3.2.1. Stories of the Sea
I remember the words of Frosina, born in 1934 in Dhermi/Drimades, in a conversation during one of those early January evenings when we were experiencing an electricity shortage. We
stood on the terrace of her house and tried to keep warm catching the last rays of sunlight. We looked into the distance of the Ionian Sea and towards its islands blinking in front of us. She said:
Over there (eki pera) is Greece. From here (apo edo) we see Corfu and Othonas. My uncle used to sail there (eki). He owned a sailing boat. Othonas is not a big island and it has only a few houses. My uncle used to trade with Corfu and Italy. He sold valanidi81, from which the Greeks made leather for bags and jackets. Besides valanidi, people also used to trade in kitro, which is a special citrus that is now already extinct.
My uncle also traded with olive oil. As he was a trader, he owned a local shop that was situated in the centre of the Saint Dimitris (sto kendro tou Aghios Dimitris)[the name of the church]. The shop was a part of a big shopping centre. But this was before the time of Enveri (ton kero tou Enveri) . My father was a fisherman. He fished with dynamite in the same way as the famous village fisherman, Niko Dabo. Have you ever heard of Niko Dabo? A local writer from this place (apo ton topo) wrote about him in one of his books entitled The Caves of Pirates (Shpella e Pirateve). Niko Dabo was a courageous fisherman, who lost his eye because he fished with dynamite. People said that in the times of Enveri when the Partia [the Albanian Party of Labour] took his property, he responded: "Take everything; just leave me hundred metres of the seascape by the Avril where I always fish" and he pointed towards the sea, where he spent most of his life. He was fishing for all of his life...
We observed the wavy sea and the lights in the distance. Soon it got cooler and Frosina invited me into her old house, partly rebuilt after she inherited it from her father. She was one of t wo daughters who survived among the five children born to the couple originating from Dhermi/Drimades. Both of her parents were working in the cooperative during the communism. Her father was a fisherman and mother worked in agriculture. In 1954 Frosina married a fellow villager. Some months later they were relocated to Tirana where her husband was trained for the job of a mechanic. From 1954 until 1990 he worked as a mechanic while Frosina worked in a baking factory. Nowadays their four children have already grown up and except for one they are all married. One of their sons lives in Tirana; he is married to a woman from Vlore. The other son is married to a woman from Tirana and lives in Italy. Both daughters are in Greece. One of them is single and the other is married to a fellow villager. In 1990 Frosina and her husband returned to Dhermi/Drimades. According to her words, when they returned the village was nearly empty as numerous villagers fled to Greece. Frosina and
bibliography: 81 Valanidi or velanidhia (Quercus aegilops) is also mentioned by Hammond (1967: 123) who noted that the valley above Kudhes, a village of Himare/Himara, is wooded by fine trees, particularly velanidhia. 82 According to Evans-Pritchard, "perceptions of time, in our opinion, are functions of time reckoning, and hence socially determined" (1939: 209). In Dhermi/Drimades like in many other places in Albania and elsewhere, time often relates also to the past events that have importantly marked a particular period, in this case relating to the political system. Likewise many people living in Dhermi/Drimades as elsewhere in Albania refer to past events with temporal boundaries which are divided according to the period of communism. They often use "times
before the system of Enveri or Partia"; "times of the system, Enveri, Partia" whenever they refer to the past and "time of freedom or democracy" when they refer to the period after the collapse of communism].
her husband did not immigrate to Greece, saying that they are too old to move as they had already retired from work. They nevertheless go there almost every year in order to celebrate Christmas and New Year together with their grandchildren.
I met Pavlos, born in 1938 in Dhermi/Drimades, in the summer when I was helping in one of the cafeterias situated on the coast. Pavlos is a widower who nowadays lives in Tirana. In 1985 he moved to Tirana to study geodesy. His father, who lived in the village and worked in
a cooperative, arranged him a wedding with a woman originating from the village. After their wedding they both moved to Tirana. They lived there until 1990, when they immigrated to Greece together with their two sons and a daughter. In 2001 they returned to Tirana where they bought a house and Pavlos started a business. Two years after their arrival Pavlos's wife died. Every summer - in July and August - Pavlos moves to Dhermi/Drimades where he owns a part of his father's house which he shares together with his brother. Occasionally he goes to Greece in order to visit his children who were all married within the village of
Dhermi/Drimades. As he lived for some years in Athens he told his story of the sea and trading in a more "Athenian" accent: Can you see those rocks over there (eki)? [He pointed towards big rocks stretching in the distance which were connecting the coast and the sea]. Those big rocks which stick out from the sea?
I said yes and asked him how they are called. He answered:
Jaliskari83, which means the port. It used to be a port once (totes), where my grandfather kept his boat. But nowadays i Alvani (the Albanians) spoiled everything and turned it into a bar. They really have no taste!
Muco, Papajani, Duni, and Zhupa were some of the prosperous soia (pl.) who used to own large boats. In Drimades boats were rare. There were approximately three or four of them. They were wooden and imported from Greece or Italy. Because of the Jaliskari port, there were also some warehouses built on the coast. People used to keep valanidi, kitro and olive oil over there. It was very hard to bring the imported goods up
to the village. They were carried either by donkeys or by the village men. A cobblestone path, made by the village women, led from the coast to the village. The women were the main collectors of stones for the village paths and houses. The Himara women are known as extremely hard working. They worked a lot. They took care of the family, the house and the garden, they brought water and collected stones for building new houses; above all they did all the cleaning. To a certain extent this
remains the same today. Except that today they are old and tired and cannot do everything. But still they are of a hard working nature. They worked all the time, while their men used to sit in the shade of the vine leaves or in the kafeneio, playing cards and drinking raki. Some of them were fishermen and those who originated from rich families traded with the outside world (ihan kani emborio okso). We have always had
bibliography: 83 The Greek word Jaliskari written as Gialiskari/Γιαλισκαρηί is compounded from two words: γιαλός/gialos that means seashore and σκαρηί/skari which means port.
contacts with the outside world. Therefore we are more civilizuar than the people living in other parts of Albania. Our forefathers have seen a lot of other places in Greece and Italy. Compared to the rest of the places to the north and to the east, we were wealthy (plusii). However, later during the times of the system (kero tou sistema), when the state closed the road (otan o kratos eklise to dromo), we were forbidden to move around.
Aghatula was born in Dhermi/Drimades in 1944. At the age of 15 she enrolled in the pedagogical school in Elbasan. Four years later she returned to Dhermi/Drimades from where she was relocated to Himare/Himara, working there as a teacher for three years. In 1966 she married a fellow villager with whom they were relocated again. This time they moved to Saranda, where her husband, who was trained as a mechanic, was given a job while she was employed as a teacher. Frosina gave birth to four daughters with whom they immigrated to Athens in 1993. At first she and her husband lived together with their daughters who in 2000
went to live on their own. Three years later Aghatula and her husband returned to the village, where they have built a new house on the land where Agathula's father in-law used to have agarden. Aghatula and her husband built the house with their savings from Greece and the
pension they have been receiving from the Greek government. Their daughters who are married - two within the village and two within Himare/Himara area - still live in Greece and visit them only in the summer months. Aghatula and her husband visit them almost every
year, usually for Christmas and New Year holidays or on occasions when they have to prolong their Special Cards of Ethnic Descent84. In one of my visits to her house, where we often sat on the terrace with a view over the village's coastal plains, Aghatula described me her memories about the past with the following words:
Bregu women are known by their working spirit; especially our mothers who worked a lot. They worked in the house and the garden while the men sat in kafenia (pl.) or went fishing. We were really poor at that time. The only good food we ate was fish and rarely meat. But we had some nice things from outside (okso) that my uncle who left on a boat to America between the wars, has sent to my family. He sent a nice veil (barbuli) for my aunt's wedding. Later I inherited it. It was a really a nice barbuli.
Besides, we also had some furniture in our house, which my grandfather, who traded with his ship, brought from Greece. We had very nice cupboards, a table and chairs.
Similar furniture could also be found in other houses. Although we were often hungry, we were civilizuar. Do you understand what I am saying...
Therefore I was quite shocked, when I attended the practical training for teachers in Elbasan. As a student I stayed with the teacher's family. I was shocked as I had to eat on the floor, from the same pot as the rest of the family, for they did not have any plates. We slept in the same room as we ate; all together in a single room, on the
pillows that the house-lady laid on the floor. There were no beds. At that time I
bibliography: 84 Until 2004 Special Cards of Greek Descent were valid for the period of five years and after 2004 for ten years.
realised what sort of poverty could be found there. We were poor, but we had certain possessions (pramata). We had them because our fathers and grandfathers traded with Corfu and Venice.