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

“Tre Vete Ne Nje Varke” by Stefan Cepaliku

As the rain fell throughout Shkoder yesterday evening, December 12, I was inside the Migjeni Theater at the grand opening of the play “Tre Vete Ne Nje Varke” (Three Lives and One Boat), written and adapted by Stefan Capaliku, noted Albanian scholar, professor and writer.

The story could have been applied to any number of Albanian families throughout the country during the communist regime, but it was centered on a family in the city of Shkodra. Three brothers: Gjon, Mark, Luka and their mother Marije, living under the rule of communism; always watched, spied on, surveilled, thus living precariously from one day to the next for fear of being denounced for some meaningless action or word.

As the story opens, c.1950’s, it shows the love shared between mother and sons who, although living with the barest of means provided, show that their love for each other is insurmountable. The three young men have a strong desire to escape to the west and plan on building a boat that would hopefully take them across lake Shkoder to freedom. As doubts and fears begin to settle in their mother reassures them that they must go and start a new life, free from oppression. They must study, find meaningful work and live freely.

In the second act the raw truth settles in when they are caught by way of a family friend who reported them. They are taken into custody and sent to trial, where they are each condemned to years in prison and thus their dreams destroyed. As if that was not enough, their mother, distraught over the turn of events, loses all senses and despairs over the fate of her sons, ultimately dying of a broken heart.

The last act has the three, now old men, living in their house struggling with their fate and their wish to still leave the country now under ‘democracy’. The three brothers reminisce about their life, at the same time facing legal battles to settle their legal issues through innumerable court appearances and having to deal with the corrupt legal system. Ultimately they give up and begin work on rebuilding ‘the boat’.

Mr. Cepaliku did an excellent job through his script in expressing the angst of a mother at the prospect losing her three sons forever or being caught by the authorities, yet at the same time showing a mother’s true love for her children by supporting their decision to leave and be free. I also felt the sons’ feelings of oppression and strong desire to leave, combined with their uncertainty of leaving their mother alone, was very well communicated.

I am not a theater critic by any means and my Albanian is not fluent, however I left the theater feeling a sense of familiarity with the people who lived through that horrible period. I don’t think the language was a barrier for understanding the essence of the play and feeling somehow connected to it, even though I didn’t grow up here. The story is one too familiar with almost all Albanians. For me personally it is something my family lived through. I had two uncles killed during the resistance fighting. One uncle who managed to escape after five years in the worst internment camp in Albania, in Tepelene and go on to join his brother, my father and his father, ultimately building a family and living to be 90 years old. My other family members; great-grandmother, grandmother, two aunts, one uncle and three cousins all lived and some died in concentration camps. The survivors returning to their family home in 1991, bent but not broken. Never broken, never subjugated by the regime and never, ever denying their faith and name.

If you are in Shkodra and want to experience a bit of Albanian ‘flavor’ in the way of theater and history I would recommend seeing this play. It is running through December 15.Mr.  Stefan Cepaliku (playwright) with Bianca Gjomarkaj-Nakovics