“Silk Eagles”, A Bridge Between Albania And Italy

(Anisa Braho)

Thirty years ago, the Bar of Italy was one of the entrance “doors” for the exodus of Albanians after the fall of communism. Hundreds of thousands of Albanians began to build their lives in this city and throughout Italy starting from scratch, where even Albanian diplomas were not recognized. But many of those who left by boat in the ’90s today are best integrated into Italian society and even with contributions to Italian society in various fields becoming part of them.

But the roots are never forgotten and even though they are far away for years, the eyes are on Albania, how they can help or contribute to their country. With this in mind, in order to be a bridge between Italy and Albania, the association “Silk Eagle” was created in Bari, which came to life thanks to the initiative of Albanian women and girls living there.

Zv. The president of the association, Eva Meksi shows the journey of this association in an interview for “Albanian Diaspora” and plans for the future.

Two girls took the initiative a year ago to become together with Albanian friends and with a chain invitation gathered many girls and women in their careers in Bari. From there, the idea of ​​the birth of the companion “Silk Eagles” started. What are the reasons that led to its creation?

True, our association was born very naturally. We are a group of girls, already consolidated in an association, who live and work in one of the most important cities in Italy, like Bari. Some of us emigrated in the early ’90s, others years later. Some for work reasons, others still for study reasons. Now each is found realized on the built road. What unites us is the many sacrifices for the achievements achieved. These are situations and difficulties that you experience only when you are outside your country. From one acquaintance to another, from a consistency of experiences, arose the desire to create our own space, simple but caring to be able to process our ideas and collaborations in the future.

– Why this name “Silk Eagles”?

As for the name on the day of the formation of the association among the discussion points we also had a list consisting of different names (ideas that each of us had collected). But no list name was convincing. We are a women’s association and for women, but above all the founders of this association are Albanian. Our goal since its founding has been and is to tell and demonstrate the history of the Albanian woman, her role in the past, without forgetting the present that we are. So where did we come from, where are we and what do we represent. Exactly the name should summarize all these important aspects.
So the name “Silk Eagles” has been a love at first sight. A name proposed by Alda Kushi, one of the founders of this association and an important element for our community here in Bari. We were named so because we felt that it belonged to us, the Eagle is the strength and determination that characterizes us Albanians and next to it to put the delicacy and elegance of silk… these elements that caressed our soul and we felt fulfilled.
This is where it happened that for the first time the name “Silk Eagles” was written in the statute of the association.
After a month of foundation, the name was completed by the logo created and realized by the Albanian artist Tani Nebi. The interpretation of the craftsman Nebi was exactly this: “the claws of the red and black eagle, the sense of strength and determination, which gather and embrace a delicate and elegant purple flower”.

We are talking about an association of women and girls as a powerful voice of society and Albanians in Bari have helped a lot in recent years their country since the situation created after the earthquake of November 26, 2019 and at the time of the pandemic. What is the path of the “Eagles” other than the contribution to the Albanians in Bari?

Thank you for mentioning some of the contributions made by us, such as the one related to the earthquake situation in 2019. It is an event that has deeply touched us and we are proud of the fact that we have been an active part in helping.
To return to the question, our association is composed of women and in function of women and their role in society. Currently we count over 20 members, mainly of Albanian origin but we also have other nationalities, because one of the main points of our statute is that of not setting the limit of nationality. We have already materialized in the territory where we live through the work we continue to do and being an active part of various events here in Bari.

The purpose of our association is to serve as a bridge between two different but also similar realities, such as our country Albania and the other country where we live, Italy. Being a bridge is not easy, because it takes a lot of work, ideas, elaboration of ideas in projects and their realization. To be the main connecting bridge is to start from the first point, which in this case is the language. Without knowledge of the language we can not pass to other levels. Without knowing the language we can not know the history, culture, traditions and without preserving all this we reach a point where we know where we are but we have forgotten where we came from.
Precisely for this reason our central point is the establishment of an Albanian language school here in Bari, because it is a missing institution.
The other path we aim to follow is to promote culture and book in particular. For this reason what we want to do is to promote, recognize and support young Albanian authors / writers. Here in Italy we have many compatriots who have published books. We as a group in 2019 have invited to Bari and promoted the book of the author Darien Levani, near the bookstore “La Feltrinelli”.
It is also important to maintain connections and communication with other parts of the Albanian diaspora. This is for the birth of collaborations but also for the exchange of ideas and experiences.

We are an association established only a few months ago and in the midst of an international pandemic that complicates any activity but we are not discouraged, on the contrary, we have used all opportunities, means of communication to be active and to realize with small steps and with the awareness that it takes a lot of work and being systematic.

– Eva you went to Bari, Italy 30 years ago and now consider it as your city. Tell us a little about your journey there, your career and your adaptation to the Italian environment.

This year marks 30 years since my arrival in Bari with the “famous” mass exodus of August ’91 with the ship Vlora. Much has been written and told about this exodus. I myself am one of the protagonists of several documentaries, TV shows and various articles where I remember and tell how we came and our difficult beginnings in a foreign country.
This exodus marked not only the biggest confrontation of the Italian state with the immigration problem but also the turn of taking strict measures to oppose and regulate it with stricter laws. We were not welcomed with open arms like the exoduses of a few months ago but the order was to go back.
In a way and with the help of ordinary citizens of Bari I managed to stay in Italy and after a difficult year as “clandestini” I managed to get a residence permit.
This made staying in Italy legal, but for true integration it took us many years, sacrifices and work.
For years Albanians were seen as evil themselves. Radio, television and newspaper articles only covered news where Albanians were the protagonists of negative episodes. However, I have neither denied nor concealed being Albanian, on the contrary, I have insisted on showing that Albanians are us who sacrifice and work honestly.
When I left Albania I had just finished my university studies in economics but it was not known in Italy and I did even the simplest jobs, I had to sacrifice to live with dignity without reaching out to anyone. Later I started working as a translator for Italian companies related to Albania or in specialization courses for Albanians, but I failed to convert my diploma in Italy.
I do not deny that for years I did not feel at home, I missed family, friends, although in Bari I have always met people who have loved and respected me without prejudice.
I started to feel and live Bar as my home when I became a mother. In parallel with the upbringing and education of my daughter in Italy, my sense of belonging and identification in Italian society was strengthened in me. My daughter, who is now a university student, grew up with the spirit of awareness and pride that she is Albanian, learning to speak Albanian alongside Italian, reading and learning about Albania through books from a very young age.
Full integration came when I acquired Italian citizenship. This opened the doors for me and gave me the opportunity to run in the municipal elections of Bari in 2019.
My passion for photography adds to me every day more and more the connection with Italy and Bari in particular. Photography makes you more sensitive, more careful about the environment around you, appreciates things that a careless eye does not even see.

– How consolidated is the Albanian community in Bari?

Albanian citizens or of Albanian origin in Bari constitute an important religion of the population in Bari and its provinces, are already perfectly integrated but in my opinion do not make enough community among them.
The organization and strengthening of the Albanian community should be promoted because it will be a help for itself and further enrichment for the Albanian society.
In a way, our perfect integration in the Italian territory has come as a result of this “defect” that we have not to create a network between us (for various reasons that this is not the place to explain) but the moment has come. all the conditions have been matured to weave and strengthen this network, to consolidate with more and more pride the Albanian community./ diasporashqiptare