Speech by Prime Minister Edi Rama at inauguration ceremony of newly renovated house of Father Gjergj Fishta on his birthday anniversary in the village of Fishte, Lezhe:
I am very glad that today on the birthday of Father Gjergj Fishta, we are here to celebrate fulfillment of one of the area’s greatest spiritual needs and I would frankly like to express appreciation to someone who is not neither an official, nor a scholar, but one of the most beautiful people I have ever met while in office.
I mean Altin, the owner of “Mrizi i Zanave” (The Fairies’ Mead) restaurant. I can’t distinguish him because of the face mask, but Altin has been really a kind of a source of inspiration for us and for me personally to build Fishta’s itinerary starting with this very house and move further on, not simply to honor and pay tribute to a great mean, who has no need of what we are doing and what we will do, but to strengthen a spiritual identity of this area which is a striking combination between an incredibly stunning nature, a special hospitality, which has then created a tradition that today has reached a peak worthy of European attention, in what Pjerini called restaurants, but they are actually more than simply restaurants.
They are indeed hospitality kitchens where one can sense the area’s third element, which is an inseparable part of it, the source of dreams turned into poems and essays, dreams turned into a battle of beautifully chosen words to describe Albania, our nation, our history and our future. I am convinced that with these three elements, Fishta and the entire area have the potential of becoming an incredibly most-sought tourist attraction, not only for Albanian visitors, but also foreign tourists, should we be as good and skillful like Altin and Fred are, or like many other local young people who have returned back home after years of living and working abroad to build a sort of a mirror for every lazy and babblers in this country, who just keep complaining while drinking coffee and play on smart phones and live on their parents’ money.
If we would be good enough to live up to this area’s immense potential then this area will certainly will prosper and everyone would wish to come back and spend a part of their life here.
Before coming here today, actually on my way to here I wrote a short text about Father Fishta’s birthday, recalling the fact that Naim’s death and Fishta’s birthday are as if arranged by hand or by God close to each other in a chronological order that is not merely a calendar, but an unifying order of truly two of a kind. They are similar in mysticism, they are similar in terms of their contribution to the nation, and they are similar in making their spirit and word available to the most powerful arsenal of weapons that a nation has to resist challenges of time. They are like the two eagle’s heads for our language, one Ghegh, the other Tosk, two language conduits that referred to two different scores to create different music, but still bound by a very sensitive relation, like the relation between the Gheg and Tosk dialects.
In the meantime, I would also like to recall a fact I didn’t touch upon while writing that text. The fact that Fishta was humiliated for a long time by those who, unable to destroy Highland Lute, even though they locked it up and made it very difficult for us back then to be able to touch and read it, the fact that his grave and remains were desecrated.
The following extract is taken from the Albanian encyclopedia 1985, an era many of the participants here have lived through and we all experienced by constantly reading sentences that sound terrible nowadays;
“Through his journalistic writings, he fought furiously against progressive ideas.”
Gjergj Fishta, a furious fighter against progressive, though he was one of the greatest progressives of this nation.
“On April 7, 1939, he welcomed the country’s invasion by the Fascist Italy. In his work “the Highland Lute”, he glorified the primitive way of life in the country’s highlands, patriarchy and ignorance, he glorified and exalted mercenaries and went on further to write the pamphlet in verses ” Babatasi’s Donkey”, which was a direct allegory against the country’s social and cultural progress.”
This was the spirit of a decades’ long humiliation which was certainly then materialized with his grave and remains’ desecration.
But, unfortunately, things didn’t go well as one would have expected for Fishta following the regime change and when his name, just like it is the case with the name of many prominent people, was misused like the medals being distributed nowadays, which is said to be awarded to the persons they are meant to, but indeed they are medals for those who award them and for people who give themselves the permission to claim imaginary power over others. This way, Fishta became a subject to the foul-mouthed people who behaved like bearers of freedom and democracy, but in fact they took his house stones when his name emerged as a point of reference.
Imagine that this house was declared a protected monument of culture in 1991 and it was destroyed just three years later in 1994. I am convinced that as we speak, those who are watching us and who are provided the opportunity to make comments, there are some who are probably writing as following: “we lack the daily bread, while we deal with Fishta and his house, build cobblestone streets , deal with decorations, deal with culture and so on and so forth.”
But the truth is that, since Skanderbeg era, Albania has recorded not a single victim dying of hunger. Such deaths still take place in other continents and various parts of the world, while Albanians have never faced the prospect of death of hunger since the Skanderbeg era. No Albanians have died of hunger during the communist regime, after its collapse or during the hardest of times this country has ever lived through. But what Albanians have been really deprived of is another kind of bread, the spiritual bread, the bread of culture and knowledge. And while poverty has been and remains an enemy to be eradicated step by step, what comes and reappears as a reflection, if we want to see the source of our problems, is another kind of poverty, the poverty of aspirations, which is the mother of all poverty.
Indeed, this house here represents fulfillment of an aspiration, but not simply to put the stones of Fishta house back to their place, neither to provide Gjergj Fishta a tangible address for the people who wish to visit it, but an aspiration to enhance the bread of culture in a country desperately need it. But what happened to our cultural heritage wealth and what happened to the bread of culture, be it in the past or during the dictatorship era, or afterwards, is the fundamental reason, in my opinion, of many other consequences we still suffer today.
The Skanderbeg’s tomb was destroyed; Berat and Gjirokastra were included on the UNESCO’s black list of endangered world heritage sites; many other monuments of culture and sites were reduced to ruins; this whole wealth was abandoned to its fate. And all of a sudden – as we haven’t work wonders, but we have done for this wealth more than anyone else in all decades combined – a spirit of the revolt brewed for a building at the heart of Tirana that was neither a monument of culture and was totally irrelevant to culture and the cultural heritage and all the reasons why we are here today and feel good while staying in front a modest two-storey house. That, too, was a chilling indicator of a very simple truth about the complete deviation to an unknown direction due to malnutrition for many, many years, decades, with the bread of culture.
I listened very carefully and I thank the gentleman who opened this modest but long-awaited event and I want to tell him that we want and will continue the whole itinerary. This house has been re-declared a cultural monument and we have not only designed the restoration project, but we are pressing ahead with the implementation projects under the whole program designed to renew and revive the traces of Fishta’s life. So, it is about a network of Fishta’s traces throughout the country, as well as abroad, through small or somehow bigger project, which together comprise a complete and huge project ranging from renovation of the Troshan Catholic parish, the place where Fishta’s exceptional talent was discovered, to the Franciscan school in Shkodra, where Father Gjergj attended elementary education, the Parliament’s library dedicated to Fishta, the Troshan Assembly, where he returned to his birthplace to work as a teacher and the interiors of the Troshan Assembly building that was declared a monument of culture by us in 2017 only, where a special pavilion dedicated to Fishta will be created.
The project also includes restoration and museum arrangement of the Unification Association headquarter that brought together Gjergj Fishta, Luigj Gurakuqi, Dom Ndoc Nika, Father Ambroz Marlaskaj, Baron Franz Nopcsa, with Father Gjergj attending the Association’s every publishing event, starting with the ABC-book to literature books and the precious compilation of the Albanian language dictionary. Transforming that half-ruing building into a museum in Sareq, Shkodra, will add another highly worthy museum after the Marubi museum in Shkodra.
We also plan to intervene to commemorate or to revitalize the traces of Gjergj Fishta at the parish church of Dom Lleshi, Diocese of Lezhe, as well as the parish church in Gomsiqe.
We also have a new proposal to build a new pavilion dedicated to Gjergj Fishta also in the museum house where the Congress of Manastir was held in North Macedonia and where Fishta represented the Unification Association and where he delivered a speech on the Latin alphabet during that great showdown over the alphabet.
The digital world will also be a space that will host this network.
As part of the discussion on building a memorial or a monument in public spaces to celebrate the religious coexistence in Tirana, we believe, we believe that a way out should be found to survey what it was also said here and which has been one of the epic battles of Gjergj Fishta, the his fervent protection of the Muslim community and the idea that Albania is neither Muslim nor Catholic, but both a Muslim and Catholic country, a country which is home to this treasury and to which Fishta has given an incredible contribution.
All this would not be enough, if the village of Fishtë itself was not undergo a gradual revitalization and restoration process, so that the whole area becomes attractive as it has already started to become thanks to Altin and thanks others who are very active here and who are giving the area a reputation today, creating the conditions that when people come to this area, they realize that the reputation is actually much bigger, much older and is also related to this great figure of the Albanian nation.
Lasgush Poradeci described Fishta as the rock of the earth and the rock of the Albanian soul. And this is sufficient to conclude my speech and leave today this “Fishta trace”, wishing to return and attend other events that commemorate Fishta itinerary and with the strong and extraordinary desire to give the residents in this area who have, as I said from the beginning, something special and live in a special universe, other tools to build their lives here with a perspective very strongly connected to history, very connected strongly connected with nature, very strongly connected with tradition, very strongly connected with pride for what this area has and for what this area is, what it has from God and what it’s of people.
Many respects and thank you all very much, in the most special way to the gentleman who with the introductory word put me in a difficult position, which is not often the case when it comes to words.