St. Nicholas Day 2015

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Following is the original post I posted 3 years ago, our first St. Nicholas here in Albania St Nicholas 2012.

Much has changed since then with the passing of my aunt Bardha who was instrumental in our indoctrination to the customs of this day and the passing of my uncle Dede earlier this year.

Therefore, I have decided to change our celebration. Since we are not so much into ‘sacrificing’ a live chicken I have taken the easy way out by just buying a nice, frozen kilo of chicken fillets, which I have cooked a l’Italiana and not so much in the traditional Albanian method of roasting it with potatoes. Chicken is chicken after all so why not mix it up a bit, especially if you’re not too keen on actually killing a live chicken.

My dinner was pretty delicious: tortelli with panna, chicken scaloppine in a smooth lemon/wine sauce with mushrooms, steamed fava beans drizzled with butter and a nice bottle of Montepulcino d’Abbruzzo, some warm Italian bread drizzled with olive oil and to finish it off a delicious, traditional Albanian dessert: Tres Leches topped with Carmel.

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 Happy St. Nicholas Day everyone!

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Liberation Day?

Independence Day

Yesterday was Liberation Day in Albania and I was prompted to post what follows below on my Facebook page because I believe it is important for people, especially the youth of Albania, to be well informed on their history and not just to follow the masses in celebrating and believing what is being told them through schools, media, government et al. It is just my small contribution in the hopes of developing a real discussion of the events that took place, not only on November 29, 1944 but the few years leading up to it and following it.

The photos posted here on the foreground of the Albanian flag are of my family. In the upper right is a six photo collage. Starting from the top left: my uncle Kapidan Mark Markagjoni, my grandfather Kapidan Gjon Markagjoni, my father Kapidan Ndue Markagjoni, my uncle Kapidan Ded Markagjoni, my uncle Kapidan Nikoll Markagjoni and my uncle Sander Markagjoni.

The color collage represents the children of my uncles Mark and Nikoll and myself with my three siblings (children of Ndue). Why post these photos? Because as you will read in the post that follows, four of the men in the photo were instrumental in the fight against Communism during the 1940’s. Two of which lost their lives fighting in the mountains of Mirdite; Mark and Sander, at the peak of their lives. Mark was 33 and Sander was 28.

We, the children, and my uncle Nikoll are what remains of the Markagjoni family, the direct descendants of our forefathers. It is sad and distressful, not to mention dishonest, that their story has and is being carefully buried in Albania’s history.

If you are interested in reading more about the truth and about my family’s role in Albania’s history please visit my webpage at Gjon Markagjoni.

Text from FB:

“November 29, 1944 – Liberation Day? This is a day that many in Albania consider their Liberation Day, liberation from the Nazi forces that had invaded Albania during WWII. However, this day also represents the day Communism won in Albania. As the Partisan forces of Enver Hoxha overpowered the Nationalist forces the likes of ‘Balli Kombetar’, ‘Legaliteti’, ‘League of Shkodra’, ‘National Group Independent’ and ‘National Front’ let us not forget the men who fought and died fighting the ‘red beast’ that was to take over this country and succumb it to misery, horror, dishonor and travesty for the next 50 years! Let us not forget the brave men of Mirdite and the north of Albania, the likes of Kap. Gjon Markagjoni, Kap. Mark Markagjoni, Kap. Llesh Markagjoni, Kap. Ndue Markagjoni, Mit’hat Frasheri, Abaz Kupi and many, many more who tried with all their might, strength and honor to preserve and defend the democratic values and freedoms of the people of their beloved Albania from enslavement by the internationalist proletariat who wanted a world without God. This was the “Black Night” that engulfed all of Albania on November 29, 1944. This should be remembered! Not the liberation from one evil which led to the destruction of a country by a far greater evil Communism!”

Dajç

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This evening we took a ride to the town of Dajç, which is located just north of Velipoja. The river Buna runs through the town and you have to take sort of a detour to find it, the best way is to follow the Biking Club signs, it will eventually take you along the river.

The place is truly magical…quiet and peaceful. The shots taken with the sunset are from another location on the river, a place called Pentar and you’ll need to ask the locals to show you where you can pull off to see the river because it’s hidden behind the bank, but once you walk over the bank the view is spectacular, you almost feel as though you are in the Amazon!

If you find yourself with some spare time while vacationing in Velipoja or Shkoder I highly recommend trying to find Pentar in Dajç!

Gjaze te Lushnjes

Today I made a pilgrimage of sorts to the place where my family was interned during the 1960’s-1970’s, Gjaze te Lushnjes, oustide the city of Lushjne. I went because I wanted to see….I wanted to visualize the place I had heard so much about.

This is the lot where the camp’s store used to be.

20150218_101446 This was the well for the whole camp, it’s still in use.

20150218_100828 An original house.

20150218_100624An original house.

20150218_100557This was the first house they lived in before moving across the street. The house has since been restored.

20150218_101737This was the second and last house they lived in. It has been rebuilt.

What I found was some remnant homes from the period, apartment buildings and some newer homes built on the land where the original abodes that housed my family stood.

The overall condition of the area, which was deemed “internim”, is not much better than what I imagined it was. The roads are the same, dirt with inbedded rocks. The structures that are still standing from that period are basically the same, chipped away, in ruin, probably no running water. I was moved by it though, imagining my aunts Marta and Bardha, cousins Kristina, Celestina and Gjon and my uncle Dede Markagjoni all living there for over 15 years. They had roll call three times a day at the corner store, the store is now gone and the lot sits empty (see photo). They were only allowed to leave the camp with a permission slip which was only given once or twice a month. They basically just worked for food. This was only one of a number of camps they lived in during the communist regime that engulfed this country from 1944-1991. Almost 50 years of living hell!

20150218_100600aThis is Merjeme, she still lives there and remembers everyone from my family that lived in the camp.

20150218_100447Another original home.

20150218_091627Bar Restorant ‘Pushimi i Shoferit’ is a living monument to the period.

It’s been on the corner of the entrance into the area for the last 50 years or more.

Meeting Eduart Ndocaj – Candidate for Mayor of Lezhe

ndocajSaturday February 14 I had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Eduart Ndocaj in Lezhe who is currently running for mayor of the city of Lezhe. I give him immense credit for his courage, I applaud him for his vision and I wish him great success in this race.

Albania is fraught with corruption within it’s government, this is not something that is just sensational news, it’s a known fact, and by immersing yourself in the political game here you are taking chances, chances that take courage, love of country and pride of heritage.

Eduart Ndocaj has all of these and more. He’s a visionary. His story is not an uncommon one. Originally from Manatia, Lezhe, with origins in Mirdite, he escaped Albania and arrived in Brindisi, Italy in 1996, on a rubber boat. He made his way north to Milan, to his sister and her husband who had settled there and with some luck, a lot of drive, a good work ethic and hard work with a construction company he was able to realize his dream of owning his own enterprise and in 2001 established Ndocaj Costruzioni in Italy. Today he owns a large group of construction companies which operate in Italy and Albania.

He decided to run for Mayor of Lezhe with the high hopes of turning things around for his city, bringing with him much needed fresh ideas centering on the economic plight facing the city and a plan for revitalization of the area with a strong focus on improving it’s immense tourism capacity. To learn more about Mr. Ndocaj and his plans visit his FB page at Eduart Ndocaj Faqja Zyrtare. Bravo Mr. Ndocaj. Fat i mirë!!

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Sabato 14 febbraio ho avuto il piacere di incontrare il Signor Eduart Ndocaj in Lezhe. Eduart è attualmente in corsa per Sindaco della città di Lezhe. Gli do immenso credito per il suo coraggio, lo applaudo per la sua visione e gli auguro un grande successo in questa gara.

L’Albania è piena di corruzione all’interno del suo governo, questa non è una cosa che è semplicemente notizia sensazionale, è un fatto noto, e immergersi nel gioco politico qui e molto rischioso, rischi che richiedono coraggio, l’amore di patria e l’orgoglio del patrimonio culturale .

Eduart Ndocaj ha tutto questo e di più. E ‘un visionario. La sua storia non è un caso raro. Originamente di Manatia, Lezhe, con origini in Mirdite, fuggì l’Albania e arrivo’ a Brindisi, Italia nel 1996, su un gommone. Ha fatto la sua strada al nord, Milano, da sua sorella e suo marito che si erano stabiliti lì. Con un po ‘di fortuna, tanta cieca ambizione, una buona etica del lavoro e il duro lavoro con una società di costruzioni è riuscito a realizzare il suo sogno di possedere la propria impresa e nel 2001 ha stabilito Ndocaj Costruzioni in Italia. Oggi possiede un grande gruppo di imprese edili che operano in Italia e Albania.

Eduart Ndocaj ha deciso di correre per il sindaco di Lezhe con le grandi speranze di cambiare le cose per la sua città, portando con sé nuove idee tanto necessarie, concentrandosi sulla situazione economica di fronte alla città e con un piano per la rivitalizzazione della zona, con una forte attenzione al miglioramento per la immensa capacità di turismo. Per conoscere Mr. Ndocaj e i suoi piani visitate la sua pagina FB a Eduart Ndocaj Faqja Zyrtare. Bravo signor Ndocaj. Fat i mire !!