Category Archives: Infobits

Welcome to Frosina’s Infobits section. Here you will find a wealth of ilittle-known or unusual nformation about Albania and the Albanians!

AlbCon DataBit: Albania and the Albanians

Albanian Dancers, Watercolor.

Albanian Dancers, Watercolor

Contemporary sources show that 14th century Albanians were invariably identified as a tribal peoples, with no state of their own.

Thus, depending on their location and to which civilization they subscribed, they could be identified under the following criteria:

Arnaut (Turkish)
Arbanas or Arbanensis (Greek)
Epirotarum or Albanensis (Italian)
Arber, Arben, Arberesh, Epirotas (Native peoples/Albanian)

According to a report by historian Shefqet Pllana, Sami Frasheri in his Kamus-al-Alam maintains that the wording “Dhu lKarnejn” (owner of the two horns) was an appellative attributed to Alexander the Great of Macedon, the very name which Skanderbeg bore in the Islamic form. This second explanation may be the truer, since the theory of the Macedonian-Albanian and Epirot-Albanian continuance is strong not only among Albanians but among all the peoples of Europe.

This opinion agrees with the work of Marin Barleti who writes: “When the people saw all those young and brave men around Skanderbeg, then it was not hard to believe that the armies of [Sultan] Murat were so defeated by the Albanians. Indeed, the times when the star of Macedon shone brilliantly had returned, just as they seemed in those long forgotten times of Pyrrhus and Alexander.”

Origin of the Double-Headed Eagle
The double-headed eagle is a symbol used by several cultures. It is broadly associated with the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire, among other civilizations.

The two heads are understood to represent the sovereignty of the leadership (secular and religious) over both east and west areas of the world.

Several Eastern European nations adopted it from the Byzantines and continue to use it as their national symbol to this day, the most prominent being Russia.

Famous Modern Albanian Painters

Frosina is pleased to acknowledge the work of four great Albanian painters, whose life and work was  mostly placed outside of the country.

diaspora

They are:

1. Ali Rasih Dino [1913 – 1993], originally of Chameria;

2. Lin Delija [1926 – 1994], of Shkodra;

3. Lika Janko [1928 – 2001] of Sofia, Bulgaria, but originally from Gramsh, Albania, and

4. Anastas Arthur Tashko [1901 – 1994], of Korça.

In 2009 the Albanian Postal Services dedicated a special stamp series to this group of great painters, called the Albanian Diaspora Painters, shown in the above image. We will write more about their work in the future.  Stay tuned

Alexandra Chako – Malisory of Voskopojë, Albania and Southbridge, MA turns 105

The Worcester Telegram carried today the wonderful story of Alexandra Chako – Malisory, a native of Voskopoja in Albania and resident of Southbridge, MA, who turned 105 on Wednesday, March 6, 2014.

Frosina wishes Ms. Chako – Malisory all the very best for this remarkable anniversary.

Southbridge has been one of the most important centers of the Albanian – American community in the past 100 years. VATRA had a very active branch there and an important Orthodox Church  was founded around that time under the leadership of late Archbishop Fan S. Noli.

Nee’ Alexandra Chako, Ms. Malisory met her future husband Spiro in the mid 1930s during one of the latter’s visits to relatives in Albania. The last name Malisory means in Albanian language “a native of the mountain” or “Malësor”.

Asked by the Worcester Telegram about the secret to her longevity, “the native of Voskopoje, Albania, said she often eats cheese and yogurt. If she doesn’t have feta cheese and toast for breakfast, “I’m no good,” she concedes.”

An avid Red Sox fan, her family brought Ms. Malisory to enjoy a Red Sox game at the Fenway Park five years ago for her 100 anniversary.  She recently complained to the Worcester Telegram that “that outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury had defected to the Yankees for more money.”

Ms. Malisory has three children, five grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

It is an unwritten custom in the Great Britain that the Queen sends personal wishes to people on their 100th anniversary.

According to the Worcester Telegram, Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick will send an official citation congratulating Ms. Malisory on her 105th “milestone birthday”. Perhaps U.S. President Barack Obama and Albanian President Bujar Nishani may wish to follow suit.

The full story from the Worcester Telegram is here:

Worcester Telegram

Was Alexander the Great Really of Albanian (Illyrian) Origin?

Sir William Woodthorpe Tarn, of the British Academy, regarded worldwide as having written the definitive work on Alexander the Great, states in the opening paragraph of his book Alexander the Great that “Alexander certainly had from his father (Philip II) and probably from his mother (Olymbia) Illyrian, i.e. Albanian, blood!”*

During Rose Wilder Lane’s visit to Albania in 1921 resulting in the publication in1923 of her book Peaks of Shala, she heard the following rather extraordinary rendition of Albanian oral history about Alexander the Great from an Albanian elder:

“There was at that time two capitals of the united kingdom of Macedonia. There was Pela, between Salonika and Manastir, and there was Emadhija**, the old capital, lying in the valley which is now Mati (a high, fertile plateau north of Tirana, near the coast of northern Albania – ED).

“Alexander’s father, Filip the Second had great houses in both Pela and Emadhija, and before Lec i Madhe was born, his mother left Pela and came back to the original capital, Emadhija. It was there that Lec i Madhe was born, and there he lived until he was out of the cradle and rode on a horse when he first went down into Pela to see his father who came from the city to meet and see his son for the first time.

“Filip the Second was very proud of his son, and his pride led him to the one great foolishness of a good and wise king. He said that he would make Lec i Madhe king of the world, and that was well enough, but he thought to be king of the world a man must be more learned than he himself. Whereas all old men who have watched the ways of the world know that to be strong and ruthless will make a man powerful, but to be learned makes a man full of dreams and hesitations.

“In his pride and blindness, Filip the Second sent to Greece for an Albanian who had learned the ways of the Greeks, and to that man he gave the boy, to be taught books. (The Albanian’s) name was Aristotle, and he came from a family of the tribe of Ajeropi, his father having gone to a village in Macedonia and became a merchant there. Being rich, he sent his son, who was fond of thought rather than of action, to learn the Greek ways of thinking. And it was this man who was brought by Filip the Second to teach his son.”***

* P 1, ALEXANDER THE GREAT, W.W. Tarn, Beacon Press, Boston, 1956
** “Emadhija” means in Albanian “the great city”
*** PP 184, 186, 187, PEAKS OF SHALA, Rose Wilder Lane. Harper Brothers & Publishers, New York & London, 1923

Other nationalities , of course, have long laid claim to Alexander the Great as one of their own – most notably the Macedonians and the Greeks. However, as cited so authoritatively in the opening paragraph of Tarn’s book, Alexander the Great can be rightfully identified as an Albanian.

Albanian American War Veterans (AAWV)

I am a proud Albanian-American veteran of WWII where I served in the Pacific aboard a Destroyer-Escort with a crew of about 220 men.  Although the Orthodox religion wasn’t then practiced in the U.S. Navy (back in those days, you were designated Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish), and  I was occasionally teased as being an “Albino.”  I am thankful in my resolve to proudly proclaim that I was Albanian even though most of my shipmates didn’t know where Albania was located on a map.

During the 1930’s and 40’s, a vital source of news for the Albanians of Massachusetts was a radio program called “Zeri i Shqiperise” (Voice of Albania) that was broadcast in the Albanian language  each Sunday morning  by the popular Nuci Cojo over Boston radio station WORL. Albanians clustered around their radios  to listen with rapt attention as Nuci announced in his trigger-fast-delivery-style Albanian community events — births, weddings, baptisms, picnics, dances, deaths, etc., and, when available, news about the motherland, Albania.

On Nuci Cojo’s radio program (on one such Sunday morning), the eminent Albanian-American MD, former WWII U.S. Navy Lt-Cdr. Andrew Elia, broadcast an appeal for all Albanian-American WWII veterans to attend a meeting at the Boston West End Settlement House then located near Leverett Circle (Note: Dr. Elia served as the model for the ship’s doctor in the novel “Mr. Roberts” by Thomas Hagan.  Dr. Elia was portrayed by William Powell in the movie version of the same name).  

So, as a WWII U.S. Navy veteran, I was one of some 100 men – and 1 woman –  at the  settlement house meeting who  listened to Dr. Elia’s strong intent to establish an Albanian-American war veterans organization in Boston. I recognized a few of the men present having seen them in uniform previously at various Albanian events in Boston including Peter Chani and Archie Anthony, both U.S. Army 2nd lieutenants, Peter  Chicos, a U.S. Army major,  and Jimmy Kosmo who, crisply uniformed, looked like a combat trooper for a U.S. Army enlistment poster.

albanian american war veterans

Standing left to right: Angelo Andon, George Ratska, James Kosmo, George Chani, Louis Kosmo, Nick Tochka, William Kosmo, Steve Peters, James Christo
Seated left to right: Dr. Andrew Elia, Paul Apostol, Al Tromara, Peter Chani, John Chicos, Peter Lukas

After Dr. Elia completed his presentation,  it was accepted with enthusiastic approval by the audience of WWII veterans for what would eventually become known as the Albanian-American War Veterans of the United States, Inc. (AAWV).

Peter Chani asked me to design AAWV’s new symbol (logo) so on a meeting room blackboard,  I sketched a concept that came to me immediately of an American stars-and-stripes shield superimposed on an Albanian  double-headed eagle. My design was unanimously approved along with an urgent request that I – ably assisted by the talented sign letterer,   Mike Markou –  immediately begin to produce  master  artwork for the  new symbol that would be utilized as the official AAWV emblem for signeage, letterheads, lapel pins, etc.

 A committee was  formed to establish an AAWV constitution which was subsequently adopted at  in December, 1946, where Ted Mantho, a Boston attorney,  was nominated to serve as the AAWV’s first commander.  An  Inaugural Ball to launch the new Albanian American War Veterans  was held on April 24,   1947, at the Hotel Bradford in Boston.  Commander Mantho welcomed all guests and after a short speech about the AAWV and its purposes,  invited all Albanian-American WWII veterans to come forward so he could administer the oath of AAWV membership  thereby making it an official and legal U.S. veterans entity.

Although formed as a social organization, the AAWV devoted considerable time, energy, and finances to keep Albanian culture, language, and traditions alive through its various picnics, dinner-dances, and other social gatherings.  Especially notable was a major AAWV initiative   in the Albanian community by bringing together on several occasions representatives from the three Boston Albanian orthodox churches and other organizations to promote both religious and civic harmony.  The AAWV also organized charity drives for the cancer fund, and helped needy families.

Over the years, the AAWV participated actively in various Veterans Day observances and ceremonies at the Massachusetts State House and other governmental locations  where the Albanian-Americans distinguished themselves  by their presence and by proudly displaying both American and AAWV flags.  Veterans Day luncheons at Anthony’s Pier 4 were hosted by the late Anthony Athanas who was awarded Honorary Membership in the AAWV.

Following Ted Mantho, the first AAWV commander, Peter Chani, Lou Kosmo, Donald Cotto, and Mickey Ligor were among others who served as commanders but the person with the longest record as commander was Bill Kosmo (right) who was re-elected several times  due to his commitment and dynamic leadership. During Bill Kosmo’s long tenure as commander, he  always worked long and hard to show the AAWV to good advantage through its beneficial works and deeds.

I believe there are many Albanian-American veterans of the Korean, Viet Nam, Gulf, and Iraqi wars who could join the Albanian-American War Veterans (AAWV) thus assuring its continuation as a patriotic Albanian-American organization. For more information,  contact: Ronald Nasson, 26 Enfield Street, Boston, MA 02130-2138, Tel: 617 522-7715

Van Christo thanks Virginia Kosmo for her valuable assistance by providing research materials from the files of her father, the late Bill Kosmo,  the energetic and popular Commander of the AAWV, 

KOSOVA: THE KAÇAK MOVEMENT (1918)

In 1918, disaffected Kosova Albanians, who had rallied around Hasan Prishtina, formed a “Committee for the National Defence of Kosova” in Shkodra, their main demand being the reunification of Albanian lands. A general revolt started, known as the Kaçak (outlaw) movement, led by Azem Betja-Galica against the incorporation of Kosova into the newly proclaimed ‘kingdom of Serbia, Croats, and Slovenes’ otherwise known as the first Yugoslavia.The Committee issued strict guidelines to the Kaçak fighters, urging insurgents not toharm local Slavs, burn houses or churches, or mistreat victims — instructions which were in stark contrast to Serbian activities in Kosova. The movement enjoyed considerable support from Albania, especially after 1920 when three well-known Kosovar Albanians became senior officials in Albania’s government — Hasan Prishtina, a member of parliament, Hoxhe Kadriu, Minister of Justice, and Bajram Curri, Minister of War. The key task for Belgrade, therefore, was to destabilize Albania, and an effort was made to this end, with the encouragement of the Catholic areas in Mirdita, north-east of Tirana, to proclaim an independent republic — something that the Montenegrins had several times attempted in the past, with some success. But the new interior minister, Ahmet Zogu, managed to route the Mirdita rebels, who returned with Yugoslav forces to take some territory in northern Albania.

The Kaçak movement began to suffer, mostly as a result of politics inside Albania. The Kosova leaders fell out with Zog, and Prishtina, who briefly became Albania’s prime minister, tried to dismiss him, but this ended in street fighting between the rivals’ supporters.

Zog became prime minister on 2 December 1922. His squabbles with the Kosova leaders had turned him into a fierce opponent of the Kaçak rebellion, and of Kosova in particular; hence the end of Albania’s short-lived support of Kosova. Zog sentenced the Kaçak leader, Betja, and Prishtina to death in absentia and had Prishtina assassinated in 1933. Betja died after being wounded in 1924 and the Kaçak movement withered away afterwards.

Two years after coming to power, Zog experienced the first and only significant challenge to his authority when he was forced out of office by a more liberal coalition led by Bishop Fan Noli and supported by Bajram Curri. Zog retreated to Yugoslavia where he was supplied with money and men and returned to stage a coup six months later. From then onwards, he became a virtual vassal of the Serbs, and the question of Kosova was buried. However, his Serbian vassalage did not last long and Zog’s government and chances of survival were to remain subject to the whims of Italy and Yugoslavia. When, in 1928, Zog proclaimed himself King Zog I, transforming the country into a monarchy, political pragmatism had led him to abandon the Serbs in favor of Italian promises of economic assistance. With Italian blessing, the Albanian leader proceeded to style himself ‘King of the Albanians’. The title infuriated Belgrade as it openly signalled territorial claims to Kosova and other Albanian-inhabited lands in Yugoslavia although Zog displayed no intention of planning any such thing.

The plight of the Albanians annexed into the first Yugoslavia worsened when a Belgrade programme aimed at changing the ethnic composition of Kosova and Macedonia had begun after the Balkan wars, pursuant to the ‘Decree on the Settlement of Newly Liberated and Annexed Regions of the Kingdom of Serbia’ of 20 February 1914. However, its implementation had been interrupted by the start of hostilities. When the war ended, the agrarian reform began, culminating in decrees passed in 1931 aimed at forcing Albanians out of their lands, with, among other things, new regulations requiring all land to pass into state property unless the owner could produce Yugoslav title-deeds — something few Albanians had been issued with. A fuller platform for the colonization of Kosova was worked out by Vaso Cubrilovic in 1937 in the form of a memorandum called ‘The Expulsion of Arnauts’.* Some of its draconian measures were implemented in the interwar period — which coincided with the signing in 1938 of an agreement between the Yugoslav and Turkish governments on the deportation to Turkey of huge numbers of Albanians. But the Italian occupation of Albania in April 1939 and the onset of World War II subjected the country and its people to a different kind of fate.

* ‘Arnaut’ = old Turkish for ‘Albanian’

PP 18 – 20, “The Myth of Greater Albania” by Paulin Kola, New York University Press, 2003

Anton Logoreci (1910-1990): Torchbearer of Democracy

My wife Jane and I had the good fortune, many years ago, to meet Anton Logoreci in London during our visits to that historic city where we quickly became good friends with him and his lovely, wife, Doreen. They invariably found interesting places for us to dine in London, and also entertained us in their home located in Disraeli Gardens. During one of our visits, Jane and I were pleased to learn that Anton and Doreen met at the BBC where they both worked during WWII. They were very proud of their son, Philip, who is a lecturer at Queens College in London.

Jane and I have remained in contact with Doreen over the years especially because she always asks about our son, Zachary, who was only 4 years old when we first met the logorecis, and who always accompanied us during all of our London visits.

Anton Logoreci was a well-informed man, and his book about Albania, described below, remains as a valuable resource of informative and little-known data about Albania.

Anton Logoreci was born in Shkodër, Albania on July 19, 1910 and died in London on September 23, 1990. He was the latest treasure to be given to the world by his Albanian Catholic family. Others included the Archbishop of Shkope, Mother Teresa’s parents, and Logoreci’s uncle Mati who worked to preserve Albanian culture in Kosovë, and assisting in the formulation of an agreed alphabet for the Albanian language. Logoreci attended the Franciscan elementary school in Shkodër during his childhood where he served at the altar of St. Anthony’s church. He regularly served Mass for Fr. Gjergj Fishta, the great Albanian author and poet laureate. At the encouragement of his uncle, he transferred from the Jesuit College Saverianum to the AmericanTechnical College in Tirana which was established by the American Red Cross in 1922. The College was an important addition to Albania — in its classrooms, a cosmopolitan group of young men were formed with the education essential to make Albania a full member of contemporary European society, and Logoreci was one of its brightest pupils.

While studying at the Technical College, Logoreci was editor of the school magazine Laboremus. There he developed a distinctive prose style which he would later use to great success working for the BBC in London. He graduated with honors in 1927 and worked first as a teacher in the mountain villages of Albania. King Zog appointed General Jocelyn Percy to organize a gendarmerie, and he chose Logoreci as his interpreter. This work gave him a first-hand knowledge of the political eccentricities of Eastern Europe which he would use the rest of his life.

In order to better serve his homeland, Logoreci went to study at the London School of Economics (LSE) and while finishing his studies there, Mussolini invaded Albania. Unable to return to Albania, Logoreci was spared internment and gained a post as head of the BBC’s new Overseas Service. There, beginning in 1940, Logoreci’s reports were broadcast into his homeland bringing news to his countrymen when it was unavailable elsewhere until the BBC ended the service after the war. He was one of the best-qualified Eastern European commentators and, later, he became a program writer on Central Europe and remained a valuable commentator for the BBC for years afterwards where he specialized in Eastern Europe’s human rights problems as well as developments in Albania.

Logoreci was single-handedly responsible for most of the attention Albania received after the war. He condemned Hoxha early in his dictatorship, stressing that Albania’s future must lie in Western democracy rather than communism. Logoreci was a vociferous defender of Kosovë’s autonomy, culture, and traditions. His commentaries were insightful and often prophetic.

But all of Logoreci’s political expertise and knowledge were accidents of his trade, and not his greatest love. Literature was his great passion. His distinctive style in Albanian prose and poetry was admired for its sharp beauty. He introduced his countrymen to Europe’s contemporary writers with his literary essays. He likewise introduced Europeans with Albanians in his 1977 book, The Albanians — Europe’s Forgotten Survivors (Victor Gollancz, London, 1977 ASIN 0575022299).

Excerpted from the Albanian Catholic Bulletin, San Francisco, California, Volume XII, 1991

***

In 1993, Albania awarded Logoreci the medal “Pishtar i Demokracise (Torchbearer of Democracy).”

The Award read as follows:

REPUBLIC OF ALBANIA

The President of the Republic awards Anton Pjeter Logoreci with the medal
“Torchbearer of Democracy”

An outstanding many-sided personality of Albanian culture, a staunch
anti-communist and a brilliant champion of the entire national cause.

Tirana, August 2, 1993 Decree No. 616

(signed) Sali Berisha, President

 

The Italian Invasion of Albania (1939)

On March 28, 1939, Italy presented an ultimatum to the government of Albania making various demands including that Italian forces should control strategic points, that Italian farmers should settle in Albania with the rights of Albanian citizens, andthat a customs union should be introduced. A response was required by 6 April 1939. This was kept secret by the Albanian government which offered a counterproposal on 5 April. This in turn was disregarded by Italy which started landing troops on 7 April (Good Friday). Little organized resistance was offered although there was some resistance by individual soldiers, sailors, and armed civilians. One such stand delayed the Italian transit from Durrës to Tirana. Despite this, Durrës was captured on 7 April, Tirana the following day, Shkodër and Gjirokastër on 9 April, and almost the entire country on 10 April. King Zog at once fled. On 12 April a constituent assembly composed of people who had previously entered into secret relations with the Italian embassy in Tirana proclaimed King Victor Emmanuel III as king of Albania. Francesco Jacomoni (former Italian Ambassador to Albania – Ed) was appointed as his lieutenant. A new Albanian government was formed under Shefqey bey Verlaci, and signed with Jacomoni a series of conventions. The Albanian army was suppressed as an independent force; Albania would no longer have any parliament or diplomatic relations. The two countries were proclaimed united.

At the time, this occupation was viewed in the West as part of a coordinated plot by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. It is now known that it was more nearly a riposte by Mussolini to the German annexation of Bohemia and Moravia on 15 March 1939 which, shaking Europe like a thunderclap, precipitated the end of the Western powers’ policy of appeasement. The Italian motives were, however, mixed. Albania, politically and economically undermined and incapable of serious resistance, appeared as an easy victory. The territory later served as a springboard for the Italian invasion of Greece launched on 28 October 1940.

pp 125 & 126, Historical Dictionary of Albania, Raymond Hutchings, The Scarecrow Press, 1996

Italian Occupation Of Albania (1939-1943)

The Italian occupation of Albania lasted from 7 April 1939 (the date of the invasion) to the Italian capitulation to the Allies on 8 September 1943. During this period, Albania and Italy were organically linked. The armed forces of Albania and Italy were merged. King Victor Emmanuel III was proclaimed king of Albania (King Zog had fled). Italians occupied the chief towns and strategic points. The former Italian ambassador to Albania, Francesco Jacomoni, was appointed governor. Economically, the two countries were merged. Customs duties in trade between them were abolished. Italians could settle without restriction in Albania.

From 28 October 1940 onward, when Italian forces invaded Greece, Albania was the primary base for Italian forces waging this war. Albanian forces, being considered part of the joint Italian-Albanian army were assigned to the front. Some individual soldiers refused to fight and were confined in a concentration camp in Shijak. At first Italian forces advanced into Greece; soon they were thrown back, and Greek forces pressed into Albania. Following the overthrow of Yugoslavia by German forces, Yugoslavia was partitioned, and areas which contained any sizable number of Albanians were assigned to Italy and added to the Albanian state. In general, Albanians welcomed this accession of territory containing their compatriots but regretted the union with Italy. Economically, Albania benefited in two ways: first, through the addition of Kosovo with its more favorable ratio of land to population, and, second, through the Italian investment (in roads, etc) and technical aid. Opposition was expressed by way of strikes (such as Shkodër) and demonstrations (such as Korcë) and partisan resistance began.

Following the Italian capitulation, the occupation ceased but numerous Italians (perhaps 20,000) remained within the country. These were rounded up by the Germans and taken to Germany (many officers being shot) or else they evaded capture and adopted some disguise, for example, as agricultural laborers. A small number even joined Albanian partisan groups. This aftermath is illustrated in Ismail Kadare’s The General of the Dead Army and in Reginald Hibbert’s Albania’s National Liberation Struggle: The Bitter Victory.

Excerpted from pp 126 & 117, Historical Dictionary of Albania, Raymond Hutchings, The Scarecrow Press, 1996

The Celebrated Albanian Kilt; Fustanella e Fameshme e Shqipetarit

Man wearing Albanian Kilt

Man wearing Albanian Kilt

The famous Albanian kilt (or fustanella as it is known in the Albanian language) was common dress for men in the 13th century where it was regularly worn by a tribe of the Dalmatians, one of the Illyrian progenitors of the Albanians. At that time, the kilt was called “Dalmatica”, however, theories exist that the kilt really had its origin during much earlier times as a long shirt called “linja” which, when gathered at the waist by a sash, gave the appearance of a knee- or calf-length kilt. Depending on the social status of the wearer, materials used in fabricating the fustanella (thereby defining the number of pleats) ranged fromcoarse linen or woolen cloth for villagers to luxurious silks for the more affluent. Although the kilt was once worn by men throughout Albania, today it is seen only on special occasions in southern Albania, especially in the Gjirokaster area, and in the Albanian regions of Montenegro, Kosova, Serbia, Macedonia, and Greece.

The Hungarian sociologist, Baron Nopcsa, believed that the Albanian, or Illyrian, kilt became the original pattern for the Roman military dress, and, because of its similarity to the Celtic kilt, he also theorized that the Roman legions in Britain, through the presence of its Illyrian element, probably started the fashion among the Celts (it may also be interesting to note that the Celtic word for “Scotland” is “Alban”).

Lord Byron, in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, observed the “…Albanian kirtled to the knee”, and T.S. Finlay in his Travels through Greece and Albania states, unequivocally, that “It was the fame of the Albanians which induced the modern Greeks to adopt the Albanian kilt as their national costume.”

See “The Albanians and Their Territories,” Pages 164-166, “8 Nentori ” Publishing House, Tirana, 1985, and Faik Konitza’s “Albania: Rock Garden of Southeastern Europe ,” Pages 81-90

From at least the 14th century, a strong cotton cloth called “fustan” was produced – hence the name of the garment “fustan” and later the diminutive “fustanella.” But archeological evidence points to the fustanella as being a more ancient form of clothing. Among the more important (archeological) finds are:

1. a small ceramic statue from the 4th century C.E.(AD) found in Durres which depicts a man wearing a long fustanella fastened with two bands across the chest

2. a gravestone from the 3rd to 4th century C.E.(AD) found in Smokthine, near Vlora, which shows a man dressed in a fustanella

3. a much more ancient figurine found in Maribor, Slovenia, which dates from the 5th century B.C.E. (BC) which also shows a fustanella worn with the two bands across the chest.

LIRIA, December, 1991

Academy Award Nominee: Colonel Bunker (Kolonel Bunker)

Albanian Film: Colonel Bunker (French-Albanian-Polish)
A 3B Prods. (Paris)/Orafilm (Tirana)/Film Studio Dom (Warsaw) production.
Produced, directed and written by Kujtim Cashku, Camera (color), Afrim Spahiu, Jerzy Rudzinski;
Editor, Kahena Attia-Roveill; Music, Andrez Krause; Production Design, Shaqir Veseli:
Costume Design, Astrit Tota; Sound, Ilir Gjata.
Reviewed at the Thessalonika Film Festival, Greece, Nov. 12, 1996. Running time: 103 Min.

Muro Neto (Colonel Bunker)…………….Agim Qirjaq
Ana, his wife…………………………………Anna Nehrebec
With: Cun Lajci, Guljem Radoja, Kadri Roshi, Petrit Malaj

Film Review: VARIETY, Dec. 9-15, 1996 A dark-hued political parable based on fact, “Colonel Bunker” shows in stark detail the lengths to which an insanely paranoid regime will go to terrorize its own people. Occasional technical weaknesses, and one or two self-consciously poetic interludes, do blunt the film’s grimly humorous impact. Director Kujtim Cashku’s ninth feature (submitted by Albania for the forthcoming best foreign-language pic Oscar) deserves to put his country’s little-known movie industry on the map.

In 1974, the hard-line Stalinist Enver Hoxha regime, having quarreled with virtually every other state in the world, retreated into sulky isolation. A program known as “bunkerization” was instituted with 700,000 semi-subterranean concrete bunkers to be built for the population of 3 million in case of hostile action by any of Albania’s myriad enemies. The program, which calls on virtually the entire economic resources of Europe’s most impoverished country, is to continue until 1981.

Cashku’s film focuses on the man chosen to organize this concrete nightmare: Muro Neto, a professional soldier who becomes known as “Colonel Bunker.” Secretly skeptical about his task, he nonetheless obeys. However, the same day that he’s assigned the job, Albania’s politburo decides to abolish all military ranks, thus thwarting him of an expected generalship. When Neto finally displays his resentment publicly, it brings about his downfall.

Early on, there’s a scene — in darkness cut by flashing lights and wailing sirens — where a panicky populace is hurried down into underground shelters by uniformed figures. What makes the familiar sequence so bizarre is that the people are bewildered peasants driving their cows and goats along with them. The deranged response of Albania’s leaders to an imagined external threat underlines the film’s message that the true enemy of the people was their own government.

As portrayed by Albanian actor Agim Qiraqi, Neto is no stone-faced appararatchik but a troubled figure, forcing himself to go along with a policy he knows is insane. His one anchor is his love for his Polish wife, Ana, played with moving dignity by Anna Nehrebecka.

With its moody lighting, Afrim Spahiu’s lensing enhances the film’s atmosphere, though occasionally shaky editing and continuity mar the effect. Inclusion of some confusing, would-be lyrical episodes involving a pair of English-speaking youngsters making love in the bunkers is a mistake, as is a clinched ending, in which Neto dies. (The real-life Neto is still alive, and helped with the making of the film). However, such lapses matter little, given the revelatory power of the story the pic tells. — Philip Kemp

INTERNATIONAL AWARDS FOR COLONEL BUNKER:

— Winner “Le Prix de la Critique” Mediterranean Film Festival, Bastia, France, 1996
— “Special Jury Prize” International Film Festival, Izmir, Turkey, 1996
— Official Entry OSCAR-96 for the Best Foreign Language Award, 1996
— “Selected Official Competition” Montreal World Film Festival, Canada, 1997
— “GRAND PRIX” Eurofilm Festival, Saint Etienne, 1997
— Premio-CICT-IFTC (UNESCO) 1998
— “Grand National Prix” Albanian Film Festival, Tirana, 2000

*Colonel Bunker was among 39 films selected for the Oscar prize. Before arriving in Los Angeles, the film was sent to Montreal, Canada where it was selected for showing at the A Series Film Festival, and then to the International Film Festival in Salonika, Greece, and the Strasbourg European Film Festival in Germany.