Friday, 20 December 2013

Photographs of Albania Then - 2

It's been suggested I post more photographs of Tirana and Albania. I need very little encouragement! In a perfect world all these photographs would have been included in TIRANA PAPERS. There are a few black and white images in the book but it was not possible to include all these colour ones. I would still like to do something with them - perhaps I will make a series of bookmarks like the one shown in the Tirana Papers Acknowledgement Page post, and which I've had printed. But in the meantime, I'll post some of the images here, with accompanying extracts from the book.

From Tirana Papers – Introduction

When I arrived in early 2000 the country looked as if it was living in the debris of an explosion. Aid was starting to come into the country and the beginnings of repair and reconstruction were being made. The atmosphere was still suspicious and volatile, but at least for some, a sense of hope was beginning to filter through.

From Part 1 – With the Albatross we enter Mythological Time

Rruga Mujo Ulqinaku 1

I work on the second floor of a three-storey building which is rented by IRC (International Rescue Committee), in the Rruga Mujo Ulqinaku. The staircase is open, though covered by a roof. From the balcony on the third floor there is a view out over rooftops, with irregular, pinkish bleached roof-tiles and tiny garden areas, mainly filled with planks of wood and scrawny trees. Behind the houses, the mountains rise up suddenly. This morning there were thin rivulets of white trailing a short distance down the mountain sides. The sky is clear blue and the sun is bright, dazzling light, and warm. The balustrade around the balcony is very low, so I move away from the edge and don’t look down, but look out and up, the foreground a tangle of tiles. Smooth-sculpted, pressed and folded mountains are draped like curtains along the backdrop.

Rruga Mujo Ulqinaku 2

Rruga Mujo Ulqinaku in summer


Kruje, in the centre of Albania, is the birthplace of Scanderbeg, Albania's most famous hero.

The land is flat, on the road to Kruje. There are many semi-constructed houses, of dark red brick. The road is full of potholes. There are a few walls, mainly in front of fairly sumptuous-looking houses. Otherwise, the fields just begin at the sides of the road. Many of them are waterlogged this morning.

Pine tree, Kruje

We pass through a small town, Fush-Kruje, with pavement stalls selling fruit, vegetables, large plastic bins, hoses, car parts. Some of the stalls have makeshift plastic coverings over them. As we leave the town behind, the road begins to climb. The river in the valley below us is a garish orange-brown colour as if it had been dyed, but could perhaps have come from the mud that’s been washed into it, by the rain. The earth is a rich reddish-brown. Kruje is built on a mountainside, and a winding road leads up to it. This road has a couple of small rivers running through it this morning. Its streets are lined with trees – a variety of pine, with trailing, feathery needles, and other trees that look like willow.

View of Scanderbeg Museum, Kruje


The next school we visit is in Patos, a few kilometres outside Fier. We are already involved in work with this school, the first phase is completed and we’ve been given the go-ahead for the next phase to begin. The walls have been replastered, new toilets have been installed (but are not yet in use, because there is no running water) and new doors put in. These doors are remarkable; their smooth surfaces are beautifully planed and varnished.

Patos School

The director, Nebi Maska, says that all he has in the school are the walls. There are some desks – simple wooden ones and a few books donated by the Ministry of Education, but that is all. He is a large, imposing man who talks with intensity and a deep sense of integrity and commitment. He explains that he goes constantly to the Ministry of Education, speaks to the Director and Inspector of Education, to get help for the school.

I ask him, through Ira, who interprets, when the situation of lack of funding had begun. He said it started in 1991 when there were not enough books and by 1997 there were no books or supplies of any kind – nothing at all.

He gestures to me to come over to the window. Outside, there’s a rough area of earth and gravel, in front of the school. Just beyond that, is a rubbish dump – a small hill of bottles, tins, plastic cartons, plastic bags and rusted metal. There used to be grass there, he says, and trees. That's what I would like to see here again, not this mud and rubbish but a grassy area for the children to play in, bordered by trees.

Shkodra is a town in the north of Albania.

In Shkodra we go to see the TB clinic and the train station, two projects funded by IRC. Work at the TB clinic has not started yet, as agreement for funding has only just been given by the World Health Organisation. The clinic has a garden and trees at the front, bestowing an atmosphere of calm and rest. So restful in fact that, round the back, the crumpled, rusted shell of an ambulance lies on its side and two stray dogs are stretched out on the gravel, sunning themselves. 

Outhouses at TB clinic due for reconstruction

Melinda in the grounds of the TB clinic

 To be continued....


Forest Dream Weaver said...

I love the subtle colours on the wrecked car.....all very interesting!
Thank you for being there on Saturday,most energizing.

Merry Christmas!

three sea horses said...

Thank you! Again -really good to see these photos, fit them into the pictures I had in my head whilst reading your book! Xx