Tirana 1 August 1999

Mirdita,

The small cat Chelsey found in a plastic bag in one of the waste
containers near our house has left today for the states. When Chelsey
found it, it was maybe one or two days old, and in the beginning we had a
very busy time feeding it. They went with the cat to a veterinarian who
immediatly adviced to kill it, but was also willing to give it the
neccessary injections, although he must have thought that we foreigners
were throwing money out of the window to invest so much money into a
streetcat, who is anyway going to die soon. But the cat survived, and when
Bill returned back from Skopje yesterday he was rather surprised to see
how big and strong she had become. Now we have the joke around the house,
that if Albanians want to go to the USA they just should sit in a waste
container and act like cats, waiting for some Americans to pass by.

By the way in a way this is not a joke, it is estimated now that in the
last three years at least 40% of the Albanian intelligence, especially
young ones, have left the country. And it is sure that the 60% remaining
are not staying here because they like to stay in Albania or they think
that they can build a future here in this country, but simply since they
couldn’t find a visa to go. Most of the people who have left are of course
those who have professions which could be usefull in the other countries.
Docters and scientists, who are willing to work for low wages as nurses
and assitances in the west. More problematic is it for intelligence who is
busy with art, writers, painters, musicians. They hardly have the
possibility to go anywhere. Some of them left to join the cheap black
labour forces abroad or try to earn some money in these days as
translators or drivers for foreign NGO’s, but their position is horrible.

The developement of a new culture is dropped totally, as I wrote the
before, development on culture on a big and well funded scale meant that
people went into the archive and took the dust from the socialist art
products and send them abroad. But over the last 3 months I learned to
know so many well gifted painters and sculpturers who are practically not
able to buy paint or clay to keep working. Those who are in more
nationalistic art forms, like traditional music and paintings of
skenderbeg are somehow doing better, but no development is supported for
those who want to take this culture on another level.

Today Janine and I went on a real tourist trip, we went by minibus to
Kruje. I visited the town shortly some days ago, but I like to see it a
bit better. This is the center of Albanian culture, here is where
Skenderbeg almost 550 years ago started to collect all the Albanian tribes
in the first uprise against the Ottomans in what can be called the first
moment that the tribes started to work together rather than fighting
against each other. The trip in the mini bus up there is a story in
itself. The people are not used to foreigners using minibuses, they drive
in their fancy fourwheel drives or rent taxis, but don’t use the local
transport possibilities. So in every minibus you take, people start
talking to you, asking where you come from, what you are doing here and if
you like Albania. In most of the tours I made there was somebody in the
bus who spoke english or german, and they always are surprised when you
explain a bit what you think about the country. They are used to
foreigners who don’t know a thing about their country and they want to
explain so much. But if you start discussions about the different
political parties and the different cultures in their country they really
get surprised, how does a foreigner know so much about their political
situation and their history.

Also this time that happened, it is funny to notice that most Albanians
talk about their great history but if you follow up and show that you know
a bit they get confused, since in principle they are not so into what
happens in their country, they are into on how to survive. Where the money
for the next day comes from. Anyway there was I sitting explaining the
meaning of Kruje for the Albanian history to somebody who lived all his
live just 5 kilometers away from it. That is always somehow surprising me.
Kruje itself is a town which, when it continues this way, will end up
drawning itself in the waste that it produced. Only in a few cities in
Albania there is something what can be called waste manegement, in the
rest of the country people throw their waste just out of the windows and
see what happens.

Waste was not existing before, there was no way that people could produce
it, nowerdays almost 80% of all the products are imported and with the
products the wrapping materials. Around all the building in Kruje you see
how the waste is pilling up. And the refugee crisis has not really helped,
most food packages which were send are full of plastic bottles and
conserves which added a lot to the already growing waste mountains. Here
in Kruje you see it again how serious the problem is.

The castle itself in Kruje, where the actual history started was "full" of
tourists, that means about 25 international, AFOR, merlin, red cross, IRC,
CRS, and what ever, I didn’t check every car. But the only people who are
visiting this place are aid-workers or nato soldiers. Since we decided
that we were like tourists today we took the time to see the whole castle
and also the big new build building designed by the daughter of Enver
Hoxha. which is basically a memorial for Skenderbeg. The building itself
looks a bit like the old building around it, but is in some way of the
known tasteless type of memorial buildings in all countries. It is this
bad taste between original and modern styles. I never liked it much. But
it is not bad, it is for sure a lot better than the rest of the modern
town of Kruje.

Inside you get confronted with huge sculptures who could be stepped out of
a cartoon film. The super heroes, kind of superman in the middle ages.
Everything in the building is huge, and when Skenderbeg was so tall as his
sword, chairs, tables and other things make you think he was, the
Albanians have shrinked at least half a meter since his days. Only the
copy of his orginal helmet was a bit small (the original by the way lays
still in Vienna). On the walls big murals from the historical fights which
took place around this castle. Wild people with the signs of dead in their
eyes.

It is strange if you consider how important this battle is made troughout
history. Here a couple of ten thousand people were fighting in an area
which was maybe 3 or 4 square kilometers wide. If you lived 10 kilometers
further you weren’t involved in it at all. You maybe heard from it some
weeks later. Soldiers on the battle fields were in close contact with
eachother. Nowerdays the soldiers are bombing or shelling from safe
distances and the whole world can look over their shoulders. Mankind made
some big steps forwards it is been said, but the reality is that we are
still putting a lot of efforts in our destruction machinery. I am not sure
if there is much difference between this so-called babarian warfare in
Skenderbeg days and the mordern warfare of today.

The heros of the wars in those days are different from the ones today.
Yesterday Blair was in Pristina, a simple guy in a suit, not the big tall
guy from the battle field, who fought in the first lines to inspire his
soldiers. Blair is the typical type of the new modern hero. The people in
Pristina loved him, they came from allover Kosov@ in order to see him and
to shout "Thank-You Tony". Some old ladies from Pristina said "During the
bombing campaign, his words were our bread, our hope". Modern heroes are
not any more on the batlle field, they fight their wars through the media.

Blair was there in the middle of Pristina, people brought him flowers. The
main reason was the fact that Blair was saying all the time that he was
willing to also involve ground troops. That made him popular in Kosov@.

They describe him as the one of the NATO’s leading hawks. I am very happy

that this never happened, since so many more lives would have been

spilled.

When I am sitting here on the hill were ones Skenderbeg has been standing

looking over the Turkish forces in the valley below him it is hard to

imagine it all. Besides from the murals in the museum this place is a

total peacefull place. One of the best places in Albania to live. The

people who are living withing the castle walls (about 20 houses are still

used) are living in total peace here, cars can’t come here, and big

streams of tourists are also not going through. It is hard to imagine how

people have been fighting here. Janine and I talked how wars have been in

all our history. Will it ever stop?

If you follow what is going on in Kosov@ at this moment you don’t get the

feeling that it will stop soon. And discussing with some other people

today the situation in Serbia it is hard to realise that most people think

that only a civil war in Serbia can change the situation there. Hard since

I always hope that it is not neccessary to do it by force. But they were

so clear that there is no other way, I hope they are wrong.

wam 🙂


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