Author Archives: discoveringalbania

RINDERDTIM I SARAJEVE TE KAPIDAN GJON MARKA GJONIT!

Misioni yne eshte nje nisiative private e perqendruar rreth restaorimit dhe ruajtjes se trashegimise historike dhe kulturore te Sarajeve te Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjonit ne interes te mbare publikut.

Objektivi yne, vecse ruajtja dhe riorientimi i ktyre vlerave mbetet edukimi dhe njohja e publikut me trashegimine e Sarajeve dhe te tokes se Sarajeve, permes grumbullimeve publike ne strukturen e Sarajeve te rindertuara dhe ne ambjentet e obborrit te riorganizuar.

Sarajet do te jene nje qender grumbullimi e mikpritje per te gjithe shqiptaret dhe turistet te cilet do te kene rastin te njihen me historine reale te Deres se Ghomarkut, rendesine e saj historike dhe kulturore si dhe kontributin e saj per Mirditen dhe mbare Shqiperine. Sarajet jane nje vend ku mund te reflektohet mbi historine unike te Mirdites, mbi historine e Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjonit i cili nuk i ka harruar kurre sakrificat, humbjet, kontributin e mirditasve e mbi te gjitha besimin e mirditasve te kapidani i tyre.

Atyre te mbare Mirdites dua tu them: “Ta transformojme kete enderr ne realitet, ti rindertojme bashkarisht Sarajet, e ti gezohemi bashkarisht historise se mrekullueshme te Mirdites dhe mbare Shqiperise”.

Me mbeshtetjen tuaj ky sforcim me ndihmon te ndihmoj Mirditen per te qene e njohur nga te gjithe. Për të mbështetur këtë iniciativë, ju lutemi vizitoni www.sarajetgjonmarkagjonit.com.

Bianca M. Gjomarkaj

TO BE OR NOT TO BE…THE CULTURAL MONUMENT QUESTION

The “Kulla e Gjon Marka Gjonit” in the city of Shkodra was/is known as the property of Gjon Marka Gjoni (Gjomarkaj), heir of Prince Preng Bib Doda.

In 1945 the property was seized for political motives by the communist regime and Gjon Marka Gjoni was declared ‘enemy of the state’.

In 1973, the time when the home was deemed a ‘Cultural Monument Category I’, the heirs of Gjon Marka Gjoni (Gjomarkaj) were all unaware of the institutional acts, put in place at that time, on the categorization of their home as a Cultural Monument Category I object, since it had been sequestered by the communists.

The decision to designate our home as a Cultural Monument was made at a time when the family of Gjon Marka Gjoni had either been killed, imprisoned, encamped at Lushnja, exiled and politically discriminated against. A family who has a place in the history books of Albania but yet not a word is mentioned in the schools. A family who lost and suffered tremendously under the regime. A family who has accumulated cultural values through the centuries.

We, the living heirs of Gjon Marka Gjoni, DO NOT accept nor recognize the status bestowed on our great home made during a time of great suffering; while the home was in possession of the communist regime and was being utilized by them for their own greedy purposes.

Current Law 27/2018, Article 32, para 4 (e): National Cultural Heritage Registration Institute (NCHRI) grants movable and immovable cultural properties REGISTRATION CERTIFICATES.

Current Law, 27/2018 on Cultural and Heritage Museums, Chapter II, Section I, Article 57 clearly states:

1. The properties defined in paragraph 1 of article 50 of this law, which were created more than 50 years ago in case of movable property and more than 70 years ago in case of immovable property, are subject to the provisions of this section until the VERIFICATION PROVIDED IN PARAGRAPH 2 OF THIS ARTICLE IS COMPLETED.

2. UPON THE INITIATIVE OR REQUEST OF ENTITIES OWNING THE PROPERTY AND PROVIDED WITH THE RELEVANT DATA, the ministry responsible for cultural heritage and specialized institutions verifies the existence of artistic, historic, archaeological and ethnographic interest for properties in paragraph 1 of this article, based on general feature data provided by the NTCHC with the purpose of ensuring uniformity in assessment, and in accordance with the procedure provided in this law.

Current Law, 27/2018 on Cultural and Heritage Museums, Chapter II, Section I, Article 60 clearly states:

1. The verification procedure is concluded with the issuance of the NCHRI, NCHI or NTAC head order, which makes reference to the committee decision and includes the verification of the cultural interest or lack thereof. THIS ORDER IS COMMUNICATED TO THE APPLICANT ENTITY AND SPECIALIZED INSTITUTIONS.

We, the owners, have NEVER made such a request, NOR have we ever received any order by the institutions referenced above.

We, the owners, were NEVER provided with any documentation or CERTIFICATE on the status of this property by the Ministry of Culture.

We, the owners, NEVER approved any restoration that may have been done to this property; restoration which would have been a consequence of the destruction inflicted on the property while under the communist regime.

We, the owners, NEVER approved the addition of a gable on the original roof line, which undermines the status of any building deemed a cultural monument. A gable which was added under the communist regime reflecting their communist flag (albeit the star over the eagle has since been removed).

Pursuant to Law 27/2018, Article 57, para 1 and 2:

I am requesting all case files in possession of the Ministry of Culture, relating to the application and verification process for the “Kulla e Gjon Marka Gjonit”, be forwarded to me, immediately.

Pursuant to Law 27/2018, Article 5 ‘Definitions’ and Article 70, para 1 and 2:

I am requesting the ORIGINAL (1973) CULTURAL PROPERTY CERTIFICATE, which MUST include all the elements referenced in paragraph 2 (a – e) of Article 70.

If the State wishes to have this home placed in a Cultural Monument Status they must rescind the current ILLEGAL ‘Cultural Monument Status’, not recognized by the family, revoke any claim they feel they have to the property and proceed with a NEW request by the family, if they so chose, conforming to current Law 27/2018, instituted during Democracy.

To have deemed our home a Cultural Monument during a period of atrocity toward our family and the Albanian people is an insult to the memory of our grandfather, Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjoni and family members who were killed and suffered under that very despicable regime.

As of this day no apology has been made directly to the legal heirs of Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjoni, children of his sons: Mark Gjon Marku, Ndue Gjon Marku and Nikoll Gjon Marku, for the losses and suffering the family endured during the 50 years of communist regime. Yet, you want a right to our home by pretending it to be a ‘cultural monument’!

This letter has been forwarded by me to the appropriate institutions:

Ministry of Culture; US Ambassador Yuri Kim, Tirana; UNESCO and the European Commission, European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA), Brussel, Belgium.

Bianca M. Gjomarkaj

RINDERDTIM I SARAJEVE TE GJON MARKA GJONIT!

Koha per rindertimin e Sarajeve te Oroshit ka ardhur! Qysh nga momenti i djegies se Sarajeve, ne shtator te vitit 1944 e deri sot ka kaluar nje heshtje e trishte. Rindertimi i Sarajeve te Gjon Marka Gjonit eshte nje inisiative private por nga e cila perfiton e gjithe Mirdita duke qene se ky projekt i perfunduar kthehet edhe ne nje qender te mirefillte kulture dhe e ringjalljes se historise se Oroshit. Sarajet do te jene nje qender mikpritje per te gjithe shqiptaret dhe te huajt ne te njejten menyre ku do te prekni e shijoni aktivitete kulturore e artisike, oborr klasik dhe mbi te gjitha do te njiheni me Muzeun e Sarajeve te Oroshit. Tek Sarajet do te gjeni natyre, histori dhe kulture ne cdo kend te rindertuar.

Pergjate komunizmit, Mirdita ishte e pushtuar dhe e sunduar. Kullat e Gjomarkajve ne Orosh me gjithecka kishin brenda u dogjen dhe u shemben nga komunistet. Familja e Gjon Marka Gjonit u fshikullua neper burgje dhe internime dhe u shpernda ne te ghithe boten. Mirditoret kaluan nje jete te veshtire 45 vjet te pushtimit komunist, kapidanet dhe udheheqesit e tyre tradicional u vrane nga komunistet, u burgosen dhe merguan. Shpresat e Mirditoreve kane shkuar deri ne shuarje dhe endrrat e mirditasve u prene.

Jam rritur sa ne Rome sa ne New York. Ne vitin 2012, une dhe bashkeshorti im vendosem te braktisim jetesen tone ne Shtetet e Bashkuara te Amerikes dhe te fillojme nje jete te re ketu, ne Shkoder, ne banesen e familjes time. Ishte nje vendim i veshtire per tu marre dhe nje kendveshtrim i ri i jetes time. Jemi transferuar ne shtepine e familjareve te mi dhe sot e gjithe Shkodra eshte e dashur si shtepia jone per ne.

Gjate ksaj periudhe reflektimi, kam filluar te imagjinoj rindertimin e Sarajeve dhe transformimin e tyre ne nje Muze, ne respekt e memorje te familjes dhe te historise tone, por edhe si qender kulturale per Mirditen, per tu dhene mundesi mirditasve patriote te kuptojne se ne nuk i kemi harruar.

Nuk ka kaluar nje dite e vetme qe gjyshi im Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjoni dhe babai im Kapidan Ndue Gjon Marku nuk flisnin per Oroshin. Ishte shtepia e tyre pergjithmone. Edhe pse te kishin ndodhur gjera mjaft te trishta ne Orosh, edhe pse kishin humbur te bijte dhe vellezerit ne lufte kunder komunizmit, gjyshi dhe babai im nuk e kane harruar kurre Oroshin dhe nuk kane dashur kurre nje vend me shume se Oroshin.

Me kaq ne mendje dhe kujtese, jetoj gjithashtu me shpresen e madhe per ti shikuar te rindertuara Sarajet dhe per te shikuar nje fillim te Ri per Oroshin, Mirditen dhe mbare Shqiperine. Sarajet do te jene nje qender grumbullimi e mikpritje per te gjithe shqiptaret dhe turistet te cilet do te kene rastin te njihen me historine reale te Deres se Ghomarkut, rendesine e saj historike dhe kulturore si dhe kontributin e saj per Mirditen dhe mbare Shqiperine.

Sarajet jane nje vend ku mund te reflektohet mbi historine unike te Mirdites, mbi historine e Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjonit i cili nuk i ka harruar kurre sakrificat, humbjet, kontributin e mirditasve e mbi te gjitha besimin e mirditasve te kapidani i tyre.

Si shqiptaro -amerikane, bija ksaj familje fisnike, e transferuar tashme ne trojet e Atit te saj, dua te falenderoj te gjithe ata qe me kane pritur me krahe hapur e me kane bere te ndiehem e mireseardhur. Atyre dhe njerezve te mbare Mirdites dua tu them: “Ta transformojme kete enderr ne realitet, ti rindertojme bashkarisht Sarajet, e ti gezohemi bashkarisht historise se mrekullueshme te Mirdites dhe mbare Shqiperise”.

Me mbeshtetjen tuaj ky sforcim me ndihmon te ndihmoj Mirditen per te qene e njohur nga te gjithe.

Për të mbështetur këtë iniciativë, ju lutemi vizitoni www.sarajetgjonmarkagjonit.com.

Bianca M. Gjomarkaj

KULLA GJON MARKAGJONI

On October 7, 2020 TV host Blendi Fevziu of TV Klan showed a documentary on Shkodra, featuring among other things, the Kulla Markagjoni (my family home). While I appreciate the exposure of this famous property, some clarifications need to be made regarding his reporting (around minute 29:18).

He stated that the family refused to allow them inside the property and he didn’t know what the reason for the refusal was, but that it is a tradition in the city of Shkodra to have your door ‘open’ for guests.

First of all, I was never contacted by him or his staff. If by chance someone tried to call me they should know that I don’t answer unknown numbers and the best way to contact me is through an SMS, FB message or email, detailing their request. Second, our door is always open to the occasional visitor, who has contacted me prior to their arrival, family and friends. I am not in the habit of letting just anyone onto the property for obvious reasons.

If a TV host wants to do a show regarding my house they need to contact me personally and request an appointment, inquire as to my availability and schedule a time and date for the visit. I do not allow anyone onto the property without prior vetting, unless I know who they are. Furthermore, the information provided on the program regarding the house was not quite correct.

This house was built during the time of Bib Dode Pasha (1820-1868), where he used to host his tribe members while in Shkodra. Subsequently, after his death, the house belonged to his son, Preng Bib Dode (1860-1919). It was Preng Bib Dode who commissioned renowned architect Kole Idromeno (1860-1939) to design and build the Tower, also known as the Kulla. The Kulla was a later addition to the house, that had been built about 100 years earlier. The tower was added around 1910. Therefore, the house was not built by Preng Bib Dode as stated on the documentary.

After the death of Preng Bib Dode the house was purchased by my grandfather, Gjon Markagjoni, from his widow, and has since been known as the Kulla Markagjoni.

My grandfather lived in the house along with his family during the winter months and spent the summer months at their Sarajat (Villa) in Orosh, until 1944 when the communists took power. After the takeover of communism in November 1944, my grandfather and father, Ndue, were forced to flee Albania and went into exile in Italy. My uncles Mark and Sander continued the fight against the communists and were ultimately killed in 1946 and 1947, respectively.

The Kulla was confiscated by the communists and the Sarajat in Orosh was burned to the ground. My uncle Ded was arrested. He spent the next 47 years both imprisoned and in internment camps. My aunts Marta and Bardha, my uncle Nikoll, my cousins Gjon, Kristina and Celestina, along with my grandmother Mrika, great grandmother Dava, and Mark’s wife, Marta, were all arrested and spent the next 47 years in jail/internment camps. My grandmother, great-grandmother and Mark’s wife all perished in the camps. My uncle Nikoll escaped the camp in Turan in 1949 and ultimately reached his father and brother in Italy. The rest of the family remained in the camps until the fall of communism in 1991.

The Kulla, under the communists, was turned into their headquarters. They destroyed all furnishings and valuables in the house and stole all other personal possessions left behind. During the regime the house became their private offices and ultimately a school for girls. Before the fall of communism and prior to the squatters having to leave the house they destroyed it as best they could.

In 1991, after the fall of communism and when the family was finally freed they returned to their now ruined home in Shkoder. During the next 12 years they put all their might and love into restoring the house to a somewhat livable condition.

After the death of my cousin Gjon in 2003 the house remained inhabited by my uncle Dede and aunts Marta and Bardha. Kristina and Celestina had married and were living outside the home. In 2006 we lost our aunt Marta, leaving Dede and Bardha the elders living in the house.

In 2012 we decided to retire to Albania and moved here from the USA. Unfortunately, after four months, in 2013, my aunt Bardha died, followed by my uncle Dede in 2015. 

Since then we have put all our effort into trying to restore and maintain this property as best we could and are still working on it. It’s a never ending task as the property is quite big, roughly 3000m² or 32,291sqft. This is private property and is inhabited by myself, grand-daughter of Gjon Markagjoni and my husband. Kristina, my cousin, lives on the property in a separate house. All other legal heirs, grandchildren of Gjon Markagjoni, reside in the USA.

 Bianca Gjomarkaj

STILL NO CLOSURE AFTER 74 YEARS!

There were over 100,000 Albanians who were murdered during the communist regime (1944-1991) at the hands of Enver Hoxha. Of those, upwards of 5,087 bodies are still missing. Their remains have never been found, or returned to their families.

Among these 5,087 were Kapidan Mark Gjon Marku and his brother Llesh Gjon Marku, both killed in 1946 and 1947, respectively.

Mark’s body, after it was found in Perlatit-Këthel, on June 14, 1946, was taken and dragged through the streets of Shkodra and placed in front of City Hall for everyone to see. Afterward it was buried in a mass grave with other murdered nationalists, or so the story goes, but nobody is sure. To this day the family has no idea where their brother, father, uncle’s body is.

One year later, his brother Llesh (Sander) Gjon Marku was also murdered in an ambush in Mungje, on 9 August, 1947. There is no trace of his body or knowledge of where it was disposed.

As of today, not only this family, but all the families of all the victims of crimes committed under the regime have yet to receive an apology from the government. The families of the murdered have yet to receive any kind of information as to where the bodies of their loved ones are. Families have yet to receive full compensation for the murders of their loved ones. On the contrary, the funds allocated as compensation for the families of the victims have been trickling down over the last 20 years in dribs and drabs.

In 1995, then Prime Minister Sali Berisha, signed a decree stripping all honors and titles awarded to the high ranking members of the communist dictatorship due to “Criminal Acts of Genocide Committed Against the Albanian People”, thereby confirming that such acts did indeed occur. However, that’s where the ceremonial decrees or public display of repentance stopped.

Here we are 74 years after the takeover of communism in Albania; 29 years after the fall of communism and still, families have been left in the dark about the whereabouts of the remains of their loved ones. Left helpless in the quest to find them and put them to rest once and for all.

No apologies. No reconciliation. Not a whisper. Business as usual!

Bianca Gjomarkaj

THE MARKAGJONI FAMILY – FOUNDATION OF TRADITION

In seeking justice sometimes the legal system is not enough. The story must be told and allow the public in, show what turmoil and injustices are being inflicted. To this end, we want to briefly share with you the story about our family who through the centuries has had to endure prejudices and losses, all the while defending itself and its people from the perpetrators. A story that, although may not be unique in today’s greedy climate, is certainly one which has a particular national history that cannot be denied. A story of survival and rebirth of a family which through the centuries was defeated and rose again to face the brutality of its aggressors and has never given up on the hope of ultimate justice, democracy and freedom, not only for their sake but for all Albanians.

PRINCE LEK DUKAGJINI

The beginning of the sovereignty of the Gjomarkaj dynasty dates to the early centuries, as the descendants of Prince Lek Dukagjini. The Dukagjini princes were one of the oldest and most noble Albanian families, their principality was established at the end of the 12th century. The greatest legacy that Dukagjini left to his people is the “Kanun of Lek Dukagjini”, a set of customary laws of the highlands, which is preserved as a great value to the highlanders. Mirdita, the seat of the Gjomarkaj dynasty, has always been governed according to this principle of the Kanun and the House of Gjomarku submitted to the Kanun as the traditional law of the country, especially since it was the foundation of the Kanun. This code was embedded in the culture of the highlanders; they lived and died by it. Our family was the keeper of this code and bound by honor would not, under any circumstance, dare to deviate from it.

In Mirdita, the Gjomarkajs continued their anti-Ottoman wars, proud of their Catholic religion, until they forced the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire into agreements with their province, which was quite different from other provinces of Albania. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Christian religion was preserved intact only in Mirdita and in defense of Catholicism and independence Mirditans constantly lived between wars and bloodshed, with the Gjomarkajs consistently ready to defend their homeland against the enemies of the nation. When their help was sought, at the unification of the Albanian lands, they were unfailingly ready to oblige as shown in the years 1444, 1878-1912, 1920, 1944-1990.

Throughout the centuries they endured prison, defied death in thousands of wars and suffered losses, forever leaving their heroic name engraved in history. Such Kapidans to be mentioned are: Gjon Marku I; Lleshi I Zi; Bib Doda; Preng Bib Doda; Marka Gjoni, President of the Republic of Mirdita; Gjon Markagjoni; Dr. Mark Gjon Gjomarkaj, Minister of Interior 1943; Ndue Gjon Gjomarkaj, founding Member of the National Independent Bloc; Sander Gjon Gjomarkaj, successor to his brother Mark in the fight against the communists; Dede Gjon Gjomarkaj, imprisoned and interned during the communist regime 1945-1990 and Nikoll Gjon Gjomarkaj, bravely escaped the concentration camp in Tepelene in 1949.

(l-r) Mark Gjon Marku, Gjon Markagjoni, Ndue Gjon Marku, Dede Gjon Marku, Nikoll Gjon Marku, Sander Gjon Marku

Our family suffered brutally under the communist dictatorship regime which engulfed Albania in 1945. A regime that sought to destroy it and eradicate it from the face of the earth. The hatred felt for our name was like no other. We were stigmatized as the ‘enemies of the people’. Children were taught in school that the name Gjon Markagjoni was to be reviled. Our properties and personal goods were confiscated by the regime, the seat of our House in Orosh, Mirdita, was burned to the ground. While our other home in Shkoder was sequestered and turned into ‘sigurimi’ headquarters, destroying all our possessions. Our uncles, Mark and Sander, were killed fighting against the invading communist forces trying to hold off what would become the darkest period in Albanian history. Our other uncles, aunts and cousins were jailed and interned in concentration camps. Our families were kept apart for 45 long years, those left behind in Albania lived under brutal conditions and sustained unimaginable tortures and unspeakable acts.

THE KULLA

The house in Shkoder has an important history. It dates to the early 19th century and is the most prominent house in the city with a five story tower rising up above it, a tower designed by the famous architect Kol Idromeno and known nationally as the Kulla Markagjoni (Resistance Tower of Markagjoni). The total property measures 2,650m2, while the house itself is 819m2. The house originally belonged to Prince Preng Bib Doda, Kapidan of Mirdita and head of the Gjomarkaj Household. Upon his death in 1919, which left no heirs, his legal successor became his cousin, our grandfather, Gjon Markagjoni. Preng Bib Doda’s wife, Lucia, was allowed to remain in the house until he proceeded to take steps to reclaim it. In 1929, through a legal agreement between him and Lucia, the house transferred title to Gjon Markagjoni and remained as such until the communists confiscated it in 1945.

Kap. Llesh and Bardha Marka Gjoni in the garden of their home in Shkoder

In its heyday the house was lived in and loved. The family came to Shkoder during the winters, in order for the children to attend school and returned to Mirdita in the summers, with the exception of the older sons; Mark, Ndue and Sander. In a family as large as ours the house was truly a hamlet. It houses 25 rooms on the interior, comprising the tower and the cellar (running the whole length of the house) which housed the servants’ quarters and a modern day kitchen. The upstairs was decorated with antiques, Persian rugs and opulent chandeliers and the library, where our grandfather conducted business and hosted guests from all walks of life, was the centerpiece. It has a wood carved ceiling, wall panels and bookshelf and now a non working fireplace.

When the house was confiscated in 1945 all interior furniture and accessories were burned. The house was turned into Sigurimi headquarters by the communist forces and later a school for girls. In the process of these turnovers the house was destroyed; walls were demolished, bars put on the windows, even the communist flag, carved on a pediment, was placed on the roof. Before the fall of communism, the house was trashed even more, such was the hate toward our family by the communists.

DEMOCRACY AND REUNIFICATION

This dynasty has, through the centuries, sacrificed and lost all in the name of country and religion. In 1991, when democracy swept the country, everyone was finally reunited. Our uncle Dede, aunts Marta and Bardha and cousin Gjon reclaimed the family’s home in Shkoder and amid all the rubble and disrepair they moved in slowly and began to rebuild.

When the family moved back in the house in 1991, our cousin Gjon was 53 years old and desiring to begin a new life he decided to marry and carry on the family name. In 1993 he was introduced to Brigjilda Paloke Gjergji and shortly thereafter they married. As time went on she became part of the family nucleus and was welcomed with open arms. For the next 10 years she lived in the house as a member of the extended family and behaved accordingly. She was admired by everyone who came to visit and was recognized as the wife of the Kapidan.

Unfortunately, they were unable to have any children, therefore no direct heirs of Gjon were left behind when he passed away after a short illness in 2003. His death was devastating to everyone however, aunts Marta and Bardha and uncle Dede, who were in their later years, were still very active and in no way feeble. Gjon’s sister Kristina lived on the property and his other sister Celestina nearby and they came over daily to help the aunts and uncle, who raised them in the camps.

In the Albanian culture and especially as written in the Kanun, the code which they still lived by, when a husband dies childless the wife is not obligated to stay in his house and most times returns to her parents’ house. In this case however, Brigjilda made the conscious decision to remain in our house. She was not asked to remain nor was she forced to, she just decided to continue living there and the family fulfilled her wish to remain, while at the same time she respected that her place was that of an in-law and would adhere to the customs of the House; which was to respect the elders and assist them in their needs, but knowing full well that her place was not that of a blood relative and as such she had no say so in any legal matters concerning the family’s assets.

Marta Markagjoni d,1993

Early in 2006 our aunt Marta, at the age of 90, was diagnosed with skin cancer and suffered a long illness which restricted her daily routines and prohibited her from going outside of the house. The last seven months of her life, from March to October, saw her confined to her bed. She died in October of 2006 surrounded by family.

In 2011 Dede suffered a fall in the garden which fractured his legs. This would leave him infirm until his death in 2015. He would spend the next four years confined to a room roughly 6m2, which included his bed, a tv and sofa for guests.

In light of the turn of events, in 2012, Bianca Gjomarkaj and her husband decided to move to Shkoder and live in her father’s house so that they could be of assistance to the elders in their later years, who were overjoyed at the prospect. They moved into the south wing of the house in December 2012. Life was good for them, they all enjoyed each other’s company and they were a great joy to the uncle and aunt as they were getting to know their niece up-close and personally.

Bardha and Bianca Gjomarkaj

Unfortunately, three months later our aunt Bardha would suffer from a sudden stroke and after a long week of hospice she died peacefully at home on 19 March 2013, surrounded by family; this would be a turning point in the life of the household.

Unbeknownst to the family, three weeks after the death of his sister Bardha, on April 8, 2013 Dede allegedly underwent a psychological exam rendering him capable of drafting and signing legal documents. Four weeks after the death of his sister, on April 25, 2013, he allegedly signed the first Will. Six weeks after that, on June 11, 2013 he allegedly signed a second Will. Two days after that, on June 13, 2013 he allegedly signed a third document, a Sale Contract, for the same properties which were listed in the first Will of April 25. All to the beneficiary: Brigjilda Paloke Gjergji; the widow of his nephew!

Bardha, Bianca and Dede

Our uncle Dede succumbed to pneumonia in January 2015 at the age of 94. He died peacefully at home.

Shortly thereafter we proceeded to file for the legal successions of Dede and Marta. For Dede there were two Wills, as well as a Sale Contract in place and for Marta there was a Will; all naming Brigjilda Paloke Gjiergj, the widow of their nephew, as the beneficiary.

ALBANIANS’ LONG ROAD TO JUSTICE

Justice is what we seek, justice for what is rightfully ours, justice to restitute what belongs to us. We have been battling the system going on five years. Lawsuit after lawsuit all to try and protect what is legally ours. To retain what legally belongs to the heirs of Gjon Markagjoni in the family.

Our cousin Gjon, husband of Brigjilda, owned 1/3 of his father Mark Gjomarkaj’s share, the other 2/3 belong to his two sisters; Kristina and Celestina. Of this 1/3 Brigjilda legally inherits half, while the other half is shared by this two sisters in accordance with Gjon’s legal succession and Albanian law. If Gjon wanted to give all of his share to his then wife he could have done so with a Will, but he did not!

It is therefore inconceivable that any property belonging to this family would ever be willed intentionally to anyone outside of the immediate family, while members of it were still living. The “Kanun Code” did not allow it and our family’s commitment to that code would make it morally impossible.

However, widespread corruption at almost every layer of the Albanian justice system has meant that culprits through dishonest and fake actions have tried to snatch our property from us.

Some of the Judges who made no justice in our case, were soon to fail their own vetting process which clearly shows they were ‘not fit for the purpose’!

The Gjon Markagjoni family recognizes that Brigjilda is entitled to half of her husband’s share and that is all. However, the family DOES NOT recognize Brigjilda’s pretense to own HALF of the properties belonging to Kapidan Gjon Markagjoni; our uncle Dede and aunt Marta’s shares. This is an absurdity!

This road is a long one. The family Markagjoni has not lived through innumerable tragedies and injustices to give up now, even if it means going to Strasbourg. We will succeed in the end. History and truth will not be distorted by the evils which we have witnessed through the decades nor will it be rewritten by the current winds of corruption and envy.

Dera e Gjomarkut will prevail. She will rise from the ashes to soar over the Mirdita mountains once again!

 

Gjon Markagjoni’s only living heirs: (top row left to right) KristinaKristina Markagjoni, Gjon and Celestina

(middle row left to right) Alessandra, Bianca Maria and Maria Cristina

(bottom row left to right) Mark, Anna Maria and Sander

VLLAZNIA. BROTHERHOOD. FRATELLANZA.

VLLAZNIA. BROTHERHOOD. FRATELLANZA.

Vllaznia. Clan. Brotherhood. Fratellanza. Fraternite. Fraternidad. No matter what language you use, the meaning is the same, a group of people tracing descent from a common ancestor”. Of course in different countries the meaning is more powerful and literal than in others. Speaking for Albania, the word ‘Vllaznia’ is commonly used in commercial endeavors ie. Restaurant Vllaznia. But to trace it back to ancient times it had a very powerful meaning.

The Clan in Albania is a very tight, family oriented group. All those belonging to the ‘clan’ descend from a common ancestor. The hierarchy of the clan is passed on from generation to generation to the elder person in the lead clan. The essence of the meaning of the word Vllaznia is still thought of today, even though members of the clans may have disseminated all over the world and the closeness once found in the mountains where they lived is long gone or at the very least minimally found. Which brings me to modern day Albania.

My family was the leading clan of the region of Mirdite. My grandfather, Gjon Markagjoni, was the Kapidan or Chief of the clan at a time when they were still considered powerful and demanded respect, honesty and loyalty above all. After his exile to Italy in 1944, with my father, his eldest son Mark became Kapidan, leader of the Gjomarkaj clan, and until his death in 1946, while fighting the take-over of the communist regime, he succeeded in representing the family and clan undisputably with honor, truth, loyalty and respect for all Albanians and Albania itself.

What is Vllaznia today? The word is being thrown around freely by those who belonged or still belong to a once lost clan, as if saying they are part of the Vllaznia in itself should count for something when their actions speak otherwise. To be able to claim that one is part of the clan one should behave as such. Vllaznia doesn’t just mean ‘brotherhood’, it means being honest, loyal, truthful, respectful, grateful. It means not gossiping about others in your ‘clan’. It means respecting your elders. It means being honest in your behavior, especially toward other members of the Vllaznia. It means many, many things, except: lying, disrespect, backstabbing, gossiping, unfounded accusations.

During my time in Albania I have been approached by many people who claim to be in my ‘Vllaznia’. Most of whom I welcomed readily and happily. Unfortunately the majority of them turned out not to be what I expected and therefore do not consider them part of my ‘clan’ or at the very least they are not welcome in my house any longer.

Anyone who claims to be part of the Gjomarkaj clan, more specifically the clan belonging to Lleshi i Zi, as he’s the ancestor from whom the GjonMarku clan originates, has yet to show ME the respect, honesty, truthfulness and loyalty which the ‘clan of old’ would have afforded to the daughter of their Kapidan.

Furthermore, to those who have shown themselves to be offensive through comments posted online, or through vicious rumors about me or my immediate family (sisters, brother, cousins) all of whom
were born outside of Albania and are immediate targets of the vicious resentment, unfounded jealousies and vindictive actions I say: you have closed your door to yourselves and to your disadvantage, I am afraid that for the foreseeable future it will continue to be so.

Finally, I have been and will continue to be respectful, honest and generous to all who approach(ed) me openly and honestly. To them I say: I value your friendship and support, and you will always continue to be welcomed and respected in our home.

Bianca Gjomarkaj

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