PORTO PALERMO, NOT JUST A CASTLE!



During the communist regime my aunt Bardha Marka Gjoni was brought to the castle as a prisoner and held there for six months. This period was one of the darkest of her life and every time she tried to remember it all she could do was shake her head and close her eyes. She wouldn’t speak much about it only to say that she passed a terrible time inside, and after having visited it I can only imaging what she went through. The prisoners lived in squalid conditions through the winter, no heat, no water to speak of, barely any food, no coats or winter clothes, all huddled together to keep warm. No sanitary facilities. Imagine, just imagine.

When I saw this post on Facebook today, glamorizing the castle my first thought was that these young people who visit Albania are never really told the truth behind some of these monuments. All they know is the glamor of being a Pasha in the 18th century and living the high life in a ‘castle’. That was probably true, but they should be made aware that in more recent times these castles ie. Porto Palermo and Gjirokastra served as prisons for the anti-communist population between 1944-1990. These prisoners lived horrendous lives in these structures, some for many years, like my uncle Ded Gjon Marku in the Gjirokastra castle, and when one visits these places there should be boards not only glorifying the days of the ‘Turkish harems’ but also recounting the more recent events which occurred there under communism.

Personally, it is very offensive to see these tourists go to these places and be totally ignorant of all the history and events that took place there and only be told of the happier days of old, all in the name of tourism!

Yes, it is a stunning spot. Yes, it is well worth visiting. Albanian is a beautiful country and should be on everyone’s list of places to visit, not only the south, but the north as well, with its stunning mountains, rivers and lakes. But everyone should be well educated on the places they are visiting.

The government must ensure that ALL the history of its castles are provided to tourists, not just pick and choose the eras they feel are more appealing.

Fifty years of communism, fifty years of isolation, fifty years of atrocities cannot be just swept under the rug with some promotional videos and pictures of foreigners admiring the view.

Below is my comment to the post on PM Edi Rama’s page.

Bianca M. Gjomarkaj

AGRON SHEHAJ IS THE ONLY CHOICE FOR LEADER OF THE DEMOCRAT PARTY!



Agron Shehaj is running for Chairman of the DP (Democrat Party). Why should we vote for him to lead the Party for the next four years? What is the difference between him and the current leader, Luzlim Basha? Let’s look at them both.

Luzlim Basha has been entrenched inside the Party from 2005 when, after the DP won the elections, he was nominated Minister of Public Works. In 2007 he was selected to serve as Minister of Foreign Affairs, until his next appointment as Minister of Interior in 2009.  In 2011 he was elected Mayor of Tirana and served as such until 2015. All this under the Berisha government. After the defeat of the Democrat Party-led coalition in the 2013 elections, Sali Berisha resigned as party leader and Basha was elected as Chairman of the DP – July 23, 2013. Eight years ago!

I won’t go into his full CV, that can be easily found online. What I am going to say is that the biggest mistake Basha made during his term as Chairman of the DP was that on February 18, 2019, he made the decision to burn his mandate for office and give up his position as Head of the Democrat Party in Parliament. That’s correct….HE GAVE UP HIS POSITION AS HEAD OF THE DEMOCRAT PARTY! Following him were 41 other Members of Parliament, thus leaving Parliament essentially in the hands of the ruling Socialist Party.

In the USA this would be absurd. Imagine 41 Congressmen or Senators up and leaving the Chambers declaring that they no longer wish to represent their constituents, because that, in fact, is exactly what happened here and for the next two years, until the elections of April 2021, anyone who voted for the DP in 2017, was left without a voice in Parliament. No representation! Thereby allowing the ruling party, the Socialist Party, to rule as they pleased, not having any opposition, and so they did. It’s only natural. And this, my friends, is the number one reason why he is no longer qualified to be the voice of the Party: what he did, of his own free will, without asking YOU! He was purely motivated by his own pride and self-assurance that what he was doing was the right thing and was thoroughly convinced that he would come out on top. Well, he didn’t, fast forward to the elections of April 25, 2021. Beside, he decided to ‘GIVE UP HIS POSITION AS HEAD OF THE DP‘.

Why Agron Shehaj? He was a 13 year old boy who in 1991, along with his family, was part of the exodus to the West. After the fall of communism, Shehaj, who himself comes from a family once persecuted by the communists, arrived in Italy and along with his family started a new life. A new beginning. His time in Italy would develop his love and appreciation for the freedom of which all of Albania was deprived for almost fifty years. Agron Shehaj is a humble man, who through education, intelligence and hard work has become one of the most successful businessmen in Albania.

He is an entrepreneur, with an acumen for successful enterprises. After returning to his beloved Albania in 2005 he quickly climbed the ladder of success in the telemarketing field becoming a leader in the international market, founding IDS, the largest telemarketing company in Albania. He donates to many charities, least of which is the Downsyndrome Albania Association. He co-founded, with Uran Butka, the Institute of Historical Studies ‘Lumo Skëndo’. In 2018 he founded Kujto.al which focuses on the collective memory of Albania, for the communist period 1945-1991, through a new and comprehensive approach: close cooperation with citizens using technology and new communication opportunities. In short, Agron Shehaj is not a career politician. He began his political career in 2017 and has made his way to winning a mandate for the DP in this year’s elections. He is a great contributor to Albania’s economy; makes great cultural and historical contributions through his foundations; continuously donates to worthy charities and more.

He has a clear plan for the DP, should he win the leadership position. His message is simple: “I got into politics for the people.” Isn’t that what it’s all supposed to be about. US, the PEOPLE! Not getting rich off the poor population you are trying to serve. Not favoritism for government tenders. No burning your mandate and leaving your constituents out to dry for two years! That’s not what the people want or need.

They need someone who is going to look out after their best interest. Someone who will speak on their behalf, their problems. They need someone who understands the crimes of the past and is ready to deal with them, openly and honestly. They need a voice for all those voices who suffered death, imprisonment, concentration camps and torture for almost 50 years.

They need a man who is not beholden to anyone; not politically, not financially, not socially. They need an honest, fresh, concise and humble man to lead them to a new era. They need AGRON SHEHAJ!

Bianca M. Gjomarkaj

REBUILDING THE SARAJET (PALACE) GJON MARKA GJONIT

The time to rebuild the Sarajet e Gjon Marka Gjonit is here and now!

It has sat in somber silence, an eerie reminder of its glorious past from the day it was burned to the ground in September 1944. Restoring the majestic Sarajet will be a private initiative which will benefit all of Mirdita, creating a hub of culture, education and history in Orosh. It will be a welcome center for all Albanians and foreigners alike, to enjoy its museum, cultural activities and the surrounding gardens. It will provide an avenue to facilitate learning, growth and well-being.

During the communist regime Mirdita was in upheavel. The Gjomarkaj Household palaces in Orosh, along with all their contents, were burned down to the ground by the communists. The family was dispersed in jail, camps and around the world. The people of Mirdita fell into a black hole for the next 45 years. Their leaders lay dead, jailed or in exile. Their hopes shattered. Their dreams spent.

I was raised in Rome and New York but in 2012, my husband and I made the decision to leave our life in the USA behind and make our new life here, in Shkoder, in my family’s home. It was an extraordinary decision and a turning point in my life. We moved into my family home and made Shkoder our new home.

During this period of reflection I began envisioning the rebuilding of the Sarajet (Palace) and transforming it into a museum, in honor of my family and our heritage, and as a cultural center for Mirdita, to let the people know that they were not forgotten.

Not one single day passed by that my grandfather, Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjoni or father Kapidan Ndue Gjon Marku, did not speak about Orosh. It was their home, always. Even though torn away from it, even after all the despicable things that occurred there, even though they had lost their sons and brothers at the hands of the communists, they never once forgot about Orosh, nor did they love another place as much.

It is with this in mind my heart is full of hope and my vision for a resurgence of the Sarajet is to mark a new cultural beginning for the people of Orosh, Mirdita and all of Albania. It will be a welcoming center for all Albanians and tourists, where they can learn about the great history of the Gjomarkaj Door, the “Dera e Gjomarkut”, their cultural importance and contribution to Mirdita and Albania.

The Sarajet will be a place to reflect on Mirdita’s unique history and the family of Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjoni, who has never forgotten the sacrifices, the losses, the contributions and above all the loyalty they showed to their Kapidan.

As an Albanian-American, daughter of a noble family who relocated to her father’s homeland, making it hers, I want to thank all those who accepted me with open arms and made me feel welcome. To them and to the people of Mirdita I want to say “let’s make this dream a reality, let’s build the Sarajet together and let’s rejoice in the proud history of Mirdita and Albania.”

With your support this endeavor will help me to help Orosh and Mirdita be known to all!

To support this initiative please visit SarajetGjonMarkagjonit.

Bianca Gjomarkaj

Rudina Hajdari – A Fresh Start

Rudina Hajdari is currently serving as a member of the Assembly of the Republic of Albania. She joined the Democrat Party in 2017 after her return from studying in the United States, where she moved in 1998 after the assassination of her father, Azem Hajdari, himself a member of the Assembly and a flag bearer for the student movement of the time. She attended Fordham University in NY and graduated with a bachelor degree in Political Science, followed by a Masters in Geopolitics, Territory and Security at King’s College London. She later pursued a second Masters at Columbia University. Following her studies she served as Staff Associate of then Congressman Eliot L. Engel of NY.

Rudina would leave her friends and life in the USA in 2017 to return to Albania and pursue her dream of helping her country come out of the dark political cloud it was currently under and help it embrace a new dawn, a new era led by young intellectuals; much like eras gone by of pre-communism days, where the movements which would propel Albania toward her biggest struggle of fighting communism were led by young intellectuals, educated individuals from all factions of Albanian life. Her dream was to help revive her father’s party, the Democrat Party and restore it to its former glory of the early days of democracy in Albania.

The years following her indoctrination into the Party must have shed new light on her vision that all was not as it seemed. The politics of 30 years within the party did not change much, as a matter of fact they worsened. The oligarchs in charge 30 years ago were still roaring loudly while the people still suffered; the infrastructure needed for the villages around the country suffered; jobs were scarce; the majority of Albanians want to emigrate and a large portion of them did, leaving behind the older generation to fend for themselves. Albania was on the brink.

Students in the country led a massive protest against the government for three months in 2018-2019, opposing high tuition rates in addition to the already high university fees, which failed to improve public education. During this protest the DP took it upon itself to make it political and after days of protests the head of the DP Luzlim Basha decided to burn his mandate and resign as head of the DP, a move which would be a turning point for the party. Rudina decided against burning her mandate, but rather stay in the assembly along with a handful of other members and continue the fight from within.

She has ever since been a voice for change and decided to start a new party NISMA THURJE, break free from the old and forge ahead with the new. A list of young, energetic, educated individuals from all regions of the country.

Her platform is straightforward.

  • Nationalization of natural resources.
  • Revitalizing the economy.
  • Empowerment of the people.
  • Decentralization of power by strengthening of check-and-balance mechanisms and empowering constitutional control.
  • Democratization of political parties
  • Guaranteeing free and fair elections.
  • Reviving the jury duty tradition.
  • Uniting the Albanian people

Ms. Hajdari has been consistent if nothing else. She has not wavered from her resolution. Yes, she’s younger, but so were all the current leaders of other parties when they began their political career. Yes, she might come from a family whose family members are often criticized in the media, but so are all other politicians and to a much larger extent. She’s trying to turn a new page in Albania’s future by including everyone and excluding corrupted individuals. She’s not beholden to anyone. Yes, if she wins a few seats in the Assembly she will have no choice but to ally herself to the DP, but she will have a stronger voice and she will have to be reckoned with. Everyone has to start somewhere, and maintaining the status quo with the current individuals who have been running the country for the last 30 years is not the solution I am willing to bet on.

Having said all that, I would like to see as part of her platform a reference to the issue of: private property, compensation for the persecuted and reconciliation for crimes committed during communism.

I believe the resolution of these three issues are detrimental to any society which wants to move forward in a healthy manner. You cannot create a strong, healthy society without first reconciling your past. You cannot move forward when a large portion of your society is still reeling from the effects of their suffering under communism, as are their families. You cannot justify democracy when a large portion of your citizens have been deprived of their land and are still waiting for restitution 30 years later. You cannot speak about humanity when the past has yet to be reckoned with.

By not addressing these issues the party is disenfranchising a large portion of people who suffered under communism. Even though this might be seen as an ‘old’ issue, it is still very much relevant, it is still very much current. These individuals are still here now and unless it’s addressed and someone speaks out for them with honesty, vulnerability, sensitivity, it’s never going to be resolved.

The current government has basically forgotten about them. Their compensation is trickling in every 8-10 years. They are still waiting for their property to be restituted. They are still waiting for an acknowledgment and apology for their suffering during 50 years of communist atrocities. Every election period they promise this and that but nothing ever materializes. Nothing changes.

Your party has the potential to be a strong force in Parliament, more vocal, more energized and if these issues were included it will most likely get further traction and votes, it certainly wouldn’t be detrimental.

It could be a good opportunity for people to see that even though most of the candidates are younger, they have not forgotten their country’s history and the generation before, which is still very much alive and suffering.

I believe if these issues were added to the platform it would complete it, it would come full circle, as it will show that the party truly is including everyone.

Bianca Gjomarkaj

BASHKISE MIRDITE KAN 200 HA TOKE PA UJITJE, SHKAK MOS REHABILITIMI I KANALIT EKZISTUES

FSHATRAT NDERFANE, NDERFUSHAS DHE SHTERE TE BASHKISE MIRDITE KAN 200 HA TOKE PA UJITJE, SHKAK MOS REHABILITIMI I KANALIT EKZISTUES

Fshatrat Ndërfushas, Ndërfanë dhe Shterë jan fshatrat më të mëdha të teritorit të Bashkisë Mirditë. Këto fshatra disponojnë një fond prej rreth 200 ha tokë por ka rreth tri dekada që nuk ujiten, ndonse ka mbi 200 vjet që ka kanalin ujitës.

Banorët e këtyre fshatrave jetesën e tyre e kan të mbështetur kryesisht tek bujqësia dhe blegtoria, por mungesa e ujit ka bërë që pjesa e më e madhe e tokave të mbeten djerr. Shumë nga këta banorë bëjnë shpenzime duke e punuar dhe mbjellë tokë vetëm me shpresën e shirave por kjo nuk mjafton pasi vera në atë zonë është e thatë dhe të gjitha shpenzimet groposen bashkë me farën, fadanët dhe plehrat.

Banorët e këtyre fshatrave për arsye se kan shumë tokë në pronsi nuk i regjistron njeri si punëkërkues në zyrën e punës, ndaj jetesën e tyre e kan të varur vetëm tek pronat e tyre që jan tokat. Tokat e këtyre fshatrave pjesa dërmuese e tyre jan djerr për arsye se nuk kan ujë për ujitje.

Banorët e këtyre fshatrave për çdo vit ankohen tek Bashkia por ende nuk ka dritë në fund të tunelit.

Banorët për mikrofonin e “Fax New” ankohen se fonde jan dhënë disa herë kryesisht nga Bashkia Mirditë, madje miliona por këto para kan humbur rrugës pasi edhe sot e kësaj dite nuk shkon uji në arat e tyre.

SINKRON: Flasin banorët e fshatrave Ndërfushas, Ndërfanë dhe Shterë të Bashkisë Mirditë.

Banorët e fshatrave Ndërfushas, Ndërfanë dhe Shterë nëse pushteti qëndrorë apo Bashkia Mirditë nuk do të alokojnë fonde për rehabilitimin e kanalit ujitës që ta kenë të disponueshëm që këtë verë kërcënojnë me përshkallzimin e protestave deri në bllokimin e rrugës së Kombit pa afat e cila kalon përbri këtyre fshatrave.


NDERFUSHA, NDERFANE AND SHTERE VILLAGES WITHIN THE MIRDITE MUNICIPALITY HAVE 200 HECTARS OF LAND WITHOUT IRRIGATION, DUE TO LACK OR MAINTENANCE OF THE EXISTING CANAL

The villages of Ndërfushas, ​​Ndërfanë and Shterë are the largest villages in the territory of the Municipality of Mirditë. These villages have a area of about 200 ha of land which have not been irrigated for about three decades, although it has had an irrigation canal for over 200 years.

The inhabitants of these villages rely mainly on agriculture and livestock, but the lack of water has left most of the land barren. Many of these residents make a living by cultivating and planting the land relying on their hope for rain but this is not enough as the summer in that area is dry and all their savings are buried along with seed, seedlings and fertilizers.

Because the inhabitants of these villages are considered self-employed, since they own and work their land, they are not registered as unemployed in the employment office, therefore their livelihood is solely dependent on their land. However, the lands of these villages are mostly barren because they do not have water for irrigation.

Residents of these villages complain to the Municipality every year but there is still no light at the end of the tunnel.

The landowners held a joint interview with “Fax News” and spoke about funds that have been given, several times, to the Municipality of Mirdita, upwards of millions ((lek), but this money has been misappropriated and not one cent ever went to maintain the canal which is detrimental to the irrigation of the area in order for the farmers to produce their crop, and as of today there is no water in their fields.

SINKRON: The inhabitants of the villages Ndërfushas, ​​Ndërfanë and Shterë of Mirditë Municipality speak.

Residents of the villages Ndërfushas, ​​Ndërfanë and Shterë are the responsibility of the central government and if the Municipality of Mirditë will not allocate funds for the rehabilitation of the irrigation canal, so that it is available this summer, they threaten to escalate the protests indefinitely by block the main highway (Kombit highway) leading to Kosova, which runs trough these villages.