FROM READERS: Student heads back home to Albania after 6 years

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:02 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Vasian Markollari moved from Albania to Missouri as a child. Over spring break, the MU junior traveled to Albania for the first time in six years.

I went over spring break with my mom to Tirana, Albania, to visit my grandparents, specifically my grandma, because we had found out late last year that she had cancer. Since I hadn’t been back to Albania in over six years, and my grandmother’s situation was only getting worse, we decided to fly out and visit her. While I was there, I got the chance to go see the city that I was born in and left at the age of four.


This is a panoramic view of the outskirts of Tirana, the capital. Everything is still being developed and new buildings there are always struggling to be completed. Lack of funding and conflicts in property rights are the two major grounds for disagreement and the reason why most progress tends to come to a halt.


The above image shows a mosque located right in the city center, and only two blocks from the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church. My grandfather told me that the significance of this mosque was that it had a mosaic border all around with images that were less common in some kinds of Islamic art.  I grew up in an Orthodox Christian household in the U.S., and although the majority of Albanians are Muslim, there is a very widespread religious tolerance amongst the people living there.

This building is one of the many that has been repainted in Tirana, to shed the dull expressionless communist (but in all actuality severely fascist) past. I found this one of interest as it had terms of endearment written on all sides of the building and words such as Thank you, Please, Cheers! and Congratulations.


This is one side of the city center square, and the building that you see is the National History Museum. I toured all three floors of the building with my grandfather, who seemed to know more about the artifacts and history of Albania than the people working there. One of my favorite things that I saw was a large section of the mosaic tiles that covered all of ancient Dyrrhachium, now the present day city of Durres, Albania. The significance of the city's people, the Illyrians, was that they could fend off the Roman Empire, at least for a while.

This picture shows Tirana Lake and it is located right next to the city’s only park. Growing up in St. Louis, I was able to go to the many parks available, such as Forest Park, Tower Grove Park and Carondelet Park, so this was quite the contrast. The children living here don’t have anywhere safe to play. Most play in front of their apartment buildings and it is often quite dangerous as cars drive through all of the alleyways there.


This image is taken from the west-facing windows of my grandparents' apartment. The purple building faces a main public transportation street, and the building is one of the many that were revamped in efforts to revive and add color to a stagnant Albania after many years of communist/fascist rule.

The east side of the apartment faces a chain of mountains and also oversees many ceramic rooftops and apartment buildings. This view has stayed the same for over six years and as far back as I can remember. The area the east side looked out over is the area I remembered the most from when I was a little kid, as I would always peer over the window to see the mountains and the clouds passing by.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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