By Mira Kazhani
Today I read the public letter of the Italian ambassador in Tirana, Fabrizio Bucci, addressed to the editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Dita”, Adrian Thano. The letter highlighted the diplomat’s concern about the repeated comparison of Elbasan with Palermo by the reporters covering the black chronicle. The concern is just, legitimate but also patriotic.
The letter defended the honor of Palermo and the image of the capital of Sicily, which we Albanians know from the series “Octopus”, but also from the tragic end of idealists like Falcone and Borsellino. Sicily of the `90s, was like that, bloodthirsty and hostage of the mafia!
“Things have changed today” – says Ambassador Bucci in the letter to the Editor-in-Chief Thano.
The mafia there is not that it no longer exists. It has simply changed. The duty of a man who loves his country, especially a diplomat who directly represents the interests of his homeland, is to defend against any statement or act that tarnishes his image or does not recognize his efforts for change. Compare it with us. We who are Par par excellence champion to make our country dirty, an old political tradition left, even right.
Even journalism, which seeks the darkest comparisons, is a “pattern” of a society that has nothing to do with its own country. We all have it a little bit. We complain every time we fail, we blame Tirana, Vlora, Elbasan, small Albania that does not fulfill our dreams.
This place does not become, we do not become. We believe in escape! Get out of here. Send the kids out. Ah were you with this talent in NY etc, etc. In fact we are not leaving the country, we are leaving each other.
The irony is that the toughest swearers are the ones who have taken the most out of this country. They have become richer, they have created identities and careers, they are many times less tired than their counterparts in NY, Rome, Berlin and Tokyo for “success”. Albania is easier. In the absence of the state and not only the state, there is not only injustice but also advantages.
Why can’t we see the good sides of our little Albania? Why is it so easy to sell? Others do not. Look at the Serbs who have the stain of ethnic cleansing on their foreheads and still carry the smell of blood. The Germans who rose above the ashes of World War II, or the French who do not even greet you in English in the store.
This was the first reflection that liberated me from the letter of the Italian ambassador in Tirana. Italy has sent a good diplomat to Albania from whom we should also learn. Especially how we love the country, even though things are not foil. Neither here nor in the ambassador’s Palermo.
A few words about Palermo, which I shot I visited two years ago, on a week off with my cousin living in Italy. With a “Fiat Punto” we traveled every day from one destination. We had the center in Catania. Location is perfect if you are going to different places in Sicily.
We chose to stay on an Airbnb and it was the best thing because the whole alley was a story, with women still calling the kids from the balcony, like to us in communism.
Most had no air conditioning and either stayed with the windows open and small air fresheners, or with the air fresheners of the ’90s. We had a gallery next door and on the first day we met the art professor who gave us the right advice to visit.
From Albania I was certainly suggested Taormina, which we visited one morning, but we followed the guide of the art professor, we went to Notto, Valle dei Templi, Agrigento, Siracusa, Palermo.
In Catania, he taught us that we should not go to certain areas at night because it was still dangerous. The city, he said, never recovered. The `80s are the most beautiful time of Catania. Sicily was a country full of life. After `90 onwards things changed. Initially the war with the mafia. Then dozens of political and economic elbows. The demand for autonomy has already made matters worse.
Corruption after corruption, mayors controlled by the mafia or raised by them. The young people all fled. Fertilizers were the main signs as the Italian professor of Catania told me. Their collection and recycling was controlled by the mafia and the result was clear, with the naked eye.
In Palermo they were everywhere. The only sign that made me think about the mafia. The rest was a piece of paradise. I had never seen a sunset so orange and fiery as in Palermo. We took the whole bus “Hop On Hop Off” one morning and in headphones I learned a little from the beautiful history of this place that has art carved in the view of buildings, in bistros where high walls and paintings show that there was a library 500 years ago.
The largest Opera and Ballet Theater in Europe is located in Palermo. People are loving, hospitable and like no devil. They barely accept a tip. They are generous in DNA. Order an Aperol Spritz and fill the table with olives, pistachios.
We were not afraid for a single day and there was no place to be afraid. The roads were very good and Sicily was a blessed land with a reddish color and with the sky, that during the stay, we did not see a plume of clouds. It accompanied us with a constant blueness. I left with love and saw no mortgage from that holiday week in Sicily, where we spent a little and got a lot.
Now, it is impossible for Elbasan to resemble Palermo (even if it is a black comparison with the image of the mafia) because they are who they are and Italy with art and pasta has driven the world crazy.
Enough that even the neighbor of arbnb finds the art gallery.
Changed or not, in the beauty of its westerns, as the art professor said, the mafia still thrives, but not like once upon a time. “When we remembered we threw it in the trash, we found it there” I remember he told me.