"Only Ismail Qemali and a priest were unarmed", an English journalist's detailed description of how Albania was born

2023-11-27 20:28:49Histori SHKRUAR NGA ILIR IKONOMI
Illustrative photo: The Albanian delegation on the way to the London Conference

To declare independence on November 28, 1912, Ismail Qemali and the people accompanying him made a long journey that started from Istanbul on the 2nd of that month. The last part of this journey was the arduous horse ride from Durres to Vlora. An English correspondent was in Durrës those days and gave us a detailed description. A photograph was also taken, but it has been lost. I have translated the description of the journalist from the newspaper The Sun of Baltimore:


The correspondent of the Daily Telegraph newspaper in Durrës gives us interesting details about the founding of the newest state in the world, Albania. He sends us a description of the scene of the departure to Vlora of Ismail Qemal bey and his escort of armed patriots to hold the Albanian Assembly.

"Only Ismail Qemali and a priest were unarmed", an English

He writes:

Ismaili and the accompanying delegates spent two days in a hotel in Durrës, protected by a military guard consisting mainly of riflemen, none of whom were less than 60 years old.

The scene of Ismail's departure was quite picturesque, for there was something oriental in the variety of colors. First came the townspeople, the young and then the old.

They had learned that the delegates were about to set out on their mission, which would mark a new era, and they waited to see, for time was of no importance to them.

They waited an hour and a half, until everything was ready for departure. A few small horses appeared, then a few more until there were about 20 in all.

Some of the horses were loaded with baggage and provisions. On one horse hung on both sides boxes of oranges and inside them rode two reeds who never stopped laughing. Somewhere further on, a carriage was seen, covered with a mattress, on which were placed the suitcases that the horses could not carry.

But what sparked much more interest for the crowd were the delegates and the saddle horses being prepared for them.

Some of the delegates looked young and combative, others were old and wise-looking. A Catholic priest among them, instead of the usual broad-brimmed camillaf, wore a peaked hat like those used in the naval forces, and which was adorned with a gold braid. If he didn't have the whip in his hand, the priest would look like a naval officer in disguise.

As far as I could see, he and Ismail Qemali were the only unarmed members of the group that was leaving for the big mission.

Slowly the people increased, until it seemed as if the whole of Durrës had flooded to the scene. A photographer also came, who set up the tripod and took a picture of this unforgettable scene. I had not thought that Durrës had a photographer.

As he took the shot, many people started helping to saddle the horses. This was by no means an easy task. One of the saddles, which was quite new, wobbled and did not stay on the horse at all.

Anyway, in the end everything was ready. A gray horse was brought to the hotel gate. A chair was placed beside him and, in the presence of the gathered crowd, Ismail Qemali saddled him without delay.

But not everything was over. While the curious were driven, an old man among the delegates, who must have been a respected man and who carried a carbine on his saddle, led the horse and spoke to the crowd in Albanian. He explained that the delegates were leaving with a mission in the interest of the nation and expressed the hope that Durrës would wish them success in this work they had undertaken.

Everyone would have thought that at this moment the crowd would burst into cheers and shouts of "good luck". And yet, no one uttered even a single word. Ismail Qemali and the happy people he led metaphorically fell on the spurs and set off on their mission.

It was an extremely picturesque caravan leaving the city. In front of them marched two armed gendarmes, while a crowd of sympathizers accompanied the delegates on foot, as if to hasten them on their way. From the windows and balconies, Durrës watched the small caravan disappear little by little in the morning mist.