Happiness in Albania

Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe, but there’s still a lot to like about it. After the fall of the Communist regime, Albanian Bedria Mali tells journalist Marieke Kessel about her life there, and how good it feels to be creative again. On our blog you can find a preview of the article that is published in issue 14.

Bedria is happy to see her mother again, after a four-hour drive through the mountains.

Sewing may not yet be her strongest suit, but when we visit Bedria’s home, her knack for fine handwork is evident. The small living room is decorated with ingeniously knotted and stringed beads in colorful arrangements. “I haven’t made anything for a while,” Bedria whispers as we sit at the kitchen table. She is talking softly because her husband came home late the night before, having spent a few months working on a construction site in Greece, and he is still asleep. “There isn’t enough money to buy the materials I need right now, but it’s wonderful to do. Picking the right colors, working with your hands and making something beautiful: it gives you a sense of space in your mind.”

Creativity can’t be taken lightly in Albania. “Under the Communist regime, you worked and lived exactly as you were told,” Klarita (researcher and university instructor) explains. “Everything was decided and controlled centrally. Having your own ideas about how to live your life or creating anything on your own initiative just wasn’t an option.” It was even downright dangerous. One of Klarita’s uncles, for example, made mosaic tables but had to do so in secret. If the government got wind of the fact that he had privately-owned assets and was maybe even thinking of selling them—a capitalist enterprise in other words—he would be in a great deal of trouble. “It can still be felt today, which is why many Albanians have a rather passive attitude to life,” says Klarita. Nevertheless, she can see initiative growing, especially in the younger generation. “Often they have been abroad, and they come back with new ideas. And they inspire the ones who can’t travel.”

You can read the article ‘Baby steps to happiness in Albania’ in Issue 14.