student protests began in Tirana in December 1990, and quickly drew support from others in the Albanian capital. Communist leader Ramiz Alia, aware of the turning tide, hoped to keep the process under control.

In time, though, he and his cohorts were swept away as the country turned its back on the legacy of Enver Hoxha, the totalitarian ruler whose paranoia and uncompromising Stalinism had made Albania the most isolated nation in Europe.

"Albania has become another country since the fall of communism," says Remzi Lani, former editor of the newspaper Voice of Youth. "Nostalgia for communism in, say, Hungary is understandable. But Albania's regime was so brutal and extreme that our poverty has left no room for nostalgia."

Vladimir Karaj, a journalist at a daily newspaper in Tirana, was only six-years-old when change came to his country. He was born on April 11th, 1985 -- the day Hoxha died.

Out of fear, Karaj's parents' didn't celebrate their son's birthday for nearly six years, as it was taboo to express anything on that date except reverence for the late dictator. Such was the strength of his personality cult.

Today "people are quite richer economically, and quite richer in their personality," the journalist says.

The transition has not always been smooth. Corruption and fraud accompanied the switch to a liberalised economy. Get-rich-quick schemes, endorsed by government officials, turned sour and Albanians lost billions, triggering violent unrest.

Even today, institutional problems remain, and every year many "vote with their feet", emigrating to other countries.

Albanians "managed to demolish communism, but they are not used to the new system which they brought about themselves", says international relations student Ardit Bido.

Even with bumps in the road, however, Albanians remain bullish on democracy. "The famous phrase of [former US Secretary of State] James Baker, that 'freedom works', has proved true, Defence Minister Arben Imami told Southeast European Times. "We are a new democracy that is working; we are a member of NATO and a loyal ally of the United States."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gezuar 28 Nentorin gjithe shqiptareve kudo qe jane!


Njëzet e tetë Nëntor
irroftë gjerë në pakufi,
është Dita e Flamurit
shumë luftërave që u ka pri.

Krenari ndershekullore
e kishim e do ta kemi,
me te i tregojmë gjithë botës
kush, në të vërtetë na jemi.

Jem’ bijtë e asaj shqipeje
ndër shekuj me gjak të larë,
kurr nuk u gjinjëzuam
prore mbetem krenarë.

Sot flamuri jonë
tjetër mision ka,
të na prij në fitore
mbi projekte të mëdha.

Në çdo njëzet e tetë nëntor
JU këndoni e festoni,
shqipen dykrenare
sa më lartë ta qoni.

Le të valojë e bekuara
si në kohë të Skënderbeut,
forcë e krenarile
t’i sjellë Atdheut.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Obama: "Happy Independence Day, Albanians"

For Immediate Release

November 25, 2009

Statement by the President on the Albanian Independence Day

"I send my warmest wishes to all those who will celebrate Albanian Independence Day on Saturday. Here in America, those that can trace their roots to Albania are an important part of this Nation. Abroad, I hope for continued friendship and strengthened ties between our two countries."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ndihёma per Malёsi

Lajmrojme Komunitetin Shqiptar te Detroitit me rrethe se “Shoqata Atedhetare Malesia e Madhe” me daten 22 nentor dite e diel ne ora 6 te mbremjes ne Sallen “Gjergj Kastrioti” pran “Kishes se Shen Palit” ne qytetin Rochester Hills do te shtroj nje darke, tash tradicionale per te grumbullue mjete financiare per ndihme te Malesis tone, e cila ka nevoj per ne.

Darka do te shtrohet kryesishte me ushqime dhe pije tradicionale.

“Shoqata Malesia e Madhe” mision te vete ka te ndihemoj njerzit e Malesise ne nevoja te ndryshme si; skamnoret e saj, te semurit pa mundesi per sherim, studentet shembullor pa kushte per shkollim, si dhe raste tjera qe munde te paraqiten nderkohe..

Gjithashtu Shoqata jone nder prioritetet kryesore ka, avamcimin e statusit politik dhe ekonomik ne Malesi, realizimin e te drejtave tona, e ne kete raste Komunen e plote te saj.
Shoqata “Malesia e Madhe” eshte perpjeke dhe do te vazhdoj te kerkoje lirimin e te gjithe burgosurve tone politik qe gjinden ne burgjet Malazeze.

E gjitha kjo realizohet vetem me ndihmen tuaj, per c’gje ju falemenderojme ne emer te shoqates, ne emer te gjithe atyre qe u eshte ndihmuar deri tani dhe ne emer te Malesis mbar.

Me ndihmen tuaj gjeneroze per keto 9 vite te funksionimit te “Shoqate Malesia e Madhe”
$ 425,750.00 jan grumbullue dhe shpenzue per ndihma te njerzve ne varferi, per sherim te disa individeve me semundje te renda, si dhe per avancimin e statusit politik dhe ekonomik ne Malesi.

Ne u sigurojme se kontributi juaj shkon 100% per Malesi , dhe per kete arsye kerkojme ndihmen tuaj, prandaj dhe cdo kontribut eshte i mireseardhur.

“Shoqata Malesia e Madhe” eshte e regjistruar ne qeverin Amerikane si organizate jofitimpruse, dhe per kete, te gjithe ata qe ndihmojne mund t’i zbresin gjate rregullimit te taxave ne fund te vitit.

Pra apelojme te te gjithe ata qe ia duen te miren Malesis, qe se bashku ta ndihmojme ate,
ajo ka nevoje per ne, ne ja kemi borc, sepse, jemi bijte dhe bijat e saj.

Malesia dhe njerzit e saj ne nevoje, kerkojne ndihmen dhe perkrahjen tone.

Shoqata “Malesia e Madhe”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Kosova Parties Claim Victories in Key Seats

16 November 2009

Political parties are claiming victories in key municipalities across Kosova after the country went to polls on Sunday for the first time since declaring independence last February.
The turnout for the local elections has reached 45%, the Central Election Commission said as polls closed at 7pm.

The Democratic League of Kosova, LDK, is already celebrating in the streets of Pristina after announcing that its candidate, the standing mayor Isa Mustafa, had won 57 per cent of the vote, thus securing victory without the need for a second round.

Its government coalition partner, the Democratic Party of Kosova, PDK, has claimed wins in all but three municipalities, including Prizren and Gjilan.

Opposition party the Alliance for the Future of Kosova, AAK, claims to have secured victory in 16 out of the 36 municipalities.At just before midnight on Sunday, LDK confirmed it had lost Suhareka to AAK.

Second round elections for mayoralties will be held on December 13 when no candidate has secured more than 50 per cent of the vote.

Turnout among Serb municipalities was higher than many predicted with 24 per cent voting in Gracanica, 31 per cent in Strpce, 14 per cent in Ranilug and 25 per cent in Kllokot.

Kosova Serb Dusan, 21, who is studying to become a doctor in North Mitorvica, was voting for the first time in Kosova elections in his hometown Gracanica.

He told Balkan Insight that he realised that he lived in Kosova and had to vote if he wanted to see a better future.He said: “This is where I am from, this is where my family is from. I don’t have anywhere else to go.

“I am fighting for a better future.”The highest turnout was recorded in the new Turkish-majority municipality of Mamusha, where 66 per cent of eligible voters visited the ballot box.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Righteous

A Little-Known Secret was that Albanian Muslims Hid Jews from the Nazis; Now a Survivor Reunites With Her Savior

Johanna Neumann is on a journey more than 70 years in the making . . . a journey that started in Germany. She left Hamburg when she had just turned 8. She remembers it because, she says, "this was such a dramatic experience." Her life changed in the violent darkness of November 9, 1938, during Kristallnacht - the Night of Broken Glass.

It was when the Nazis launched a vicious assault on Jewish communities - looting homes, destroying businesses, burning synagogues. It was an ominous preview of the horrors to come.

Her father feared where his country was headed, so he began preparations to flee. Young Johanna tagged along with him on a devastating errand in the basement of their apartment building: "He had all of this correspondence and photography, photographs and so on of his youth, of his life," she said. "And he had made arrangements with the superintendent of the house that he could burn his things in the furnace.

And you know, like every piece that he burned was like a piece of his life being thrown away. It's a whole life that you're putting on fire."

A few months later, little Johanna and her parents were gone, leaving Germany for good. But on this day, Johanna's journey won't take her back to Germany. Instead, she's returning to an unlikely safe haven . . . and a reunion with her improbable family.

Edip Pilku is anxiously waiting to greet the woman he hasn't seen in about 62 years, but he clearly hasn’t forgotten her: "Memories are forever." "Will we cry or not? Will we kiss or not?" he pondered. You could say Edip is Johanna's brother . . . at least, that's what they told the Nazis.

"The families surrounding us didn't know that we were sheltering Jews," Pilku said. "My mother had spread the word that they were her relatives from Germany."

"That was the cover story?" Axelrod asked. "That was the cover story: We're Germans from Germany, and we were her family." (Left: Johanna Neumann is reunited with Edip Pilku, an Albanian Muslim whose parents protected Neumann's family from the Nazis during World War II.)

There are a number of extraordinary examples of people around the world who risked, and sometimes lost, their lives hiding Jewish families during the Nazi occupation. But the Pilkus were in Albania, a 70% Muslim country in southeastern Europe.

"The gem of this story is that Albania took in refugee Jews," said Deborah Dwork, who has written a book about Jewish refugees during World War II. "Europe 1938, '39, '40, even '41, we see it as a totally closed universe," she said. "and Jews in that closed universe, they were looking for holes, for openings.

People began to whisper: 'I hear if you get to Albania, you will be safe.'" Safe, because of a cornerstone of Albanian culture known as Besa - the promise to treat strangers as if they were family . . . and guard them with their lives.

"It has to do with a certain sense of honor, an honor code that they take very seriously," said Dwork. "It's not simply to give someone something -a bed for a night, a hot meal. It's really to offer protection, full protection.

They judged themselves by that code, and they also knew that their neighbors judged them by that code." Like their neighbors, the Pilkus adhered closely to Besa . . . and to their Muslim beliefs that also emphasize the protection of others.

"The role of Albanian culture and traditions and the religious influence of Islam came together," Dwork said. . Although Edip's mother was of German heritage, she embraced Besa and Islam, especially after the Nazis occupied Albania.

Edip proudly tells the story of his mother affecting a thick German accent to throw off the Nazis growing suspicious of Johanna and her family - not once, but twice: "My mother got mad that day, she became nervous and said, 'It is the second time. Are you suspicious to not believe a German woman that she hasn't shelter here? I don't know Jews. You're wasting your time here and if you come again, I'll complain. It's a shame for you to come here!' "They saluted her and left!"

Through all this, remember, Johanna and her parents were hiding in plain sight. "And here you are coming in contact with German soldiers. Were you scared? Was it hard for you to look them in the eyes to talk?" Axelrod asked. "You also had to make sure they didn't find out you were Jewish. "Right. Well, I think scared is probably the right word," Neumann said.

"I certainly was during the occupation very much afraid that I wouldn't live the next day." According to the International School for Holocaust Studies, Albania did not turn over a single Jew to the Nazis.

Instead, when the Germans demanded the Albanians provide lists identifying Jews in their country, the Albanian government not only didn't comply, it even warned Jews to hide and urged its citizens to help. In fact, after the war, there were more Jews living in Albania than there were before. It's an extraordinary record.

So how is it that so few people know about it? "Because of the shutters that went down on Albania so soon after 1945 and the draconian Communist regime," said Dwork. "For the next half century, Albania was completely cut off from everyone, even from other Communist countries.

And by the time the shutters lifted, what happened half a century ago was not so urgent as people's everyday needs right then and there." As seen in the upcoming documentary, "God's House," photographer Norman Gershman traveled to Albania to document surviving members of families that saved Jews during the Holocaust. Gershman said, "I had to find out what these people did."

Among them: Edip Pilku. He's pictured holding a plaque indicating his mother and father were honored as "righteous among nations."

"Johanna and her family gave testimony that 'Yes, this family saved our lives.'" And Johanna says her own parents, who both died in 1961, always wanted to make up for the way they parted with the Pilkus all those years ago. Edip said their parting was very hard for him, too: "I don't even know how they left. My mother pulled me to the other side as she didn't want me to get sad, I wouldn't know. They left … hastily."

The Allies whisked 14-year-old Johanna and her parents out of Albania in September of 1945. "We were told that we cannot even go and say goodbye," Johanna said, "because there was danger that we might get arrested. It was much to my parents real regret. Terrible regret . . .No chance to say 'thank you.'"

Finally, decades later, she had her chance. This was Johanna's journey. "When you saw him again, sixty two years later, can you describe that reunion?" Axelrod asked. "Well, in a way, it was a little bit strange," Johanna said, laughing, "because I left a little boy, and here was an old man! It was very emotional, there's no question about it." After the war, Johanna's family settled safely in the United States.

But in newly-Communist Albania, a very different fate awaited the Pilkus. They quickly went from being the protectors to the oppressed. And their life together as a family ended in tragedy when Edip Pilku's father was arrested and executed by the Communist regime.

"Here was such a good human being," Johanna said. "He was shot for what? I don't know for what." Johanna Neumann spent years trying to honor the family that saved hers. Her deepest satisfaction came only recently in a conversation with Edip Pilku's daughter.

"I got my reward," Neumann said. "She said, 'I am so proud to know what my grandparents did.' And that was really my main purpose, because he was executed by the Communists so, 'What do the grandchildren think?'"

One look at Edip Pilku's face tells the whole story: "I see a very modest son, very proud of his family and proud of what they did and seeking nothing, nothing other than saving people who were desperate," said Gershman. "These people were courageous," said Neumann.

"They were righteous. And they were just wonderful people."

S0urce: CBS

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Kosova-Montenegro Border Dispute Looming

BIRN, NOVEMBER 5, 2009 -- Amid squabbles over the issue, Montenegro and Kosovo are planning formal negotiations to establish a definitive, legally binding border. Officials have tried to stay positive, with Montenegrin Foreign Affairs Minister Milan Rocen insisting that his country "does not have any difficult issues which cannot be solved by talking to our neighbours".

On October 27th, he told parliament "There are no open issues with Kosovo and no issues concerning the border demarcation," he told parliament on October 27th.

However, Rocen acknowledged he had not yet been fully briefed on the matter. "I don't want to get into the context of it and I don't have enough relevant information to comment on it in public," he said.

At the same time, the Montenegrin interior ministry issued a toughly-worded statement, declaring that the country would not give up a single square metre of its territory.

Recent incidents have raised the level of concern. According to Kosovo media, signs reading "Welcome to Montenegro" were erected on the Kosovo side of the disputed Kulla/Kula border area, near Pec -- a territory that includes 21 villages.

In protest, over 200 Albanian villagers blocked the main highway leading to the border crossing. Their representative, Sadri Zeka, claimed that nearly 1,000 hectares have been appropriated by Montenegro.

According to Kosovo's Telegrafi news agency, the protest prompted a meeting between Kosovo's regional and border police, as well as the Peja/Pec mayor and the Montenegro border police chief inspector.

Nusret Kalac, the mayor of Rozaje, a small Montenegrin border town adjacent to the disputed area, told TV Vijesti that his municipality has and will continue to maintain roads and provide security in the area.

"We have done this and we shall do this, and if someone is bothered by the border or not, if someone has [territorial] appetites, that is their business," said Kalac.

Emilo Labudovic, an MP representing Montenegro's Serbs, disagrees. Belgrade's B92 quoted him as saying ethnic Albanians had crossed into his village, occupied pastures and cut down forests. "Montenegro's border police are not reacting," he claimed.

Kosovo officials seem to believe the border demarcation process will be relatively easy and will be shorter than the one recently concluded with Macedonia. Government spokesperson Memli Krasniqi was quoted in the daily Zeri on October 27th as saying that Kosovo and Montenegro do not have border disputes.

Interior Minister Zenun Pajaziti told the daily Bota Sot"it will be a process of joint management of this issue … and no concern is expected."

Pajaziti could not say when exactly the border demarcation -- and the initiation of formal diplomatic relations with Montenegro -- may take place, but expressed hope it will happen soon.

Last month, Montenegrin Minister of Human and Minority Rights Ferhat Dinosa told local media that he expects diplomatic relations to be established by the end of the year.

Not everyone in Kosovo agrees. The leader of the Vetevendosja (Self-Determination) movement, Albin Kurti, has long warned that the two countries would have trouble demarcating the border. He suggests the answer can be found in a 35-year-old document: Yugoslavia's 1974 constitution, in which Kosovo's borders are defined.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Author Kadare transcends borders

A major Spanish foundation awarded the country's equivalent of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Prince of Asturias Award Laureate for Letters, to Albanian literary icon Ismail Kadare.

In announcing this year's winner, the foundation called Kadare "the pinnacle of Albanian literature who, without forgetting his roots, crossed frontiers to rise up as a universal voice against totalitarianism".

Kadare, 73, considered his nation's leading essayist and poet, lived throughout the communist period in Albania fighting totalitarianism with his writings. Soon after the collapse of Enver Hoxha's regime in 1990, Kadare sought political asylum in France.

While his role in Albanian culture is undeniable, and most Albanians are proud of Kadare's literary achievements, some bloggers today reflect a larger philosophical disagreement as to what the latest prize signifies. They disagree on whether it recognises Albanian culture, promotes the country, or solely emphasises Kadare's literary skill.

Alidea captures the general mode by characterising Kadare as "the writer who made the Albanian language feel proud". La_rosee agrees and gives voice to the collective hope that Kadare will go on also to win the Nobel Prize soon.

Lulian Kodra is surprised that Kadare accepted the award, since Spain has not yet recognised Kosovo and remains a staunch opponent of its independence. By contrast, Monda sees no reason for Kadare to reject the prize.

According to rruga02, Kadare deserves the award because he has contributed mightily towards promoting Albanian culture. That view of literature is contested, however, by Arbri09. For this blogger, writing is art, not a form of public relations. Its purpose isn't to advance political positions or help advertise a country.

Kadare is unique, writes Onufri. "No other Albanian writer gets even close to his genius … despite those who think they do," he declares, adding that he has met the man in person.

The Asturias Award laureate, Onufri says, is a "frighteningly sharp thinker, and [at the same time] a very reserved person".

Alproud sums up a widely-held view. Kadare, he writes, is the most famous Albanian literary figure in the world, and as such, is a precious resource.

By Manjola Hala for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 30/10/09