kosovotwopointzero

I was only 12 when I traveled abroad for the first time, to neighboring Greece. It should be explained that the expression “going abroad” had (and even has) a symbolic meaning in the Albanian context. It is inherited from communism, where the territory inside the borders of the Albanian state represented at the same time the isolated planet Albanians were living on. That is because very few people had the privilege of traveling outside of the national borders. So, due to those circumstances and my childish fantasy, I experienced my first journey abroad as visiting another planet.

The bus seemed as a airspace craft, the driver as an astronaut and the border police were similar to scary ugly aliens who wanted to ruin our “mission to the moon” by all means. But we were confident and did not turn back. With a falsified lay-passer, a transformed name meant to satisfy the requests of the Greek Orthodox Church, which financed this journey we were heading to a summer Christian camp ‘abroad’ towards Patra planet in the Greek Universe, together with some 30 other children. Amid the chaos and mess all around the check point, we were anxiously waiting for the border officer’s order while being smashed against the Iron Gate that divided the Albanian soil from the Greek one. I started to worry and had the feeling that something would go wrong and prevent us from crossing. I just stepped in the space between the iron gate, placed my feet on the Greek land and thought: Even if we don’t cross to the other side, I could tell myself that I accomplished my mission: I stepped in an alien country for the first time … what a feeling !!!!

Years passed and journeys ‘abroad’ became more and more often. Although the magic seemed to be gone, I still experienced in a strange way the moments of visa applications or those of crossing the border. I felt uninvited, as an alien who does not belong to the designated place. For many years…what about now…

The fall of the totalitarian regime constituted the opening of Albania towards Europe. But besides the fact that goods and products flooded the Albanian markets and we finally enjoyed the consumer freedom, nothing changed. We remained a locked country. Although freedom of speech was extended, this was mostly a right to scream and cry inside the country because outside nobody cared. The iron visa regime substituted the communist hermetic regime, meaning the country was isolated again,  no longer on behalf of communism, but for the sake of Western democratic values.  Therefore, extensive visa discriminative policies became the trusted co-traveler of the long and exhaustive transition. During the last 20 years, complains, discontents, sufferings that all of us had to experience and overcome became a normal routine. In this process, even the strongest were trained to be patient. Someone was lucky to win the lottery, such as a six months Schengen visa; others became vulnerable and paid loads of money to traffickers to help them cross the border illegally (but many were caught and returned back without being spared a special violent treatment). Those who propagate for support of fundamental freedoms and rights today, with their western indifference and calmness have breached my rights as a human because I rarely had enjoyed my rights as a citizen. They left me uninformed, untraveled, with lack of observation, cut my burst, extinguished my adrenaline, and ruined my dreams like throwing a bucket of water at me saying …. “you are not worthy of Europe”… why not…

The myth of visas, for the last 20 years showed us that we are simply small people in a big world we can’t reach. All this is framed by faithless politicians who did not hesitate during the past 20 years to make worthless promises to Albanians about something really precious and needed: freedom. But behind these promises were bloody corrupted bureaucrats who were traveling “business class” with diplomatic passports to settle our nation’s troubles. Hypocrisy came from the internationals as well, who in the meantime indicated to us the path towards Western standards employing their ‘cooked’ and ‘tested’ recipes that might be benefiting for the future. But they lost the notion of time; contrary to us, who time was valuable for. The 20 years of post-communist isolation of Albania might be seen by Europeans as a period of “taming” Albanians, whom Europe feared to accept in the last two decades. For 20 years, some lousy international officials who currently smile, mercilessly denigrated the Albanians, presenting us in the media as dangerous ‘aliens’ that better stay away. They did as they wanted with my nation based on personal political agendas that did not exclude xenophobia and racism, now beam and felicitate me what a good ‘guinea pig’ I have been. After they were ensured that we were properly ‘tamed,’ they provided us with ‘the carrot’, that we were waiting for so long. How much had we dreamed about this day! Nevertheless I did not feel happiness. I felt compassion. For myself, who did not had the opportunity to travel more, and for many others who were hoping that one day they will be able to travel abroad… What about now?

Albania without visas is a myth… that ‘they’ invented for their interests. People need to feel free, more than they need to act freely. And the last wave of visa liberalization did not achieve that either. Instruments that keep a nation under oppression still exist even after the ‘carrot’ liberalization. We will continue to be left under threat of bureaucratic structures that routinely usurp human rights and freedoms, identical with the ones that are believed to lie the foundations of the EU. And instead of esteem  and gratefulness for the so ‘called ‘visa liberalization regime for Schengen countries,” I want to point my middle finger up with regards to all of them who lied to me, taunted me and never took the fact that I need to be born and die enjoying my freedom of movement seriously …


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