Museum of Witness and Memory, Shkoder.

I first went into this museum last year but as daily events began to unfold in my life regarding property issues I neglected my blog and forgot all about posting about this important site, I’m sorry!

This museum is called the Site of Witness and Memory and is the only museum dedicated to the memory of the victims of the communist regime from the city of Shkodra. Please visit the site on the link above for more in-depth information.

My main reason for having visited the museum was because my uncle, Ded Markagjoni, was held prisoner there. I wanted to walk in ‘his’ shoes, although metaphorically because I can never even pretend to understand how he felt while imprisoned there. The site of the museum is where the original jail was therefore it is the original site of imprisonment and torture for many Albanians during a horrific period in her history. The museum is about a 1 minute walk from our family home, just down the corner and to the right, hence I can only imagine how he must have felt being held so close to home. As I walked through the site I felt an eerie feeling of doom, I could picture him being held in one of the bare cells, being tortured by one or more of the mechanisms used, being questioned, going through the cold weather in the dank cell. The reason for his imprisonment and ultimate internment, as the rest of my family? Bearing the surname Markagjoni, that’s all, that was enough.

Walking through I saw two notices signed by Enver Hoxha. The first one dated August 11, 1945, which was for the change in verdict from death to imprisonment for my uncle Ded and the other dated November 28, 1945 for the ‘death warrant’ of my grandfather Gjon Marku. Ironically November 28th is Albania’s Independence Day as well as the day my grandfather and father escaped Albania. To go into the history of my family please visit my website Gjon Markagjoni, it is far too long and important and should be understood in full.

If ever in this city you must make a point of visiting this insightful museum to give you an idea of the horrific conditions and historical events which took place in a country that for most of the 20th century was forgotten and secluded from the outside world.

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Done at last!

Finally I can write a post that is long overdue! I was finally able to complete my property enclosure last week thanks to the hard work of a number of people who came to the rescue. The property is on its way to returning to her old glory. We still have a long way to go but as you can see from this video we certainly come a long way in the five years we have been living here. It feels good to come through the gates and see the transformation, at last!

Historical or Not?

(l to r) Kapidan Mark, Gjon, Ndue, Dede, Nikoll, Sander Markagjoni

Today I was schooled on my apparent misconception of the reason for the Marubi Photography Gallery in Shkodra!

Let me begin with a short background. My family, the family of Kapidan Gjon Markagjoni, was quite important in Albania throughout the centuries up until communism, when it was emaciated, murdered and practically wiped off the face of the country. However they didn’t succeed, and I am living proof of it, as well as my still living uncle Nikoll, his children, my siblings and my uncle Mark’s two daughters. Having said that, the name Markagjoni is pretty much ‘mud’ in the country, and I am putting it mildly.  They, meaning the government, would like nothing better than for me to leave Albania and all the above mentioned heirs to my grandfather to disappear quietly into the night.

Well that is not going to happen any time soon, so they continue to make it difficult for me to accomplish anything of value here and to brush the name under the rug.

Case in point; the National Museum of Photography (Marubi). This museum was established in Shkodra to showcase the genius and beauty of the Marubi photographers. All the photographs displayed in the museum are historical, whether they like to think so or not. They have on display photographs of historical figures such as Preng Bib Doda, Luigji Gurakuqi, Ernest Koliqi, etc., all historical and political figures of Albania, so to say that it is not a ‘reflection of Albanian history’ is a contradiction at best. Why do I say this?

Today I went into the museum for the second time. I was there last year and did not see ONE photograph pertaining to my family, when I know for a fact that Marubi took quite a few number of photographs as they are all available online. I was told by the receptionist that they now have on display photographs of ‘Gjon Markagjoni’. As I walked around the area I was directed to I saw ZERO photos of my grandfather or uncles. I saw photographs of their cousin, Mark Kapidani and of course Preng Bib Doda. I told the receptionist that those were not photos of my grandfather and that apparently they are under the impression that Mark Kapidani and my grandfather are either one and the same or that he’s one of his sons, when in fact he was a cousin. I had to remind her that having these photographs on display was not the same thing as having actual photos of ‘my family’.

I asked to see the director of the museum because I wanted to inquire about having access to the online photographs without the watermark so that I may print them and create my own museum here in the house. I met with a young man who spoke fairly good English and proceeded to tell him what I was looking for. Apparently, since the museum is a national one and falls under the Ministry of Culture, I have to send a written request for digital photographs. Ok, fine. Then I asked him about the absence of photographs in the museum pertaining to my family, who by the way, contributed greatly to the history of Albania, specifically the North, but that’s another story.

I was told that “this is not a museum reflecting the history of Albania but rather a collection of photography showcasing the importance of the Marubi family as photographers”, mmmmmmm let me see….a vast majority of  the photographs that are showcased are photos of influential persons in Albania’s history but this is not an Albanian historical gallery? Then the crux of the matter surfaced.

A ‘commission’ decides what photos are showcased. A commission run by the government, specifically the Ministry of Culture. So there you have it! The government once again decides whether the family of Gjon Markagjoni is put on display or not. The government once again decides whether to finally recognize the contributions that this family has given to their country or not. A government still run by communists and ex-communists. A government whose only interest is their own and not the history of Albania. A government who has yet to release any dossiers on their own people ie. deputies, ministers, president et al showing the Albanian people and the world whether they committed any crimes during communism or not. A government who would like nothing better than for me to disappear into the sunset.

Well, that’s not going to happen any time soon. I may be fighting a losing battle, but like my ancestors keep fighting I will, to keep the name alive and for what’s rightly ours!

I sent a request to the Ministry of Culture for access to the digital photographs as directed. Time will tell whether they approve it or not!

Kapidan Gjon Markagjoni and his guards c.1930’s


Letër të hapur për Kryeministrin Edi Rama

Kryeministrin Edi Rama,

ky eshte nje nga artikujt qe u hodhen ne leter ne 25 Maj, 2017. Ne ket foton ju mund te shihni Kryetarin e Partise Socialiste te Shkodres z.Luan Heta. Partia Socialiste ka qene pas ketyre akteve dashakeqese. Partia Socialiste ka interesa mbi pronen time siç kane dhe te tjeret por gjithsesi ata arsyetohen si pjese e partise, ata jane perreth prones sime. Ata jane ankuar se nuk kane hapesire mjaftueshem per hyrjen e ambulances por kjo nuk eshte e vertete. Une negociova me ta per te lene hapesire te mjaftueshme. Ajo cfare une negociova eshte ti lija pjese me teper sec ishte e nevojshme, per parkimin e makinave te banorve. Ne fund te dites une mendova se u mora vesht por konstatova qe nuk mjaftonte per keta njerez. Ata duan ate cfare nuk i takon. Por ne nuk do leshojme pè. Fatkeqsishte per ta qe po tentojne te me largojne e te me nxjerrin jashte kesaj por ata nuk me njohin mire.

Une do te luftoje dhemb per dhemb aq sa eshte e mundur. Une nuk do heqi dore per ate qe po luftoje, per te drejten, ligjoren qe historikisht me takon. Kam dy pyetje per z.Rama qe jane:- Si pretendon te hysh ne Bashkimin Europian? Kur qeveria juaj, partia juaj ne veçanti, po ndalon pronaret rezident te perdorin pronen e tyre siç e shohin te arsyeshme ?! Dhe -” Kush eshte pergjegjes? Policia?!Deputet te zgjedhur?!Artikulli 11 i Kushtetutes Shqiptare . 2. Prona publike dhe private jane te barabarta dhe mbrojtura me ligj. Artikulli 1 i ECHR : Mbrojtja e Prones Protection of property .Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.”

Askush nuk kishte asnje pergjigje, e vetmja gje qe ben ishte te shikonin njeri-tjetrin kur i sfidon me pyetje -“Kjo eshte prona ime. Ti nuk ke te drejte te me thuash qe te mos hedh materiale ketu, kush ta jep kete te drejt? Nga erdhi ky urdher?” Z.Rama nuk e di a jeni ne dijeni te opinionit tim, ndoshta ju jeni neutral dhe nuk dua ju gjykoj pa ju njohur ne person por shpresoj qe ju do e shikoni kete pune dhe ta ndaloni ate. Si Kryeminister dhe Kryetar i Partise Socialiste ju e keni per detyre dhe eshte pergjegjesia juaj te mos shkelet ligji. Ne kete rast flitet per banoret e  Shkoder, te; Lagjes Vasil Shanto, tek ish Kulla e Gjonmarkajve; ata duhet te respektojne pronen tone. Po ju pyes si pjesetare e familjes qe eshte pjese e historise kombetare. E familjes qe sakrifikoje bijte e saj per Shqiperine e Lire. Nje familje qe nuk kerkoj asgje ne shkembim nga vendi vet, perveç se e deshi ate, luftoje per te dhe vdiq per te!

Open Letter to President Nishani

Dear Mr. Nishani,

I am sure you are aware of the issues revolving around my property in Shkoder at the Kulla Markagjoni. I have every right to enclose my backyard as I see fit as it is private property. I have gone through all the legal venues to secure a permit from the Bashkia in Shkoder and have everything finalized. Upon commencing the ‘unloading’ of my material on May 25th, for the future project, I was met by resistance warranted only in time of war. Not one, not two, but 4-5 police cars from every corner of state institutions arrived. They did not arrive to protect me from the dwellers in the building behind my property but to harass me and ignore my requests and stop the work that had begun. Why you ask? Because a relative of a Minister of your government lives in one of the buildings and he along with the other residents have gotten used to parking their automobiles on my property for the last 30 years, since it wasn’t enclosed, and now refuse to allow me to put up  a fence, clean it and finally claim the space. The residents of these buildings have no right to my property. I negotiated with the Bashkia in Shkoder enough room for emergency vehicles to be able to access the buildings. There are no issues which involve infringement on ‘their’ access, on the contrary, they have built extensions to their buildings without permits and I had to relinquish a certain amount of square footage in order to allow access for these emergency vehicles. So you see, once again, I had to give up land, not them! Beside the fact there is no private-on-private property issue here, my property borders with public land, not private property.

Mr. Nishani, you can give all the awards and letters of recognition you want to so called ‘members’ of my family, as you did this year, not once but twice, but they are meaningless to the family of Kapidan Gjon Markagjoni. The fact that your government states on paper how proud they are of my family’s sacrifices and how honored they are is meaningless when the same government is trying to obstruct justice and infringe on my legal rights as a property owner. Mr. Nishani,  it is an embarrassment for Albania to be seen in such a light in the eyes of the world.

I only hope in light of the situation at hand and after reviewing the issue carefully you and your government, the government of Edi Rama, will come to the conclusion that private property rights have to be protected and preserved according to your constitution and to the ECHR (European Council on Human Rights) code. This is not negotiable. This is a right and it has to be protected. I will not shy away from thugs who come onto my property and try to intimidate me into quietly going away. I will not shy away from the police who is under orders to obstruct anything I am trying to do on my property because of the whim of a politician. I will keep on raising my voice and fighting for what is mine and I only hope that you as President of a country who is trying to pass herself off as democratic and respectful of human rights will not only see to it that justice is done but will make a statement by speaking out against this corruption which is openly evident for the world to see!


Bianca Gjomarkaj Nakovics

Head of the Socialist Party in Shkodra, Luan Heta (far right), giving interviews to the local media speaking out against my right to put up a fence. It’s election time so he’s buying votes.