Heartbeats of a city - Event with the Autochthonous Community of Tirana - june 2013


A couple of days ago Edi told me there was a meeting with autochthonous, do you wish to come? You have seen that I do not attend all the meetings Edi holds.

To tell you the truth, my mind travelled back immediately to the garden of my childhood house, surrounded with adobe walls, with roses and carnations, with the smell of basil and rosemary, with the beauty of snowdrops and marshmallow flowers, and I felt as if we were still sitting under the plum trees, apricots and dates. The women of the house went around catering to the needs of guests, treating them to fresh water from the well in the porch. They also served rose syrup, my grandmother used to do it often, and they served delicious jam of flowers and fruit from their garden. That garden has stayed with me to this day. And I want to believe very much that, along with that backyard, my grandparents – my grandfather and grandmother or “nona” (granny) as we used to call her, are still there, although long gone from this world. Their memory is my best advice.

We were born here, grew up here; here, we learned first the wisdom at home and then at school. We went through years of hardship, hard work, joys and sorrows. We experienced many births in our homes and many deaths. Here, in Tirana, Rea and Greg were born at the dawn of a different time. Tirana where Greg and Rea grew up was not the same Tirana where we grew up, it was different, just like it is different for the child who are born today.

I would not have been here today, if I did not think of it as an opportunity to meet with Tirana citizens who share the same perspective of wanting to have a Tirana and a country

where the civil tradition of those backyards of wise communication and co-existence does not fade away. I would have not addressed you as one of the Tirana citizens, if I did not feel an obligation to pay tribute to my grandparents for everything they gave me and for what they made me understand in their typical Tirana way what it means to be a proper human being and citizen.

Today, I would like to talk on their behalf, as well, and I want to believe so much and have this feeling deep inside that they are here among you, listening to me, just as I listened to my niece, Alesia, a few days ago playing the piano in her end-of-the-year show after the music lessons she takes during the year. I hope that, just like I felt very proud of my niece, they are proud of me today.

The lifestyle and manners of the autochthonous Tirana family were the natural compass guiding the spirit of serene co-existence of the city. Next to our house lived a family from Permet, in the next one, another family from Leskovik, opposite us there was a family from Dibra, a bit further granny Alise from Shkodra; in the next alley and then the Vesht, Durisht and Gugall family, old Tirana households.

They were all good neighbours, wise, hardworking and soft-spoken people who shared their joys and sorrows, exchanged their values and culture of origin as the most precious asset and investment for themselves, the neighbourhood and the generations. The autochthonous Tirana people used to say, “before buying the house, buy the neighbour”. Our parents and grandparents taught us that the neighbours’ children were our brothers and sisters, and that human kindness was the most integral value in and of the man. That is what our parents grew up with, and that is how they brought us up.

The Tirana people did not consider their obligation to co-exist with others as the beginning of a war scenario, but rather the avenue of an enduring peace at the time where Tirana was no longer exclusively theirs, but the capital of Albania and the city of all Albanians. It is a fact: Tirana people, as an autochthonous entity, were not affected in their civility even when faced distortions that violated the civil space and co-existence.

They were involved almost as one community in the democratic developments, but did so with their wise collective protagonism, without ever being protagonists of trespassing into the backyards of others, or violating the State’s property and assets, of the old rules of living under the old law of keeping away from what is not yours and respecting what is different from you. 

Over the decades, Tirana citizens have offered the city and society their talent and professional dedication. Dozens of Tirana families were renowned for their talent and craftsmanship that in most cases was passed down from one generation to the other. All of us here remember today the great masters of Tirana.

No great craftsmen of the past would forgive us the state in which education has been reduced to in Tirana and how we have left our youth unskilled, with their future seriously at threat. Many old Tirana teachers who have invested themselves with dedication to educating and investing into the next generations would forgive us for the current state of education.  Nor the distinguished professors of the Tirana University would forgive us the state to which has been reduced higher education in Tirana today, in these days where opportunities are much more numerous, as the great world has become so small and as close to our own yard.

The citizens of Tirana have given great names to the Albanian medicine, who our parents remember with respect and nostalgia for two reasons: their humanity and their devotion to all their patients and the citizens of Tirana. They all deserved and were awarded one prize - without papers or trophies – that prize of the deepest gratitude of the citizens they served in their career. Even more so, with today’s healthcare in a disastrous state, these great dedicated doctors of Tirana would never forgive us the anxiety thousands of Albanians experience for being unable to be diagnosticated, for being unable to afford medicines, for being unable to put up any longer of the pervasive lack of humane treatment in the healthcare system. And that happens today, when this big world is just behind the door and it is enough to click it open to welcome its pouring opportunities.

Tirana people are the most devoted law and rule-observing citizens. Our ancestors were so, our parents were so, and so are we. And that is so true that many have mistaken such respect for fear and weakness, abusing it, especially over the years where the State has offered no protection for their properties. Inclined to handle things based on the rules and laws and with great tolerance, almost all the autochthonous Tirana families or, the same as them, the families who have settled very early in Tirana, have found themselves disappointed and exhausted knocking on the doors of courts to get their properties, feeling more and more like strangers in their own city and property, unable not only to find a solution, but even to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Our ancestors, who built the property out of sweat, blood and honesty, would be proud of us successors who respect the law and the State, but would never forgive us for doing nothing in front of those who on behalf of the State violate the law, infringe the property right and throw the property issue into a chaos that grows worse each year in this country.

And that happens today, when our major challenge is to make our yard part of a greater one, the European family house yard and when not staying hand in hand means to simply use your vote, to refrain from becoming an accessory of the evil that has deeply penetrated the State and, through it, the entire society.

My grandmother used to say, “After you listen to what they say, watch what they do”. What everyone must do today after having listened to what is said, is to act as citizens and vote, so that the affairs in this backyard of ours change. Tirana will never be what it used to be. Many things have changed for the better, many have changed for the worse.

But they can deteriorate further, if we do not tend to those things that have been positive up until now. That is why today I did not simply stand proud by Edi’s side and very grateful for everything he has done for Tirana, but I wanted to speak as one of you, to knock with my words on the backyard doors of Tirana citizens and tell them: “It is time to act by casting the vote! For Tirana. For the security of life, work, property. For our children, who must inherit a better country. For the entire Albania that always looks up to Tirana.

Thank you.


Back to gallery