“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”Mother Theresa
My father often talked to me about his childhood. A childhood made of economical uncertainty and poverty. The daily struggle of my grandfather to find a job was the symbol of the early 60s in Southern Italy. A picture I fully understood at the age of 7.
I was 6 years old when Clarita entered our house. She brought to my mom a bouquet of flowers. I was intrigued by this lady. I had never seen her before and she would say very few words and most of them were either not feel pronounced or incomprehensible to me.
She left and we got ready to go eat at may grandmother’s place. As soon as we entered the car I asked who this mysterious woman was. “She’s your new nanny, she’s gonna look after you and especially your brother when I start working again”.
“Why are we having a deaf and dumb nanny?” I naively asked.
My mom started laughing and said “She’s not deaf and dumb! She just doesn’t know Italian, she comes from a country called Albania. Things are not going well in her country and she moved here”.
That was the first time I heard about Albania, it was probably the first time I met someone speaking a foreign language.
In no time, or at least that’s my emotional souvenir, Clarita became our Mary Poppins, my parents employed her and soon her two daughters rejoined their parents in Italy and started to go to school with me and my sister and in July 1996 she invited us to her place in Albania!
We left my hometown with an old Citroen Visa that my dad borrowed from his brother, thinking that his BMW would get stolen in Albania. Before leaving Clarita’s husband convinced my father that a whole bag full of soccer balls was really necessary and then we headed to the port.
We arrived in Durrës the morning after. It must have been very early as the sun was not out yet. I’m quite sure there was no tourism in Albania at the time and maybe that’s why the soccer balls were indispensable. Each guard got one for their sons and after passport control we entered the country.
In the 90s Albania was another world compared to Italy and I think that’s the first time I saw poverty with my own eyes and not through a tale or a TV screen.
As I write this flashbacks come to my mind about big gray buildings, all similar in their architectures, windows missing sometimes in the staircases, destroyed bunkers here and there, but also flashbacks of a guy playing the accordion in the staircase of Clarita’s apartment every evening, of uncontaminated beaches, of a beautiful blue sea, of playful times and laughs and of the warm love that only a place like that could resuscitate in people.
We stayed in Albania for one month, I think. Visiting many places and taking videos and pictures. It was the first vacation outside Italy that I can remember and will be unforgettable!
Since the other day I think of those days spent there more and more. I was only a child, I could clearly see the difference between the two countries but I lived those days with joy and lightheartedness. I was only a child but I was now able to understand the fear that I saw in my fathers eyes when I spoke about his childhood. I was only a child but since then I knew that
March 2020 ended with a gesture that only people that have a rich heart can understand. The Albanian government sent doctors to Italy to help with the fight against Coronavirus.
“We are poor but we are not forgetful” these words of Edi Rama’s speech brought in me a storm of emotions that was a mix of pride, sadness, great happiness and hope.
And it’s really the case to resume as Immanuel Kant said: “We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without”.