What are we?
So what are we? Albanians! But why did we lose our language? I will say what I know: Why do old mothers, grandmothers and grandmothers know Albanian better than Greek? Why do we cry and sing in Albanian? Why do we say proverbs in Albanian?
As it seems from 1820 onwards, Greekization was done with a political purpose by Greece itself, which gained freedom with the blood of Albanians, either in Mesolongia or in the Greek revolution. Suli and Himara were Albanians, but two autonomous provinces that did not recognize either Greece or Albania, which had lost its name. Suli and Himara were always at war with the Turk.
The time came when Himara was divided: coastal Himara remained free and Christian, while inland Himara, Labëria, Kurveleshi, Vlora River and Dukat were Muslimized and separated. Although they split into two religions, they never lost the ties of blood and tribe.
Every villager had his own in a Muslimized village since the time of Ali Pasha Tepelena.
When punitive operations were carried out by the Turks, the people of Brega did not go beyond the mountains, to Mesaplik and Kurvelesh, to protect themselves, as they did until that time, but fled by boat to Corfu or to the Gulf, under the protection of the Venetians.
Old men and women and children used to go there. Men fought. They stayed there for many years, until the punitive operations ended. They say that the inhabitants of Dhërmi went to the Greek island, while those of Himara went to the Gulf.
Therefore, when they speak Greek, the people of Dharmija speak like the people of Korfjan, and the people of Himarjot, like the people of the Greek Islands. Then the schools were Greek. Mass was sung in Greek, trade was done with Corfu, Ioannina. Little by little, the ties with Labëria and Dukat are being cut off.
Greece, which was freed first, said that wherever there are Orthodox, they are Greek; Muslims are Turks. Turkish and Kaur antagonism started! Propaganda did its job. This deepened during the time of Ali Pa?e Tepelena, who sent a delegation to Himara, so that Himara would be Muslimized.
The Parish of Himara hosted the delegation in Qeparo, because there were more captains. The delegates of Ali saw Tepelena told them the opinion and purpose of the visit. The elder of the himarjot assembly told the delegates:
- We thank the Pasha, who thinks for our good. Are you telling the Pasha that down here, in the village, we have a field that has no water. It dries up in the summer and gives us nothing. We prayed to Christ and Saint Mary, Saint Kozmai and Saint Spyridon, but they did not give us water. If Muhammad gives us water, we immediately become Muslims. That's what you say to the pasha. When they told the Pasha the answer of the shores, he laughed angrily and said:
- Damn cows, they will pay me!
- Then, laughing: - The Pizevengs are smart, you have nothing to say, they are big lightning bolts!
Little by little the Greek propaganda grew bigger, claiming that Himara was the heroic province of Greece. Many captains, especially paria, had privileges.
And the money of Himara benefactors, who had left it in Greek banks for Himara's schools, was a very serious cause for Greek propaganda.
Gjikë Bixhili from Dhërmiu had earned a lot of money in Russia, where Pano Bixhili, a representative of the Himarjots near Tsar, had taken him to Petersburg. The teachers and expenses for the school were taken from the fund of Gjike Bixhili. Gjike Bixili also built a school, which is still there today. When we were small, in the village school, we used to see his portrait hanging in the classroom.
As Gjike Bixili left the money in the Greek bank, so did many other benefactors from the South, like Zhapa and his friends. There were millions, which became a source to feed Greek propaganda in our country, until the myth of Vorio Epiri and the vorioepiriot syllog was created, which dealt with the liberation of Vorio Epiri, that is, South Albania. The money was made available to the priest, who received a thousand and spent a…
Paria received money from the Greek bank, which was authorized by the reactionary nationalist governments of the Megali Idea (the Megali Idea: for Greece to become great by including in its borders the south of Albania and the Balkan countries where they are orthodox).
The Himarjots who emigrated to Greece had privileges: they were supported as sons of a "heroic Greek province" with a history of bravery and manliness.
The misfortune was that Albania was the last to be liberated in the Balkans. Himara had nurtured the spirit of annexation, autonomy, like Suli, which little by little became Greek.
And, after Albania was liberated, with the borders greatly shortened, Greek propaganda fed the idea of ??Himara's autonomy a lot: neither Albanians, nor Greeks! This propaganda had taken deep roots in the souls of the Himarjots, whose eyes were on Greece.
The Himarjot leaders, like Spiro Miloja, a warrior who helped Greece a lot, was at the head of this propaganda, with all his relatives and lineage scattered in Dhërmi, Vuno and elsewhere.
Spiro Miloja was from Progonati. In our village he had a relative Lluke Zh. and others, who propagated the separation of Himara from Albania. They also used this as the main basis of their propaganda: Why did Labëria become Turkish?
And why don't we also join Greece, which is Turkey's sworn enemy, as we are also Turkey's sworn enemies. Many fanatics were my villagers! There were twenty-six churches. I remember there were eight priests.
Economic ties, privileges in Greece, Greece's interest in the Himaryotes, the Vorioepiriot silogu influenced a lot to make the Himaryotes turn their eyes to Greece and dream of an autonomy. Then, even at the time of independence, the Himarjotes saw that no government in Tirana ever cared for them. They didn't even go to the gendarmes and didn't do any work.
They liked to emigrate: the first time to Llavrio, where there were mines; at Corinth, to open the canal; in Wallachia, in Russia, then in America, in France, in Mexico, in Argentina, in Australia, Canada and elsewhere. So we knew better where Buenos Aires was than Kukës, whose name we had never heard. We knew where Australia fell and not Kosovo, which we had never heard the name of. We knew where Athens and Corfu or Tirana and Shkodra fell. We were without any ties to our homeland.
Some dissidents, the Zog regime itself, especially Musa Juka, divided us. We were divided in the village into two parties: the red pendekques who wanted Albania and Albanian schools; and the white feathers, who wanted Greece and Greek schools in the village. Musa Juka fueled this dissension a lot, making us enemies brother to brother.
Our family belonged to the Red Feathers party and we always carried the Albanian flag on the balcony.
The captains of Spiro Milos had come to our house several times, telling us that Andrea wanted us to leave the house and go to Corfu, where Athens would keep us with schools and pensions.
Whether it was my brother, Fotoja, or my cousin Jani, they sneered at him, saying: "Andrea Markoja was killed for Himara and Marko Jani died regretfully from the many exiles and sufferings for Himara and not for Greece." Himara today is and remains Albanian. That's why we keep the flag on the balcony day and night. We know where our blood comes from."
*Excerpt from the book "Self Interview"
Petro Marko was an educator, publicist, journalist and writer. He was born on November 25, 1913, in the village of Dhërmi in Himara. Head of the Commercial School of Vlora.
On March 1, 1936, he published the first issue of the literary fortnightly "ABC". That same year, he went to the Spanish Civil War with a group of forty Albanians and joined the "Garibaldi" division of the International Brigades.
In Madrid, together with Skënder Luarasi, he started publishing a twenty-page magazine in the Albanian language with the title "Volunteer of Freedom", which only came out in two issues.
In 1940 he returned to his homeland from exile in France. A year later he was arrested by the Italians and interned with six hundred other prisoners from the Balkan countries on the island of Ustika in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
In October 1944 he returned to Albania as a partisan.
After several years as editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Bashkimi" in 1947, he was arrested and imprisoned in Tirana. After the fall of Koçi Xoxes, he was released and allowed to work as a teacher in Tirana. After the publication of the novel "A Name in Four Streets" (Tirana, 1973), its publication was banned for a period of eight years.
His best works have been called: "Hasta la vista", Tirana, 1958; "The Last City", Tirana, 1960; Road without a road, Tirana 1964; Night of Ustika, Tirana 1989 etc..
He passed away on December 27, 1991. In 2003, he was decorated with the "Honour of the Nation" Order.