Alexey Zhalov: Bulgarians in Albania live an extremely bad life9 September 2007 | 20:57 | Radio FOCUS – Smolyan
FOCUS: Mr. Zhalov, you are author of a number of articles about Bulgarians in Albania. Do you have any information about the number of Bulgarians there?
Alexey Zhalov: I know the area of Golo Bardo and I can tell you that the biggest Bulgarian society in Albania is there. There are no concrete data about the exact number of Bulgarians in Macedonia, because every institution gives different figures. There are Bulgarians in Mala Prespa and in Gora, too. I have been to Golo Bardo five times. Bulgarians there preach Islam, some are Eastern Orthodox Christians. There are 21 Bulgarian residential areas in Golo Bardo. The biggest one is Trebishte, where 1,200 Bulgarians live, 4,200 live in Golyamo Ostreni. They think of themselves as ethnic Bulgarians. The hard life in this part of Albania is a reason for many of the Bulgarians living there to emigrate and to populate in the bigger towns such as Elbasan, Durres and capital Tirana, where there are whole areas with Bulgarians.
FOCUS: How do Bulgarians live there?
Alexey Zhalov: Bulgarians in Golo Bardo live an extremely bad life. The state of infrastructure is bad. There is only one road in the area. It was built 60 years ago and has not been rehabilitated since. Another major problem is the lack of jobs. Bulgarians there make a living mostly from growing potatoes and lumbering, as this is the only thing that can be done in a mountain area. Education is a big problem, too. The young have no place to get educated, as the school in Steblevo has been closed, so 23 children have to go on foot six km a day to the neighbouring village, where they go to school. There are no textbooks in Bulgarian and the children study it from their parents only, they are taught in Albanian at school.
Healthcare is another serious problem. It is very bad in winter, as the snow is thick and is often not cleaned, so one can die even from a mild illness.
FOCUS: What do you think, do Bulgarians in Albania wish to obtain Bulgarian citizenship?
Alexey Zhalov: Most of the Bulgarians who live in Albania want to obtain Bulgarian citizenship, but the procedure is hard and slow. It takes time, because the law and the set order are not kept to. They wait for more than 2-3 years. That time despairs the Bulgarians there, so the comments about Bulgaria in this sense are very bad. That preconditions corruption. Visa issuance also causes problems, as there is no Bulgarian minority recognized there, so they need an invitation to travel to Bulgaria. The fact that the Bulgarians there bear Turkish names and preach Islam bothers some Bulgarians, who prevent them from having a citizenship. But historical data reveal clear evidence of the origin of Bulgarians in Albania and there is no doubt they are Bulgarians. There is only a controversy with Macedonia, which says they are Macedonians. Macedonia insists they are from Macedonian minority and speak Macedonian, but this is not the case, as the language they speak only seems to be Macedonian, otherwise it is a Bulgarian dialect. They used to have a communication problem, but now there is a mobile connection there. Bulgarians there have serious problems in almost any field of life.
FOCUS: What could the Bulgarian government do to help improve the life of the Bulgarians there?
Alexey Zhalov: Firstly, some approach is needed to make Albania accept the existence of the Bulgarian minority. This is a task of the Bulgarian diplomacy, who should make more efforts. I think they don’t work progressively in this field, as they should be to make this happen. This is the first thing the state should do, then things will take their course. As far as I know Albania and Macedonia wish to become EU member states, so all chances should be used to acknowledge the Bulgarian minority in Albania. The EU with its whole legislation will give a chance to the Bulgarians in Albania to study in the Bulgarian language, the way of obtaining citizenship will be regulated and the visa regime will be simplified.
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