Vive la resistence!!!!!!!!!!
Updated: Jul 5
Recently I came back to writing the book on the monumentality of the peripheries in socialist Albania. My fieldwork documenting monuments of WW2 heroes in 2015-2017 explained me quite well this ambiguity phenomenon. I was on my way to document the monument in Bërzhitë, a village located uphills on the way from Tirana to Elbasan. The weather was terrible, as usually in the winter time, grey sky and heavy showers, and therefore I wasn’t sure if I was on the right track.
The ‘lapidars’, as these monuments all called in Albania, are not something local inhabitants would be proud of, neither they are ashamed of them. I realised they treat them rather as a part of the landscape, without reflecting much of either they love or hate them. They are just there, end of a story.
I decided to ask somebody if i’m on a right way to find my object. There was a road-side coffee bar on the right side, so I pulled down my car and opened the window, then the black car coming from the other side stopped and the guy in the car opened his window too. Basically we blocked the road for a few minutes, but it was quite empty anyway and nobody complained as they were curious what happens next.
I asked kind of light-minded way — “Do you know where is located this socialist monument / lapidary?” The guy got stoned, I thought first he’s thinking how to explain it to me, but then he exploded. “Look there’s no SOCIALIST MONUMENT HERE!” So I explained him briefly what I’m looking for. And then I understood that this tiny, in my mind, detail was such a sensitive issue. Finally he explained me where it is located, and at the end he bluntly added — “Listen, this is not socialist, socialist is communist, it’s dictatorial, it’s Enverial! And this is partizan monument, for the heroes of WW2! Do you understand? We are proud of our heroes! But not of Ever, this is a big difference in Albania.” I thanked him for everything and while passing his car, and letting go all the cars waiting behind me, I thought to myself, it really makes sense here, even if it seems a bit schizophrenic at the first glance. But then what isn’t here. I smiled to myself and finally approached concrete structure with a 3-4 meter high clenched fist with a gun — the monument of Bërzhitë.
After telling this story to a friend of mine from Tirana - Idlir - he added a very interesting personal experience connected to this monument:
My grandpa and grandma (my mom’s parents) joint the armed resistance in 1942 and 1943, respectively. They were in the 17th partizan brigade. They never liked, as far as I remember, to speak about the shit they saw in combat, but my grandmother told me once how much amazed she got in this battle when the partizans discovered from dead nazis and prisoners a huge amount of loot, mostly from Greece, where this 3000-strong German convoy was coming from. Women’s jewellery, ancient artifacts, religious items, robbed from churches in Greece, all sorts of personal civilian items, valuables that would not normally belong to soldiers. My grandpa was a battalion commander and he lost about 1/3 of his unit. My grandma lost one of her best friends, a girl her age who was a schoolmate of hers (both born in 1924). It must have been in November 1974, I was 6 yrs old, my grandparents went to Elbasan, their hometown and took me with them. On the way to, they stopped at this monument. The old woman started crying softly and pronouncing the names of god knows how many people who fell there. The old man was behaving awkwardly, too, but more composed than grandma, anyway. Told her in hushed voice to hush up, and off we went!!!!!
Vive la resistance!!!!!!!!!!