Author Archives: discoveringalbania

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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