An insight into our Heritage Programme: What makes us Albanian?
In an Albanian language class, I chose the topic “We are Albanians”. We naturally started a conversation where each of us gave thoughts and ideas about our national identity, being Albanian, the qualities and virtues of our people, our cultural heritage that is something that belongs to me, you, them, us. It is something that is only ours, and no one else’s. It is something that speaks Albanian, which we fanatically preserve. It is something that sets us apart from others. It is something we have in mind and soul. It is something that we take with us wherever we go and without realizing it, quite naturally we show, demonstrate and use even when we live far away from our native land, such as our Albanian language, which is as old as our Illyrian origin. This language, with its beautiful dialects that identify the areas we come from. This language, with Albanian letters, for which patriots, heroes and teachers have sacrificed, so that it will never be extinguished. As wise saying of our people say:
“When you do not preserve your language, do not wait for others to preserve it. If a nation loses its language, customs and traditions, it will be extinguished."
The wise words of our people, which have been transmitted by word of mouth, generation after generation, coming into our days, are a treasure of ours, too.
Our national flag; Red and black, with the double-headed eagle, the symbol of our nation, which has been washed with the blood of Albanians in the wars for freedom for centuries. The national anthem that accompanies us on various national and international holidays. Folk costumes, the treasure of our cultural heritage that not only us Albanians but also foreigners are amazed by, as every province of Albania has their own costumes of men and women. The dresses that the masters created with their golden hands, patterns, cuts, materials, colours and details are unique for each different area. Traditions and customs are what distinguish us as Albanians, as we try to practice them in the country where we live. Foods, traditional dishes, those of grandmothers, of our mothers, who cooked them with such taste, while facing the difficulties of everyday life for their families, are also a distinctive feature of ours. It is again the hands of these heroine mothers and wives who collected medicinal plants in the mountains, with which they healed the wounds of warriors, the wounds of body and soul. Handicrafts, craftsmen, artisans who sewed folk costumes, rugs and carpets that glistened in various colours in the guest rooms.
Albanian music and dances that are accompanied by musical instruments such as çiftelia, lahuta, sharkia, tupan and flute have caressed the Albanian soul in beautiful and difficult moments: in the living room we hung the çiftelia next to the rifles on the wall.
"Because even warrior souls deserve to be sung and to sing" - the wise said.
Albanian lullabies that mothers put their children to sleep with, rocking them in the cradle and making wishes for them with songs so that their children would grow to be happy and brave. Labe polyphony is part of our cultural heritage and valued by UNESCO as part of the Balkan cultural treasury as well, where the voice of the soul roars in the cliffs where eagles live. Physical appearance is another distinctive feature of ours – as the famous poet Pashko Vasa says: “Albania has beautiful girls and good boys.” Our friendly nature distinguishes us as Albanians as well.
Beautiful nature, with wonderful climate, with mountains, seas, rivers, lakes, with beautiful beaches, with land rich in minerals, archaeological sites that show how ancient we are. Very stylishly built forts and castles, where legends, folklore and history are hidden; as beautiful as they were, they also scared our enemies away. Cities like Berat and Gjirokastra: characteristic houses built with stone by Albanian masters, are part of our cultural heritage. Religious harmony is an added value of our nation and we stand out for this attribute, which is something that has been internationally valued. Historical figures such as Skanderbeg, Mother Teresa, Ismail Qemal, patriots, heroes and martyrs, are a glorious part of our nation.
Generosity, hospitality, our friendly nature, keeping our word (BESA), are the virtues of Albanians as well, where the ancients said: “The house belongs to God and friend”, where with bread. salt and heart, we welcomed our friends. Solidarity is another virtue of ours. We have shown this in the most difficult moments, for example in the case of the earthquake, on November 26th 2019 where Albanians came together to be close to each other in the most difficult days.
There are many things for us to be proud of, which we have passed down from generation to generation, as part of our cultural and spiritual heritage, making us proud to be Albanian.