This is Albania’s National Holiday, Flag Day. On this date in 1912, 101 ago today, the Albanian Flag was raised in Vlora, Albania, marking the nation’s independence from the Ottoman Empire. Albania is one of the countries I can call a second home. It was our first posting as aid workers. We lived there a total of 22 months between 1993 and 1997. When I lived in Anchorage I often mentioned Albania and Kosovo on my radio programs. Perhaps because of this the Albanian community invited me to be the speaker at the 2005 Flag Day ceremony in Anchorage. This is a letter I wrote to my family 20 years ago today, on Flag Day, which was also the celebration of the 55th anniversary of Radio Tirana. Today it is 75 years.
November 28, 1993
November 28, 1993, Flag (Independence) Day in Albania and the 55th anniversary of Radio Tirana. At this morning’s celebration we watched a struggle for the control of history.
The celebration started with greetings from the Director, Mr. Pollo, who talked about the station’s role in the democratic revolution, including the 40 day strike in 1991 and the station’s coverage of the 1992 elections that led to the election of the Democratic Party.
A man read a paper on the history of Radio Tirana. He lamented that the history of 55 years could fit on 30 pages, which he dramatically waved before the audience. He explained that under Enver Hoxha the date of the start of the station was fixed on Dec 17, 1944, the date Tirana was liberated from the Nazis. He spent most of his speech reading newspaper clippings proving the station started regular broadcasts on Flag Day, 1938. He described, in detail, the first programs. He spent only a few moments on the period between 1944 and 1991.
Several others made brief remarks, including a woman who sang in the children’s choir on the first broadcast. Then the mic was opened to the audience. Mr. Pollo’s greatest contribution to Radio Tirana has been what he calls the “democratization of the microphone,” opening up the phone lines and on-the street mics to listeners. This was a democratization of history.
A white haired women stood up and said that it was wrong to forget Dec 17, 1944, because that was a true date of the start of free broadcasting after the Nazis. Those who celebrate that date should not be branded as Communists but patriots. A man rose, his father had been Director General and had hidden equipment from the Nazis in his home against the day that the broadcasts could be free of “Fascist Propaganda.” He said his father and broadcasters who died in defense of the station should be remembered in this history. Another man asked what about the music and literature the station preserved during the Communist period. Should that all now be thrown away in this new history? The story of 55 years should have included more of those accomplishments.
An animated 78 year woman, who had been an announcer and radio actress for 46 years and who had been arrested by the Nazis for not cooperating, spoke. She accused the father of an earlier speaker of causing her arrest by the Germans. She used all her abilities as an actress to make the audience laugh and cry through her story. The earlier speaker walked out and some of the officials tried to gently reclaim the microphone. She stood her ground until she was done.
Finally Mr. Pollo invited everyone to stay for a concert by the Radio Tirana Symphony and Pop Ensemble. A female vocalist sang Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away,” a fine song for a radio station, and a nation, trying to sort out all its yesterdays. “Oh I believe in yesterday.” Yes, but whose.
Pictures include the flag monuments in the Vlora area and Skanderbeg Square showing off the Albanian flag.