Happy Independence Day America!

Today marks America’s 244th birthday. This day recognizes all the suffering, fighting and personal sacrifices made by our founding fathers and thousands of believers in freedom and independence. Independence from the British Crown and a chance for America to build on that freedom and independence. We have done an amazing job in the 244 years of our life, even so there is still so much more room for improvement. We underwent many obstacles and overcame many tragedies and difficulties in these years, yet we stand united with a common goal ‘freedom’.

As an Albanian-American I feel a strong tie to America. I grew up in America from the age of 13, completed my education there, married there, and lived there until 2012, at which time I moved to Albania, land of my father; to my ancestral home. My love for America has not waned, as a matter of fact being away from her has made me appreciate her qualities more. No other country in the world (and I have traveled around the world and lived in a few) comes close to what we have in America. The freedoms so many are taking for granted these days are non-existent in the rest of the world. I have not been to a country yet where one can do or say what he/she pleases without government intervention. Our freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom to build, freedom to own property, freedom to criticize politicians, right to bear arms, freedom of religion, freedom to love whomever you choose, these are all precious and only found in America. Yes, you have first rate countries who also claim to have these freedoms, but they don’t, not really, not the way America does, they all have some restrictions one way or the other.

My point is that Americans should not be taking America for granted. They should revere her, fight for her and what she stands for and above all respect her and her history.

I am living in Albania now and have come to love this country as well. I have come to know my father’s land and see now the beauty he saw, appreciate the culture he grew up in. Although Albania is still struggling with freedoms which are being denied on so many levels; struggling with their communist past; struggling with many economical and political issues, I hope that one day she will look to that beacon of light shining in the west and realize that without respect for its people, without good, solid and fair laws which respect humanity and without an honest, deep love for her and the well being of her people she will never earn the faith and respect of the people who so much want to give it to her.

As the Eagle is a symbol for both my countries, I hope and pray that one day Albania will soar as high in the sky as her counterpart and together work to better the countries which unite many of us Albanian-Americans!

Happy Independence Day America! Gezuar Diten e Pavaresise Amerikë!

Steal From The Poor To Give To The Poor!

That is what this man, Deputy Illir Beqai, Socialist Party, proposed two days ago. As a financial ‘relief measure’ during Covid-19.

“From May 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020, all employees of the public sector, institutions and enterprises, central and local, dependent and independent, to be paid with 90% of their normal salary. But not less than the national minimum wage, excluding those on the war front line. The average monthly salary in the public sector is 63,000 ALL ($550). There are about 172 thousand employees.
Thus, we create a fund of about 8.7 billion ALL (4.5 billion budget employees and 4.2 billion non-budget employees). Likewise, each additional pension supplement (senior civil servant, military serviceman, professor, etc.) for the remaining eight months of the year, will receive 75% of their monthly installment as of April 2020 “.

If that wasn’t bad enough for the current employees, who are averaging a $550 monthly salary, he wants to reduce the pensions retirees who are collecting a ‘supplementary’ amount in their pensions, by 25%.

The average pension in Albania ranges between 8,000-20,000ALL (roughly $60-$180). The so-called ‘supplementary’ pension is an additional $50, more or less, to those people in the category of: veterans, professors, etc.

What they failed to report is that also in this category are retirees who were persecuted during communism and are receiving the ‘supplemental’ income for their back-breaking labor in: cement factories, cotton and agricultural fields and mines, while they were living in concentration camps, suffering daily from malnutrition and deprivation of basic human rights . This category was conveniently omitted from the article, but it’s not surprising as anything that has to do with the truth of  the communist regime and suffering of the people for almost 50 years wants to be forgotten and erased from Albania’s history.

March 24 – The European Union pledged 50 million euros ($54 million) to help Albania fight the Coronavirus outbreak and recover its economy.

April 10 – The IMF Approved $190.5 Million Emergency Support to Albania to Combat COVID-19 and the November 2019 earthquake emergency.

April 18 – The U.S. has pledged $1.2 million dollars to assist Albania in the fight against Covid-19.

To date a total of $241.7 Million Dollars has been pledged to assist Albania in this fight.

For the Earthquake relief the following was pledged:

December 4, 2019 – The EU has pledged €15 million in relief funding.

February 18 – International donors on Monday (17 February) pledged €1.15 billion to help Albania recover from a powerful earthquake.

To date people are still homeless and waiting for forever homes!

That a member of  Parliament dares to suggest stealing what few crumbs they are giving their pensioners is abhorrent! Perhaps they should first take a look at their own pockets which have been filling with riches for the last 29 years! How dare he even make such a suggestion!

Message from USA Embassy to US Citizens!

🇺🇸 | Attention American citizens: tomorrow may be the last flight from Tirana! Contact ACSTirana@state.gov immediately!

Albania During COVID-19

Day fourteen of the pandemic and here we are, at home; like hopefully the rest of the world. I noticed that many people like to share what they are doing during the day, how they are spending time with their families, so I want to share how we are doing here in Shkodra.

The lock-down started on March 13, we are going on three weeks now. I can’t say it’s been fabulous but I can’t complain about it either. For one thing the air is much cleaner. There is no traffic noise. No cars parked in front of our door. For the most part it’s quiet, peaceful. We are lucky to have a yard that we can walk around in and the dogs can run in, but even if we didn’t have that, a balcony, like most people in the country have, would suffice. You know why? Because we don’t have the Virus. We are healthy. We wake up every day, have our coffee, watch the news, catch up with FB friends and news. Then I usually go out within my allotted hour to buy some groceries. Come home, make lunch, usually accompanied by some wine. Watch some more tv, skype with some friends, maybe take a nap and so on. I would say we are pretty lucky. The government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis was swift and it seems to be working. How can you complain about that?

This will all be over in a month maybe two, then we will all be going back to the way it was; polluted air, traffic noise, cars illegally parking, the trials and tribulations of every day life and we will be thinking how great it was to be isolated, even if for a little while.

So for those of you who have not contracted the virus, enjoy your quietness, your family, your pets, your house. You are lucky to find yourself healthy in a time untouched by the atrocities of a real war, a war where people were being rounded up and mass murdered, a war where food was scarce and tv, internet, cell phones were unheard of. Count your blessings every day and patiently wait for the time where you can go back to a normal daily routine. Follow the regulations imposed by your local government and enjoy LIFE!

Bianca Gjomarkaj-Nakovics

Still No Closure After 74 Years!

 

 

There were over 100,000 Albanians who were murdered during the communist regime (1944-1991) at the hands of Enver Hoxha. Of those, upwards of  5,087 bodies are still missing. Their remains have never been found, or returned to their families.

Among these 5,087 were Kapidan Mark Gjon Marku and his brother Llesh Gjon Marku, both killed in 1946 and 1947, respectively.

Mark’s body, after it was found in Perlatit-Këthel, on June 14, 1946, was taken and dragged through the streets of Shkodra and placed in front of City Hall for everyone to see. Afterward it was buried in a mass grave with other murdered nationalists, or so the story goes, but nobody is sure. To this day the family has no idea where their brother, father, uncle’s body is.

One year later, his brother Llesh (Sander) Gjon Marku was also murdered in an ambush in Mungje, on 9 August, 1947. There is no trace of his body or knowledge of where it was disposed.

As of today, not only this family, but all the families of all the victims of crimes committed under the regime have yet to receive an apology from the government. The families of the murdered have yet to receive any kind of information as to where the bodies of their loved ones are. Families have yet to receive full compensation for the murders of their loved ones. On the contrary, the funds allocated as compensation for the families of the victims have been trickling down over the last 20 years in dribs and drabs.

In 1995, then Prime Minister Sali Berisha, signed a decree stripping all honors and titles awarded to the high ranking members of the communist dictatorship due to “Criminal Acts of Genocide Committed Against the Albanian People”, thereby confirming that such acts did indeed occur. However, that’s where the ceremonial decrees or public display of repentance stopped.

Here we are 76 years after the takeover of communism in Albania; 29 years after the fall of communism and still, families have been left in the dark about the whereabouts of the remains of their loved ones. Left helpless in the quest to find them and put them to rest once and for all.

No apologies. No reconciliation. Not a whisper. Business as usual!

Bianca Gjomarkaj