Historic photo from an Austrian student who is now Albania's 'lawyer'

2023-12-07 14:24:06Dhoma e rrëfimit SHKRUAR NGA REDAKSIA VOX
Robert Pichler

By Entela Resuli*

34 years ago Robert Pichler came to Albania quite by chance, but from that time he would be closely connected with this country.

A foreigner who visits Albania in 1989 certainly has a hard time not remembering this country.

I remember everything was gray at that time. There was no color, at least not in people's clothing. But something more than that attracted Pichler and made him return again and again, even learning Albanian.

Today he is a well-known albanologist and one of the people who strongly defends the culture and values ??of our country in Europe.

-Robert, how was your first contact with Albania? How do you remember your first visit to this country?

I had my first contact in 1989, I came to Albania with a group of students to make a trip through the cities of Albania.

This first experience was very bad, I was shocked by the situation in the country, by the sadness that prevailed, by the control that was exercised everywhere.

People were not allowed to talk to us even though we found ways to contact them. The monotony seen in the public space was particularly bad, no color, no light in the evening, men who all had the same waistcoat and wore the same clothes.

We knew very little about Albania at that time. We knew that the country was isolated, had a strict dictatorship, but also that it was a beautiful country, with many mountains and a long coast.

Some of us had a romantic vision of Albania, before coming here they thought that Albania could have taken an interesting path, that there was full employment, there was little crime and progress. A country that had managed to emancipate itself from the Soviet Union, that had preserved its own identity – these were the mythical ideas.

- Did the visit to Albania change your life?

My life has changed drastically through Albania.

I was very curious about this place. I wanted to get back as soon as possible. In 1992, I returned to Albania for 6 months, and it was the beginning of a long journey that continues to this day.

Since then I have worked on issues related to Albanian issues, here in Albania, later in Kosovo and finally in Macedonia.

I completed my master's degree on a topic related to Albania, my doctorate on a topic related to Kosovo and my post doctorate on a topic related to Macedonia.

I am very happy that I am now back in Albania with this exhibition, the many photos and memories of the 90s.

-A few years ago you opened a photo exhibition in Tirana, when you took these photos, did you think that one day they would have this value for our country?

I never expected these photos to gain such value. I did not come here as a photographer, but as a student. Photography was a kind of side job for me, but I was a passionate photographer.

Also, I wanted to travel all over the country, to the north, to the south, to the east, to the coast. They were interesting trips with interesting encounters that have remained deep in my memory. I am very pleased that the photos are taking on a new meaning today and this is thanks to curator Edit Pula's vision for this exhibition and close collaboration with her.

*'Confession Room' exclusive column of Vox News.


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