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Schweizer Zeitschrift für die Zusammenarbeit mit Albanien
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Swiss non-profit Journal for the Cooperation with Albania

Journal Suisse pour la Cooperation avec l'Albanie


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Women in Modern Albania

An excellent book about the life of women in the Albanian society by a dedicated American author

The author, Mrs Susan Pritchett Post, was motivated to write her impressions when her husband, Everett Post, worked for the US Agency for International Development in Albania on housing contracts. She worked at the National Housing Agency on a part-time basis.

Post describes well her arrival and the first few months of settling down - living conditions, shopping, having some home improvements made, contacts with her neighbours and other Albanians. She wondered how they found the optimism and energy to manage their lives. With her Albanian language teacher, Mrs Ksanthipi Dodi*), she met a group of women in Tirana with a variety of backgrounds, keen to speak from the heart about their experiences and personal issues. The question rose in her mind »What has given the Albanian women strength, not only to survive, but also to lead meaningful and fulfilled lives with good-heartedness and optimism?« It was clear that the answer could only be provided by representative findings of women all over the country, those of different ages, background and political viewpoints. So she embarked on country-wide interviews, incorporating as much as possible the actual words of the some she met, 200 in all. Out of her respect and growing admiration for the Albanian women she wanted to present her work to the outside world as an inspiration to others and in the hope that this book will bring healing to the wounded society.

Dirita, who served her country as a partisan in the War of Liberation, imprisoned for 13 years and exiled. She cannot smile or laugh any more, though she recounts humorous stories of events that took place during her years of torture and interrogation, and despite her age (78) and physical disabilities, she burns with desire to be of service to her country today.

Safide lives in a village that has water once a month. She works the land, keeps the house clean and prepares excellent meals for her family, though the family has to carry home on their backs and heads water, produce, animal feed. She remains optimistic with a ready smile and eagerness to help others.

Vjollca sells bananas in the street near the fruit market in Tirana, trying to augment her husband's disability pension of $20 a month. She makes 1 or 1.5 lek (about 1 cent) on each banana she sells, but when she stays at home to look after her husband she cannot contribute even that small amount.

Teuta (18) lives in a village. Though she wanted to continue studying, her father took her out of school to work on the land, help with the housework and await an arranged marriage.

This book reports in their own words, the life stories of Albanian women of all ages and backgrounds, not as a scientific study but against well founded presentations of the 1996 environment. The author has carefully observed conditions of housing, water and electricity, retailing, medical facilities, travel, effects of the kanun, besides the individual circumstances of the people she interviewed. The book made a deep impression on me, not only because I had spent two weeks in Albania at the time that she was carrying out this work.

Susan Pritchett Post lived in Tirana for about three years with her husband, Everett, her son, Jacko and the family adopted Albanian daughter, Anna. In March 1997 they were ripped from Albania under a forced evacuation. They could only say a hasty goodbye to Everett, and under difficult conditions returned via Italy to USA, where she finished and published her book last year.

Jean Naterop, coordinator of SATE

*) Ksanthipi Dodi, senior lecturer in English in Tirana, and vice president of the National Albanian English Teachers' Association, has visited the reviewer as a guest of the Swiss Association of Teachers of English (SATE) and has given several talks on her work and experience with students. SATE has completed a voluntary six-year enterprise to provide Albanian teachers of English with books and learning material from Swiss teachers and schools. SATE annually invited two teachers to Switzerland for a two-week study period.

Women in Modern Albania - Firsthand Accounts of Culture and Conditions from over 200 Interviews, by Susan E. Pritchett Post, McFarland & Company; ISBN: 0-7864-0468-X, 312 pages, about 30 pictures

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