Dear FEMRAT

Dear Nënë, 

This is for you. For all of the Albanian mothers scattered across the world with calloused hands and hearts bigger than their bodies. For the mothers who left all that they knew for the hope of a better tomorrow for their children. The ones who took what little they had, and packed it along with the light of future memories. For the mothers who witnessed the devil come to their doorstep on the eve of a long and morbid spring, yet stood valiantly at his sight. The ones who have had to outlive their husbands, brothers, and sons. The mothers who sacrificed, and fled, and reassembled the pieces of their lives far from comfort and familiarity. 

Dear Motër, 

This is for you. She who understands me. She who vows to recognize contemporary issues of gender, sexuality, and society within our community. She who inspires and befriends, rather than belittles and competes. Free of judgement and with open arms. She is there, because she knows how it feels to be lost.

Dear Vera, 

This is for you.

Bardhë e Zi was the title of a collaboration of snapshots I had managed to take during a family trip to the coastal village of Dhermi this past summer. As I was sorting through the raw, unedited footage, I began to experiment with the saturation of the photos. As the explosion of turquoise and lush greenery disappeared, all that was left was a world of black and white. Was this the same stretch of sea where I sunk the soles of my feet into the pristine waters of the rugged Ionian coast? All that was left to look at was a grim reminder of the rampant underdevelopment plaguing the village. Investors from Tirana have continuously propped up hotels along the coast for the swarms of tourists looking for a getaway from the realities of their daily life, but have failed in masking the imperative needs of the region.

It was here, nestled between the mountains and the sea, where I met a woman by the name of Vera, who left an everlasting impression on my heart, and on my spirit. Her physique as dainty as her demeanor, her will as unbreakable as the Logara mountain that winds its way down to the hotel where we stayed, and where Vera worked. 

Vera is a migrant worker, who for the past decade has trekked both domestically and internationally. 

She would leave daily surprises in our room. From fresh hand-picked roses, to pebbles in the shape of hearts.

Vera!, I would joke. Did you hear us fighting last night? You are so sneaky!

Vera's smile was infectious. I loved to tease her. 

But behind Vera's smile was a long journey of pain and hardship. 

She reminded me of everything I loved about my country, 

forcë.

About everything I loved about my people, 

mikpritje.

This is all for you.

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Alba Veliu

Alba Veliu is the founder and director of FEMRAT. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Political Economy, and hopes to continue her career in academia at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, where she will be relocating to in August. As an Albanian-American soon to be based in Sweden, she always keeps her eyes open and her feet moving. She listens more than she speaks, and always smiles at strangers. She loves scribbling ideas and stories into her decaying journal, sunflower fields, and her fiancé.