For many Americans, Albania is a country they know very little, if any, about. It is a mostly unknown country, because so much of its past is shrouded in turmoil and confusion. Even to Albanians, some of the history is a question mark. When Mitchell and I first started praying and planning this trip to Albania, we knew very little about the country. Even when we would tell people about our next adventure, most did not know where Albania is located. The most we knew was that the country had a turbulent past, there is a great population of Roma and Gypsies, and apparently the country is very beautiful. So far, we have found all of these to be true. But we have also learned a whole lot more.
Not even 30 years ago, in 1991, the country gained its independence and broke from communism and life under a dictator. But then there was civil war in 1997. In 1998 the country finally found peace and began to rebuild. So it’s been barely twenty years in which Albania has been able to enjoy the beauty of their home. The children alive today are the first generation of children who are growing up in freedom and peace. As a child of the 1990s growing up in America, I can’t imagine what life would be like growing up in a country torn by communism and war. I have no context in my own mind to relate to it. I’ve been to the Middle East, in countries ravaged by the current wars. I’ve seen the after effects of what war does to a country. But I’ve never experienced it.
Looking at Albania now, I see a country building itself in a new identity. There are still some tense situations, but the country is a democracy now and wanting to be a part of the European Union (EU). The people are living in freedom and enjoying life. Most still remember what life was like under war and communism, and they are grateful for their new freedom. They help each other, they serve one another, they care about each other. They are a beautiful people.