Ajten Pllana

Pristina | Date: November 21, 2018 | Duration: 102 minutes

Do you know what bothered me the most [in Pristina]? At the time, women here wore dimija or kule [balloon pants], they called them kule. They were like dimija, but not that loose. In Skopje at ours, nobody wore dimija. City people didn’t wear them, even those that came from the village did not wear them. That bothered me. And the girls, the girls did not wear pantaloons in that time, but also did not go out much, but they did in the neighborhood, they stayed home and always wore those kule. They really annoyed me, they bothered me very much. They would say, ‘Ama it’s warm, with these it feels nice.’

Kaltrina Krasniqi (interviewer), Donjetë Berisha (Camera)

Ajten Pllana was born in 1938 in Skopje, Macedonia. She completed Shkolla Normale [Vocational School], whilst in Pristina starting her career as a teacher. At first, she worked for Emin Duraku elementary school, later at Elena Gjika.  She stayed there until her retirement. Last year (2018), she published her book Tetëdhjetë vjet tregime [Eighty Years of Stories], a collection of stories drawing from her life. Currently, she lives in Pristina with her daughter and son and her nephew.

Ajten Pllana

Part One

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Can you tell us something about your childhood? What kind of child were you? Where did you live? About your family? About the first years of your life?

Ajten Pllana: I was born in Skopje. My father is, my father is from Skopje, my mother is from Presevo. They got married in 1930 and my father was alone, but he wanted to have many kids. So, we were eight children, whereas two died as babies, two boys, and we were four brothers and two sisters, I am the third child.

I can say that we had a very good childhood until 1946. We lived with our grandparents. In ‘41, when the war started from the fear that something very dangerous will happen and we will be stuck in Skopje, we went to my mother’s house, my maternal grandmother’s house where my aunt lived in Presevo, we lived there for a year. But, there was no big war in Skopje, after the Bulgarians came, they were in coalition with the Germans and there wasn’t much.

So in ‘44, the end of ‘44, we came back from Presevo. Then the first schools in Albanian were opened, for the first time in Albanian history, the first schools. Even though I was very young, I had a boy, he was my father’s uncle’s son from Gjilan, he came and said, “I will take you to school,” to enroll us. When he took me there, the principal did not take me because he said, “Too young”, six years old, my uncle, “Come one, let the girl enroll,” he says, “She is six years old and a half.” Anyways that’s how I became a student of the first class in history of Skopje, a school in Albanian and I was the youngest in the class.

But, by chance, there happened to be 15-14-12-year-old girls in the first grade, and after a year, two stopped going to school. And, in the later years, they went to Turkey, it was the time  a lot of people went there and so I stayed. Then Shkolla Normale was opened, it was moved from Tetovo to Skopje and I continued studying at Shkolla Normale. My mother wanted that because her sisters, in the nineteenth century, of course, in Turkish, because there was no school in Albanian and… so from the first generation by chance, not that I was very good or, but it so happened that I was the first teacher of the first school in Albanian in Skopje. So now, I used to not give it importance, but now I am kind of proud that I was the one who… (laughs). One always tried to find something that suits them or that they think is good.

And I think up till ‘46, we had a very good life. My father was a very modern man, very… but in ‘45 came… ‘46, during the summer, my maternal uncle came, he was in the Albanian Democratic National organization, he majored in history in Zagreb. He was also a soldier and he came to our house and asked to stay there for a while, my father said, “It’s okay,” he stayed with us for two weeks. They held those meetings that the organization held in Skopje. After two weeks, he leaves and after a while they imprison my father and then a very hard life begins (cries) for our family, we were five children left with a housewife mother. My oldest brother was twelve years old, not even twelve, the youngest was a year and half and only we know how these years were (cries).

They were very hard years, but this (cries) somehow followed us through our whole life. My oldest brother was imprisoned, he was a lawyer, majored in law. My father was imprisoned, my brother, then my other brother, then in ‘81 my sister was fired from work, she was an Albanian language teacher, my other brother, he was a professor and a journalist. There was always something, but we stayed strong and we are the first family from Skopje that  was all educated, except for one of my brothers that, even though he was one of the smartest, smartest in the family, he wanted to work as a cyclist, he didn’t go to high school. While we went to school and had a normal life, the family grew, we got married. I was just now in Skopje, they’re good, they live a normal life.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: How was life in Skopje during those years of war when you were there?

Ajten Pllana: Look, people at that time were very simple and they had some sort of… People were ashamed to complain or us, for example, nobody knew how we were living at home, but it wasn’t easy, it wasn’t easy, you had to fight for basic things, food was the main thing. You were given a piece of bread for the whole day, that’s all we got, nothing more. Those who were from villages had more opportunities, access to food, to… Then when it came to even wood with triska, other foods, with triska… But, as far as school goes, schools were open and there was a care for children, for example, during summer break, they used to send children for a month, two, three weeks for free to the beach, or the mountains, or something. Or the packages that came from America, “UNRA” would give them and, as little as it was, it helped with people’s economical status.  

It wasn’t easy, but we got through those years. Those who had a higher position even then, things were better for them even at that time. But us, for example, there was no one to take care of us. As a family, we suffered a lot, but nobody knew. My mother was very proud and she tried to not let it show.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: What kind of neighborhood did you live in? What kind of city was Skopje?

Ajten Pllana: Skopje… Look Skopje was… Skopje was divided in two parts, Vardar divided it into two parts. I don’t know, I think only three-four Albanian families lived across the bridge, we always said on the other side of the bridge, that’s how we divided Skopje, the other side of the bridge and this side of the bridge. The old part of the city… I used to live where the Stone Bridge is and then comes, there, if you know Skopje, here Skanderbeg’s monument, maybe a hundred meters away was our house. You can say it was the center of the city, it wasn’t a suburb.

The new part… the part past Vardar was a very beautiful city, the buildings very… After the Balkan Wars, new houses were built, while the part where we lived in was mostly oriental, oriental houses. Any bigger house, more beautiful, more… The roads only started getting paved a little after the war where the new road is, the new road that connects Bit Bazaar with the Iron Bridge, it used to be Iron Bridge then. But there was a rule in the city, it was a very clean city, every day we had to wash in front of the doors of our house, to clean the road. Every spring, we had to paint the house… by law we had to paint the house, even if we only painted with lime or color.

The janitor, the one who would pick up the garbage, garbage collector, every day would come only one… With a, brrr {onomatope}, would pass by and we would know it arrived. How do I say, then the construction starts, schools were built. We didn’t have schools, the schools were in the yards of mosques where it used to be mejtep from before Turkey’s time, and in those schools, from one school to the other till the fourth grade, we regularly had to change schools until we found something.

And then when we got to the first grade of high school, then the fifth grade was called the first grade of high school, a very beautiful school was built, “Liria” [Freedom] school, that today I envy that school, it was something like the last word. There was everything there, every class even had water there, a sink where we washed our hands, or the sponge, or there was a cinema or a theatre hall, the canteen was downstairs, plus there were bathrooms where children could shower after physical education class. Though, I think it was used very little, I don’t know, it was in the basement and it was heated with wood.

It was a very good school, and there was discipline. Our teachers were mostly from Albania, or from Macedonia, or from Kosovo but studied there. I know that my teacher from second grade, back then the teacher would change every year. My first teacher was from Presevo, and my second teacher was from Dibra who studied in Tirana, I can still hear her voice, her diction, the way she would talk and we didn’t speak Albanian, we mostly spoke Turkish, even though we were Albanian.

Somehow I asked my brother later, “Why is it like this?” He says, “Well, the language of prestige, that’s how people are with the Turkish language”, there was another treatment with Turkish language or, and… But we learnt it in school, we had good teachers. For example, there was Doctor Petro Janura teaching there, he was a primary school teacher, then there was Petro Kavaja, there was Mahmut Dumani from Albania and many others. There were a lot. Now I can remember better those who taught more in my class. My brothers also had teachers.

But, in ‘48, when Yugoslavia separated from Russia, the relations with Albania were spoiled too. Then they took them back to Albania or they could pick where to go. Do they want to go to Albania or the Western states? Some of the teachers went to America, some to Italy and some went back to Albania. They had, it is thanks to them that we learnt Albanian. Kids that were in schools in Skopje could speak very well, they had very… And they worked hard with us.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: What kind of a kid were you? What kind of temperament did you have?

Ajten Pllana: What?

Kaltrina Krasniqi: What kind of a kid were you? What kind of temperament did you have?

Ajten Pllana: Well as a kid, as a kid, (laughs) like everywhere else. The conditions weren’t the same as today, right? In the streets, for example, as for the neighborhood, friends, different games… it was different with boys, and then, at school, there were happy kids, kids that didn’t know any better at that time, right? We were happy with what was served to us. But, the approach of teachers means a lot, we were like… Look the teacher affects the student with his attitude and his behaviour, because students always try to mirror that. I, for example, always looked up at my teachers, because there were two or three differents ones, and we always tried… Because they were something more than our mothers, right? And kids with few, how to I say, requests because there was nothing more to ask for, like this.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Did you then continue after elementary school, how was the system?

Ajten Pllana: Yes. I stopped for a year, I finished seventh grade and there was no school, so I had to stay home. My father was still in jail and I was left, I started to become a housewife, going to the market, cooking, helping my mom a little and, the next year, the eighth grade started, eighth grade at that time because it changed, then it wasn’t high school anymore but elementary school, eighth grade. And I went to class there, I started school. At that time, the principal and teachers came and asked us girls to go to Shkolla Normale even before finishing the eighth grade because we need more girls, there were almost all boys in Noramle.

And some girls went, three or four went, my father said to me, “No, no, no, you shouldn’t be a teacher, you will be a doctor, will become something, you will go to gymnasium” “Daddy,” I would say, “I don’t have… We don’t have a school in Albanian, I have to do it in Macedonian,” “Okay, okay Amiri is going…” My big brother, “In the Macedonian gymnasium, you go too.” But, but, no, the next year I enrolled in gymnasium, in the Macedonian gymnasium. My brother was senior there in gymnasium and one day he asked me, “How is it going?” I said, “Very hard, I don’t understand anything.” “Why?” You know Macedonian.” “Yes I know, but everything is new for me when it comes to physics, chemistry, maths and language and everything.” “You know what?” “Take your documents and go to Normale,” I couldn’t wait, but I said, “Father…” He said, “Who is asking father, you go there.”

Then when my father found out quite a lot, “In which school are you going to?” I said, “I’m going to gymnasium.” “Are you wrong?” “No,” I said, “I’m not wrong.” My brother said, “Don’t torture the girl. I told her to go to Normale.” And then it was good, I finished it, but in five years. I always had such luck, for my generation Normale was five years, then immediately went back to being four years. So, a year more.  So, Normale was a very… There was order, it was a good school, there were good students, good teachers too. But, there were very few girls in our class. We were only three seniors when we finished Normale, we were only three girls.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Why were there only a few girls?

Ajten Pllana: What?

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Why were there only a few girls?

Ajten Pllana: Well most of them, most of them emigrated to Turkey, and a part were still conservative you know, “Why would a girl go to school, she should stay home.” And wouldn’t send them to school. The citizens of Skopje were very conservative, they weren’t like in Pristina. When I came to Pristina, I saw they were more progressive than in Skopje, and, like this, slowly things changed, and they saw that it is good for women to get an education, like this.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: There’s a moment in your book where you talk about yashmak.

Ajten Pllana: Yes, yes.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Can you talk a little about that moment?

Ajten Pllana: Well look, my uncle’s [paternal] daughter was here married to a professor. Her husband was a professor. And, you know when she came to Skopje without a yashmak, at that time in ‘47- ‘48- ‘49 always, I wasn’t in Pristina before that, I didn’t know, but she would tell us that most of the women, not most, but some that were more progressive that were going to school, they were taking off the yashmak. People would be surprised there, “How come, women without yashmak.” And time came, in ‘48, I think, the action for removing yashmak, in ‘49, but in Skopje no one, only…  Even out teachers would come to school with yashmak those who were, for example, Nafije Qerkezi was my teacher and she would come to school with, they would call them niqab, she would take it off at school and then put it on again when she went back home, that’s how it went.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: How, can you explain to us how was that?

Ajten Pllana: How the yashmak was, it was a black dress, a black dress a bit more loose then there was a cloak, a cloak with also that part on the head. First, you wear the dress, then the part that was like a veil, one a little thinner, one fuller. Those that were thinner you could see through, but usually young women, more modern would wear those. Not our mothers, you could not see their faces at all {shows with her hands} even though the cloak would be tied underneath and then it would wrap to here {shows with her hands} very loose and that’s how they used to dress.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Color, what color where they?

Ajten Pllana: The color was mostly back, only black. The sheet was always black. I saw somewhere else in Bosnia with white and blue stripes and… in movies, I wasn’t there. While here, they were black, and those women that were more modern, they didn’t wear a yashmak like our women, like my mother, like most of the women, but they wore a beautiful trench coat usually. Thin socks, shoes, their sandals or good shoes and then the cloak that I mentioned. That was very short, they just tied to the head a little {shows with her hands], while the yashmak was thin, very thin. Especially those women who were very beautiful, they would be visible underneath and people would look. There the thing was that you had to… But young women, there were some young women in our neighborhood they would never go out into the streets alone, but they would take us ten, nine, eight-year-old girls with them to go somewhere. Because you shouldn’t, you know, young women shouldn’t go out alone, either with their mother-in-law, or some other woman. If there wasn’t anyone else, they would take a kid, a eight-nine-year-old kid.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: At what age? At what age?

Ajten Pllana: At what age? Well, my mother used to say she was twelve when she put on the yashmak, like that, ten-twelve years old when girls start to grow up, they cover up. I, (laughs) once we agreed with girls in my neighborhood that each of us will take our mother’s yashmak and wear them when we went out into the street and we were ten. Each of us wore it, we were five-six girls and we went out into the street, we didn’t walk two hundred meters, “Kuku, what do we do now, we are ashamed to take them off in the street.” (laughs) And you couldn’t do that. And my mother was a Hafiz, she finished, so, by heart, together with her brother in elementary school, she became a Hafiz. And her father was an imam and all that, and when they wanted to remove the yashmak she was against it. “How will I go out?” Also, my father was in prison. But, we got used to it through the years.

When my mother was old and very sick, she was 96-97 years old, some brides that lived in the building in Skopje came to visit her. And all of them now that they are wearing yashmaks, covered, and they stayed, they talked, “Why…” she said, “My girls, why are you wearing a yashmak? It is not the time,” she said, “It was different in our time, they were just staring, they say, “She is a Hafiz.” “I am a Hafiz. I am very…” And you know… So my mother tries to convince them and says, “It was different in our time,” and she says, “I know what it means and why you wear a yashmak and… But now the times have changed.” She says, “I am religious and I hold the Quran in my hands all day long, but you are young.” But no, they are convinced that…

Kaltrina Krasniqi: What is a Hafiz?

Ajten Pllana: Hafiz is a person who learns the Quran my heart. My mother until the end, until she died she knew the Quran by heart. Imagine, they learn the Quran in Arabic, and they don’t know Arabic. If they know the language, it’s different, but my grandfather explained to my mother how things went so she would understand, you know. She could speak old Turkish, Osmanic and in that language she could even write and so…

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Were you, the children, religious?

Ajten Pllana: Religious? Religious, religious where? (Laughs) No. Being religious means if you go and… my brother, my older brother, it was the time of occupation, the school opened… Bulgarians opened Turkish schools, he went there and he learned Arabic. Arabic, not the language, but the Arabic letters, the old Turkish, but not us. We didn’t go to school, but, of course, we have basic Islamic knowledge of course. As a young girl, I used to fast during Ramadan but not now. When I got married, children, things and I stopped. My mother didn’t like it, but our mother also taught us to pray when we sleep, to pray when we go to bed, to pray when we eat, when we wake up, and so on. Our mother educated us, to be good kids, honorable, to not to that, not do this, things.

She wanted more but times then were like that that there weren’t any religious schools. A school was opened, they take us, my mother, she takes me and my sister there for two months or I don’t know how long, then we quit and she used to say, “I took you there and you didn’t do anything,” I would say, “What is what we used to sit on the floor, she would stay…” The teacher had a stick two or three meters long and if someone moved just a little… And we didn’t understand anything in Arabic, we went here for two hours in the morning and then, in the afternoon, we went to elementary school and then we quit, two schools at the same time. Of course, that I… I was educated in that religion, do you understand, I keep the most important things. Though I don’t hate anyone whatever their religion might be, it isn’t…

Kaltrina Krasniqi: There’s a moment in your book where you talk about early childhood and for the poverty that existed immediately after World War Two, how children were fed in the city’s canteens, can you elaborate a little more on that moment after World War Two?

Ajten Pllana: Yes, yes, yes. Look, I think somewhere around ‘48, after separating from the Soviet Union, things started moving, you know, in… Positively I think, you, especially for kids. In neighborhoods… In our neighborhood, there was a restaurant where kids would go and take a piece of bread, you didn’t have to pay. It was only bread, only break. White bread, a piece of it and nothing else. Only when we went, when we started going there, we said that everybody, my family isn’t the only one who is suffering, everyone is suffering for basic things, for bread, and before we went to school we went there to get the bread and no one would pay anything.

After a year, it became like a cafeteria, it would feed a lot of children, we would go in there and sometimes they would give us two pieces of bread and even jam sometimes, and sometimes, they would give us cheese or something. But we couldn’t take it outside, everybody would try to sneak something out to take it home. And a woman would stay at the door and would check us if we took any bread and put it somewhere in our body and we would be ashamed if we got caught (laughs) but when we took it home, you know, it was a little… for example, two-three kids from the same family go and eat.

The best part was, canteens were opened in schools. Our school had a very good canteen and every day there was soup, we would have dishes with meat and one day, when I was talking to my sister, I said, “How could the state afford, all of those, for every school to have a canteen?” She said, “It was a help from the United States of America to feed the children.”

Even a good lunch was a big deal for a family or if you have three-four kids at school. I mean, we would fight for basic things at that time, right, when you don’t have good food at home. And those who had connections, there were people who had a good life or were employed somewhere and they were better off than those who had bad conditions.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: For what reason did your father go to prison ?

Ajten Pllana: My father was in prison because of my uncle [maternal], he let him stay in our house for two weeks. My father was very generous, he would give the clothes he was wearing if he could help someone… My uncle had an organization in Skopje, our teachers, the teachers in our school where members of the Albanian National Democrats organization and my father… most… a lot of them were in mountains at the time, Albanian Ballists that… And my father had bought them 600 pairs of opinga in the mountain to help them, and had given them money, because he had money and he took our uncle in.

We didn’t know. My uncle didn’t tell my father nor my mother where is he going, he went out every night, he came… He was very meticulous, very handsome. His barber would come shave him and leave. My mother was asking him, she would ask him because I didn’t hear, “Where are you going every night, Ibrahim?” He says, “My tooth, my teeth are not okay, I’m repairing them,” And my mother thought so. And, on the night of Eid of ‘46, a vehicle came to our house, horse-drawn vehicle. They put old villagers clothes on my uncle and a plis and laid him down on that vehicle and went. That was the last time we saw our uncle, it was the night of Eid, during Ramadan, so, the night of Eid. He went to the villages of Kumanova, we stayed there for a while, for how long? I don’t know. And then to Greece. From Greece to Germany, from Germany to Australia until he died in ‘97, he died in ‘97.

They had offered him to go to America, but under one condition, there were… he had a… foreign countries had organized there I don’t know, with a parachute landing in Albania against Enver, communism, so they be, my uncle and some other said, “We don’t fight with our brothers, regardless that they are communists, we can’t.” And then they said, “You can’t go to America. Choose where you wanna go?” He didn’t want to go to Italy because it was very near, and the UDB did those… and like this he went to Australia and got married to an English woman, it’s her {points to the photograph} and he didn’t have children, he died there. He was very lively until the end, like this.

Part Two

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Tell me a little about the visits to your father in prison, how was it?

Ajten Pllana: Well, my father in the beginning… in the beginning my father was in the investigative prison in OZNA, he was there. It was… it was a very tough prison (cries) I found out too late, my father had told my sister, he never told me (cries). Because my father was suffering, his kidneys hurt, but he wouldn’t tell us anything. While he was under investigation, they would cover him with a blanket and then they would beat him with wood and other things and his kidneys were bruised for years.

We couldn’t visit him there, we could only take food to him. One day, my mother saw that, in some aluminum containers, that she would take the food to prison with, there was something written in Arabic letters, “Fatush, how are you? The kids? Take care of the kids,” You know, a few sentences like this. Then we always bought new ones, you know, and my mother would write, “We’re good, don’t worry.”

Kaltrina Krasniqi: And what happened to those aluminum containers then?

Ajten Pllana: Luckily they never found out because who knows what would have happened. My father would write something, my mother would answer and that’s how they communicated, otherwise they didn’t have access, they couldn’t meet. For a long time… My father was in the investigative prison for a long time. In the meantime, before my father, the National Democratic Organization was discovered, where my uncle used to be, but my uncle had already left. Then they imprisoned three to four of our teachers, Mister Azem Orana, Mister, what’s his name, I forgot it momentarily, and Mahmut Dumani from Albania. Those two were, one was from Pristina, Hasan Billali, so, Azem Orana, Hasan Billali and Mister Mamut Dumani, from elementary school, from high school, I don’t know. And, in ‘47, they was held, earlier than my father, it was another group, another group, my father was in another group with those… they were the main group.

So… My brother’s teacher, Mister Azem Orana, was sentenced to death. He was married, he was imprisoned a week after he got married and was sentenced to death. Mister Azem Bilalli was sentenced to twenty years in prison, he was my second brother’s teacher, he was sentenced to twenty years in prison, but he got out of prison after twelve years. And my uncle was sentenced to death, but he wasn’t there, in absence. It wasn’t only the Albanian party, but the Turks also had a party, it was called “Yücel”, there I remember that one of them was sentenced to death, he was the father of one of my friends, who later became a pianist.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: What kind of organization was this?

Ajten Pllana: What?

Kaltrina Krasniqi: What kind of organization was this?

Ajten Pllana: The Albanian Democratic National Organization.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Was this a political party, political organization, do you anything more about the organization or not?

Ajten Pllana: Well, it was an organization for the union of the Albanian lands, against communism, they weren’t communists, like this.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Let’s continue with your life, what happened after you finished Normale?

Ajten Pllana: I finished Normale and then I got married. My kismet was in Pristina. I got married here.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Who did you marry?

Ajten Pllana: To Professor Shefqet Pllana. He was an albanologist, he dealt with science, folklore study, then later he finished his post-studies and doctoral studies in folk literature, he would teach…

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Where did you meet him?

Ajten Pllana: Where did I meet him? It’s very interesting (laughs), you won’t believe me. We were in ‘58 in the hall of… In the Normale student canteen, on the stage being prepared… They came from Radio Skopje to record, to record our choir and a few songs. There was a leader, Parasqeva, I don’t know her last name, he was from Albania, she was a very good speaker at Radio Skopje in Albanian and there the choir recorded the songs for the radio. In the meantime, I see a teacher that I recognized came, he was married to a friend of mine. He came with another person and I saw that they sat. Nobody else was in the hall, only one of them, and, when it was done, I went down, the stairs were on the side, I went down and turned my head and looked at them.

I saw one of them was looking at me and I turned my head around. And he asked who I was. And then, things got complicated and so, in August, the daughter of his niece was over at my house and told me about him, I said, “Okay, let me see.” We met, after, after a week, we got engaged. After two or three weeks, we got married (laughs). It’s a wonder!

Kaltrina Krasniqi: And then from Skopje you came to Pristina?

Ajten Pllana: From Skopje I came to Pristina. But he was a very good man, very, he was very modern, very… he had a broad culture, a…  He was a good father and everything. So I was left for Pristina.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Tell me about the moment when you changed cities, so from Skopje to Pristina. How did you find Pristina?

Ajten Pllana: Do you know what bothered me the most [in Pristina]? At the time, women here wore dimija or kule, they called them kule. They were like dimija, but not that loose. In Skopje, at ours, nobody wore dimija. City people didn’t wear them, even those that came from the village did not wear them. That bothered me. And the girls, the girls did not wear pantaloons at that time, but also did not go out much, but they did in the neighborhood, they stayed home and always wore those kule. They really annoyed me, they bothered me very much. They would say, ‘Ama, it’s warm, with these it feels nice.

Prishtina… I would tell my father, “Come more often to Skopje,” He was very meticulous, “No daughter, the moment that I step into the street, there’s mud immediately,” The roads weren’t even paved. Citizens of Pristina suffer for that old Pristina, but, if they had my eyes, and see, not even Skopje… Even Skopje had like, but it was different, but what….

Kaltrina Krasniqi: In which neighborhood did you come to live first in Pristina, in which neighborhood?

Ajten Pllana: Here, in this yard, we used to have our old house and then we built this. Ever since I came here. And, for a time, when people started building houses and also decided, “Let’s move and go somewhere further away.” But seeing that my school is near, the music school is near, the girls were here in elementary school, the high school is here, I would say, the market is near, “If you are chosen as a member of parliament, here is the Executive Council.” (Laughs) We would joke, everything is near. It was convenient for me since I had four children, right, I was alone. I adapted. More with commitments at home, with children, they would learn, they finished high school and that’s how it went.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: How many children do you have?

Ajten Pllana: Four.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Tell me a little about your children and your family life?

Ajten Pllana: Well, look, my oldest daughter is a pianist and a professor here at the University. She married a very good man who is a doctor. But he was crazy about going to America, to go to America and my daughter was persuaded as well. Even though, she didn’t want to go there. She finished that here, she would teach at the University, at the Academy of Music. In Moscow, she specialized in Tchaikovsky, then she had a lot of opportunities for advancement, for… In Yugoslavia, she would hold concerts for the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, she held a concert in Paris. She went there, now she teaches at the University, and she has two boys.

My second daughter… my second daughter studied architecture and lives in London, she is very successful, very ambitious, she’s settled. She was the inspiration for the book. Because I only started to write my childhood memories, and from… She, “No, Mom…” She says. At some point. she saw all of it, “Mom, this is very good, we’ll make this a book.” I say, “Are you crazy? A book?” I said, “It’s just a remembrance for you.” “No, no. We will publish it.” So on. And the third one, Arta, she studied Albanology and works here in the government somewhere. I don’t know what, I don’t know those things. And my son is, he finished in… his post-studied in London as a producer, it’s been seven-eight years, but there’s no work, he is working down, there he opened a studio, like this.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Then you started working here immediately, right?

Ajten Pllana: What?

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Then you started working here immediately, right?

Ajten Pllana: Yes, yes.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: In what year did you start and at which school?

Ajten Pllana: I, in 1960, started for the first time, no sorry, in ‘58, when I got married after two months, I was accepted to the “Emin Duraku” school.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Where is that school?

Ajten Pllana: It is past the market, that part like… I worked there for a year then I gave birth to my oldest daughter Teuta. I stopped for a year, I had to learn as a new mother how to take care of my daughter, and, in ‘60, I started working at this school and I worked here at this school until I retired.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: At which school?

Ajten Pllana: “Elena Gjika”, it used to be “Vuk Karadžić”, after I retired, after the changes, it took the name “Elena Gjika”.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Tell me about the atmosphere at school, the staff? We should take into account that people don’t know the history of this school, so you have to explain it with more detail.

Ajten Pllana: Well, look, (laughs) when I started working here, I would always compare it to the school I used to go to “Iliria” in Skopje, because they were both elementary schools so I would compare them. That school was… it’s amazing when you think about it today, that kind of school, but it was ruined by an earthquake unfortunately. When I came here, this was an old school, old planks, the class would use wood for heating. The cleaning lady would come all the time to bring wood and stuff, but there were only a few children in Albanian language, I mean, there were more Serbian children, Serbian parallels rather than Albanian, then our parallels grew. But there was a lot of order, there was order, it was clean.

After every break… after every break, when we went to class, the cleaning crew would clean the halls, clean, good. The conditions for work were minimal, there were no tables, old, everything was old, but compared to Skopje… They were different in Skopje, the conditions were different in Normale. We would, for example, have classes in labs. Classes in labs were biology, or, or I don’t know physics, chemistry, and for Albanian language there was a class like a library. And here weren’t those conditions, no.

Every three or fours years from the ‘60s I know that some important adjustments were made, I mean important. But, is it the teachers fault, or the students fault, our just the disinterest? Now, I don’t know how it is because this year they renovated it again. But we had a very good staff, I believe they still are like that. At that time, there were very good teachers, very good teachers.

We weren’t many, maybe we were seven or eight teachers, nine, but there was Myzafer Hatipi, a primary school teacher that studied in Albania, then there was Lirie Tanefi, an old lady from Albania, from Korça, there was Nyvebete Drini, she was a great teacher, there was Edibe Pula, I’m talking about the old generations, Fahrije Shita was a math teacher, very prepared for her subject, then a few male teachers, there were two or three, no more. Then Nyvebeti, Edibja were also primary school teachers, and I also started there and like this…

We are… one day we were talking, we are very proud when there’s something, some intellectuals that are known like, like, that are important, that have a…. They were at our school. Even Pupovci was a student in our school, and this guy, I always forget his name, the one who owned Koha Ditore….

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Surroi.

Ajten Pllana: Surroi, he was my daughter’s classmate. So many doctors, so many… My students have also achieved a lot, it’s… I have three or four students who are doctors of science and we our proud for the boys also. Then a lot of other teachers, the first generations were very good, they’re still good. The school has tradition, it’s a very good school, others schools are too probably, but I didn’t have much access to them, but I’m talking about our school. The staff was good and the students were very good.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Was it convenient for you to live this close to the school?

Ajten Pllana: (Laughs) A friend of my husband’s came over once and asked me, “Where do you work, Madam?” I said, “At this school here.” “Do you get on well with the principal?” He said, “Yes.” He said, “Why don’t you ask him to bring you the class here,” he says, “So you don’t have to go there.” It wasn’t that interesting. I envied my friends when the classes would end at 4:00, when the day was longer, they would get in and out, go to stores to buy things, and so on. I had to run straight away since I had three kids, I gave birth to my son then I had to be home. But, when it rained, or snowed they… I would immediately… Then I would take, I had a good friend, “Did you get home?” “Kuku,” she said, “Barely.” I said, “I already drank my tea.”(Laughs) They would envy me, I was so close. When you have small children, it’s better like that, but when they grow up, you got and see something. Life is like this.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: What, what did you learn while you were a primary school teacher? What did that vacation give you?

Ajten Pllana: What, what do I say… It should sound like I’m praising, but, loving children, trusting them… To work and make the class attractive so they’re interested, to have, so they’re interested and that’s that. I think, I was happy there, and successful. I think with children… after all, we are human and we can’t always be like that, but we have to, the teacher should have a lot of love, to take work seriously, not to only work for the money, for that. And kids, kids are eager to learn.

At least, at the time when we were teaching, when we worked, they were eager to learn, for something new and we always had interesting classes, not just classic classes, “Today we’re gonna learn about this, this.” For example, I never started class without conversing for about two-three minutes, two-three minutes what did you do, what happened, that’s how kids relax. Because then when you go in immediately, “Let me see your homework.” That’s kind of, how do I say, pressure, and this way they’ll think of it as an everyday thing, fun, like that and then…

I gave language a lot of importance. When my kids grew up, then my children’s books, the library, all the books I had, maybe two-three hundred books, I gave them to the school’s library, and I gave the others to children. Now I wonder if I did the right thing, or not? But my children had already grown up and like this.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: From this perspective, it means that you have lived in Pristina for almost 50 years?

Ajten Pllana: What?

Kaltrina Krasniqi: From this perspective…

Ajten Pllana: Yes?

Kaltrina Krasniqi: It means that you have lived in Pristina for almost 50 years?

Ajten Pllana: 60 years.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: 60 years?

Ajten Pllana: Yes.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: How did the city change for you?

Ajten Pllana: Well, it changed a lot. It changed a lot. But what changed is also the mentality and everything yes… I wouldn’t know what to say. I have a lot to say (laughs). I don’t know, it’s that nostalgia for old times with people who are older or… Because people my age, when we talk about that time we feel like it was better then and kids, kids were more disciplined, they had a… The teachers were more respected, and now something… Look, parents today, I now see most of them there isn’t that criticism, but now it seems like it matters more if the kids wear nice clothes, and look good, that’s not how it is. You have to work hard with children from the very first day if we want them to accomplish something.

How to gain expressions, work habits, do not be scared of them. I worked a lot with my children. Even though, they were quite smart but I was… It felt like an obligation to work with then and the children take… When I see parent, when I read, when I talk with them, they’re saying, “They’re not working hard enough.” You should create those conditions, the conditions today are good, they’re not like they used to be. But you have to stay with your kids there’s no going around, no going out vrc, vrc, vrc {onomatope} to parties, with friends and stuff. You should work with children, work, work, work. Until the child understands the essence, what is it, why are they going to school, what should they know. But the parents aren’t much to blame either, nor the kids, but today’s technology.

Two-year-old kids with… This is occurring everywhere not only here. They have everything ready and all day long, instead of reading a book, they stay on their phones. I was in London last… Two years ago when my friend, my daughter has a friend who is an architect and she doesn’t allow her children to watch TV, or any shows throughout the week, they have a set time when they can watch or use their phone, or iPad or something. She says, “On Saturdays, they can do whatever they want, read, watch, or… Other days, no.” There’s a system, rules. And then these children are more successful. I think, that’s what I think, I don’t know.

Part Three

Kaltrina Krasniqi: We are trying, through individual stories to recall how the city was, because, for 60 years, certainly, you as well know how much it changed, how many things that used to exist don’t exist anymore. Can you think a little and give us a picture of how what kind of city was it, for you?

Ajten Pllana: Pristina?

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Yes.

Ajten Pllana: How know the city… The city as such, if I compared it to Skopje, I didn’t like it to be honest… But, what I liked was that there were enough schools in Albanian. There was the gymnasium, Skopje didn’t have a gymnasium, they barely opened Normale, it was the Economical School, there was the Night School, to go during the night, there was the Music School, a lot of our children were there, so a lot of Albanian children. While in Skopje was only Normale and nothing else, only three girls in one class. Here there were a lot, a lot, that’s what kept me and was, it wasn’t only hope, but it was sure that one day these children will be accomplished, there will be progress.

When my father used to come here, he had love for education. Because my father was a good writer, he would speak very good, had a beautiful handwriting, we would say, “Dad, for how many years did you go to school, did you learn?” He says, “Just one year.” “Why did you only go to school for only a year, where did you learn these expressions…” He wouldn’t tell us, apparently, he only finished elementary school or something more, but he wouldn’t tell us. And, in the morning, he would come rarely, but sometimes when he would come to stay two or three days. He went out in the morning and came at around 8:00 o’clock home, he went out earlier in the morning, “Where were you, Daddy?” He would say, “You know what? I stand there by the clock tower and watch the kids go to school in the gymnasium, they all speak Albanian.” (laughs) He was impressed because he didn’t see that in Skopje, I would say, “You like them that much?” “How can I not, such nice children…” He was impressed by that fifty years earlier, he said, “Some nice kids are going to the gymnasium, with bags in their hands, dressed nicely, clean, I was very happy.” You know, I liked it too.

There was the theatre, we also had the theatre, but compared to Pristina, no. There were shows  world-famous writers, while there something… More, more, more… There were no artists, there were no artists. The radio here was in Albanian, while in Skopje only the news and some sort of musical program were in Albanian, nothing else. And, since then, it seemed like… Then the University opened and everything, it was progress, right? It wasn’t important. People fixed the streets and removed the mood and built buildings, yes, you have to create staff, for education, to open schools for higher education because that’s what I liked…

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Did you go to the theatre and cinema here, because in the book you write about going to the theatre and cinema?

Ajten Pllana: I loved the cinema from when I was a kid, if I could I would sleep in… I would watch the same movie four or five times and I would know all the dialogue. I can memorize a lot, I remember everything from my childhood, and I really like it. Sometimes, I would tell my family I’m going, sometimes I would find the money, going to the cinema was very cheap, two dinars, three dinars to get in, I would watch the movies.

We also went to the cinema here with my husband a lot, but we went more to the theatre and to concerts. He wasn’t a coffee shop person, he didn’t… He didn’t ever want to go to coffee shops. He didn’t drink, he didn’t smoke and he would say, “No…” But we went to the theatre and concerts regularly. But, when we would get out of the concert, he would say, “Well, my wife, now I wanna go to a coffee shop and drink coffee, I don’t feel like going home after the concert.” “Come on,” we would say, “We have the children at home.” (Laughs) You see, very… Every play in theatre, every concert, classic, entertaining, folk, we went there regularly.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: In which halls?

Ajten Pllana: We usually went to the Rinia Cinema, that’s where they were held, in the Cinema Rinia, those small concerts, or kids concerts, in, in Shtepia e Armates, there was Shtepia e Armates. Then in the theatre, it was this theatre. At that time, the stage was small, small stage, the shows were held in the theatre’s hall, you know… where the foyer is, there they had the “Pjata e drujtë” a very good part, we were in a circle, but it didn’t fit many people. Then, concerts were held, those music acco…. “Kosovo’s Accords” the city would be full.

A week before my daughters said to their father, “Dad, find some tickets for us, the other kids are going.” ‘Where do I find them?” Sometimes we could find them, sometimes we couldn’t. Usually, they would held in a bigger hall, it was like this. It was very lively, we would often come here from Skopje to see something. Skopje had them too, but not as much, no. The cultural life did not develop in comparison to Macedonians, they had more opportunities. I know I was a child, in seventh grade, I think, when they started to built Skopje, the National Minority Theater in the Bazaar. You know where Bit Bazaar is, there was the theatre, but do you even wanna go there, the theatre calls for a place more… The theatre was in the Bazaar, the kiosks, the peppers, tomatoes were sold there, in that place was the theatre, you can’t go there. Now they’re renovating it for the second, or third time, it looks good, but in the Bazaar. It bothers me, it bothered me from day one.

The Macedonian Theatre was where it still is today, now that this Grujevski renovated it, spending billions. Can you imagine the curtain is from the same velvet as it used to be? I wasn’t in that theatre, but my brothers who have been there told me, my sister’s in law’s sisters went there, they watched plays, and the chairs, the same chairs, the same velvet, they only took it a floor higher and the entry is from the other side, not on the side it used to be and… So they work wisely for their own people, ours, ours weren’t to blame since that was the location that was given to them.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Why didn’t you study?

Ajten Pllana: Excuse me?

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Why didn’t you study?

Ajten Pllana: Why didn’t I study? How could I study? I got married, I had four children, I was working, I didn’t have… My husband was very ambitious, once he wanted to enroll me, he says, “You are good with languages, I’ll enroll you in Yugoslav literature, it’s needed to teach it in the Albanian parallel.” I said, “You can enroll me, I won’t go. I don’t have time to learn, I can’t go there without learning, I don’t have time, I don’t have time.” But he was ambitious and enrolled me. I said, “Take the index, you keep because I’m not going.” And I didn’t go.

At some point, he enrolled me in French language, I was very good at French in school, in Normale. Then my teacher used to say, “Only Ajtene Gashi…” and I had a friend from another class, “Only Ajtene and he can study French, no one else.” There four or five people there, and my friend was very smart, he did his PhD studies in French in Sorbonne. Ajteni came here with four children, work, but I was very devoted to my children, my daughters, I had to work hard. I wasn’t able to study and take care of my family, and take care of my children.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: When did you retire?

Ajten Pllana: When did I retire, a long time ago, it’s been 22 years.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: How did you feel about that? Because you have spend a great time of your life in school.

Ajten Pllana: Well, it was hard at first. At 12:00, I always started class at 12:00, and, at 12:00, I would go out and go from one side of the school to the other, because I missed hearing the noise that the kids and teachers made. And, one day, my daughter said to me, “Why are you going out, Mom?” My husband said, “She hasn’t yelled in a long time, she misses it.” I said, “Who yelled?” He said, “I heard your voice from there.” (Laughs) I said, “You heard me?” He said, “Yes, but I didn’t tell you.” Like that. I missed it, you know, it wasn’t easy. But, I’m in contact with my students all the time.

Imagine two years ago, I was given a medal on Teacher’s Day at the Municipality and after that I saw my students from the first generation in “Emin Duraku” when I worked, they talked to me, “Teacher…” One that was very active, Naza Sejdiu, she organised a get-together that night to go to a coffee shop and around twelve or fifteen students of that time, who are retired now, were there. I didn’t know any of them except Naza. I went there, they… They came after I did, and they said, “Is this our teacher?” I said, “Yes.” (Laughs) All of them grown men now, and I asked, “Which ones were in our class?” I forgot the name, I only work for a year there. Imagine, I found out there that Isa Mustafa was my student, the former Mayor, and I said, “Isa Mustafa was my student?” “Yes.” They said, “Yes.” I asked, “What kind of student was he?” They said, “Teacher, there was no better student. In elementary school, in high school, in university, he was great.” I said, “Good, I am glad.” You see most of the generations now retired.  

Kaltrina Krasniqi: When did you husband pass away?

Ajten Pllana: What?

Kaltrina Krasniqi: When did you husband pass away?

Ajten Pllana: On January 4, 1994, a long time ago.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Very long ago.

Ajten Pllana: Yeah, in his sleep. That night we stayed up til… It was the New Year and they came, so, it was January 3, January 4, did I say January 4? My sister with her husband stayed here for a while, there the son and daughter of my brother from Skopje. We stayed til late and he got up and took my sister and her husband home. They didn’t have a car, around 12:00 am. We asked them to sleep here, “We have room.” My sister, “No, no, I can’t,” she says, “We’ll go home.” And he took them there.

He came, we stayed for a while, and he gave me a massage, I said, “Give me a massage…” They were laughing, the children, they said, “Are you getting tired of her?” He says, “Go to sleep.” “Now…” He said, “Do you see, now she’s even asking for a massage.” We laughed at that. I was almost 1:00 am when we went to sleep, he said, “I’ll go sleep with your brother’s son upstairs in the bedroom, and, in the morning, bring me a cup of tea in bed”. “Okay.” I said, and my nephew, he was very devious, he said, “A cup of tea, or two cups?” “No, no,” he says, “Only one.” “Uncle Gynsel,” for my brother, “He drinks two in bed.” “No…” He said, “I never drink, but I want a cup of tea tomorrow.” And the girl stayed here.

This room is joined with the other, it’s a living room, but then we covered it, she slept there. I was here… In the morning, we got up and I told her, “Go upstairs and check if he’s up, so I can bring him the tea.” When she came downstairs, she was yellow, she said, “Aunt,” she said, “Come and see, I think he is sleeping.” And immediately I know what could have happened. When I went there, he had turned on Radio Tirana, it was 8:10, soft music for… for, he was taking pills for his blood pressure and so, he didn’t even touch them, they were on the nightstand, his body was still warm, he had passed away, 63 years old.  

Kaltrina Krasniqi: So young.

Ajten Pllana: Young, young, like this. My children were abroad. It was very hard, it was very hard, all four of my children were abroad. Then my son, he was in a very good high school, he was learning, and my daughters were there, Vjollca and Arta, he came back, so he would not leave me alone, so like this.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Tell me about the book now. It’s time to explain the journey you took for the book you published this year?

Ajten Pllana: Sometimes it seems so ridiculous that I published it, but I don’t know if I told you. I started writing stories from my life, I didn’t have what to do, I wake up early in the morning. I’m a morning person, at 4:00, 3:00 am I’m awake and I would write. When my daughter from London calls me, “What are you doing, Mom?” I said, “I’m writing.” “What are you writing?” I said, “I’m writing something from my childhood, I want to leave it to you as a remembrance.” “And what are those?” I said, “Something like stories.”

I told Rron, my daughter’s son in America, that I was writing, he sent me a beautiful notebook so fast, it is there, and, inside, there’s a postcard attached to it, in the notebook, and it says… He was born and raised there, but he speak a little Albanian, and it says, “Grandmother, it’s a perfect plan,” he says, “That you’re writing.” He also says something else. And I said, “I want to make Rron’s wish come true, because he was happy I was doing it.” At the time, he was a graduate of the Academy of Music there and I said I’ll write it.

When Vjollca heard the three first stories, “Very beautiful mother.” It was that shoe left on the street for two years and a half… Now, I don’t remember that day completely, but I remember the most important part, for me, it was important that the shoe was on the street, and my mother was, “Leave it.” I was a kid, instead of taking it, I left it there as my mother said, “Leave the shoe, run.” There were planes, April ‘41. And I said, that is exactly how I started writing. Now, Vjollca every morning from London, “Mom, are you writing?” “Yes, yes.” “Read it to me.” And I read each one of then, “Very good mother, very interesting, very interesting.”

I said, ‘Vjollca, Mother…” “Come on, Mom, please write.” And then they grew, every day I wrote one, two, and I didn’t know in which direction to head, because I can remember like five hundred stories from my life and two years ago when I went there she started writing it in the computer, she said, “Mom, you know what? Let’s write, write a book.” I say, “Are you crazy?” I wrote about sixty years of my life, “Come on…” She says, then I said, “These aren’t mother.” “Many…” she says, “And the style isn’t completely, you don’t have literal claims, but it’s interesting.” I was laughing, we were joking about publishing it and..

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Then?

Ajten Pllana: And then when she came here two years ago, no, last year, I already started…One day came, what’s her name, Flaka Surroi, she came to drink coffee downstairs and my daughter, Arta, had told her, she said, “You know what, my mother is writing some stories.” “Let me see them”. I showed her, she read the first one and said, “Very good, teacher.” Because she was a student at our school, she said, “Continue.” Now my daughter had more courage, you know, and more will, “Finish whatever else you have, Mom, whatever seems more interesting.” Until there were 72, “You know what?” She said, “80 stories, 80 years old, I will celebrate it and make it so it is published on your birthday.” “Vjollca, are you crazy?” I started panicking, “Mom, they’re very interesting.” And that’s how it happened, then she sent them to Flaka, she made the first publication, and she said, “Look,” she said, “It’s a special book,” She really, really liked it. Then, of course, it had to be edited, I’m not a philologist, nor a linguist to… And then the second time when I gave it to her, she says, she appreciated and liked it and said, “It can be published.” We published it, and that’s how the book got published. I was surprised (laughs) it’s all because of my daughter, she is very determined, very determined and she says, “The gift for your 80th birthday is this book.” We published it with our own money, not like that, and it was published.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: A lot of people have read the book, what are the comments?

Ajten Pllana: What?

Kaltrina Krasniqi: A lot of people have read the book…

Ajten Pllana: Well, how do I know, me… Some people like the stories from  childhood a lot. They mention some from school, about our life, about my father’s imprisonment. Then, what is really interesting, the exodus of Albanians to Turkey, especially my daughter was really impressed by the excursion, I don’t know if you read it?

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Yes.

Ajten Pllana: Intentionally it all looks like it’s organised, because it was a time when it stopped for a while, we didn’t have access, we couldn’t go to Turkey, we weren’t allowed to go and not come back, not as a tourist, we didn’t know what it was, what it offers, what Turkey brings. And when the bus went then and when they came back, and they travelled through the most beautiful places. Turkey had beautiful places, but they didn’t take them to see the poverty, the unemployment, the… 60 years ago Turkey was very different, it wasn’t like today.

And then that there, my brother, when my dad one day, maybe you read it, my dad had it up to here {shows with her hand} one day, my dad got out of prison but knew there were always being watched, he said, “You know what?” And he goes to the Embassy, there wasn’t, but what is that, in the Turkish Consulate and asks… A friend sent him the guarantee his friend send him, but they asked him, “Are you Turkish or Albanian?” “No,” he says, “Albanian,” he says, “Proudly.” “Albanian, stay here,” he says, “You can’t go to Turkey.” And when my older brother Amiri found out, who still hadn’t been imprisoned and he got very mad, he said, “Whom did you ask, whom, we’re not going, we will stay in front of their noses, we aren’t going.” And, in our neighborhood, only our family was left, Macedonians came and bought houses and so, we didn’t go.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Why were they going to Turkey?

Ajten Pllana: What?

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Why were they going…

Ajten Pllana: Why were they going to Turkey? Well, a better life was offered to them… And look, now I see our people writing in newspapers and stuff. Albania isn’t opening schools for Albanians there isn’t because every day, not a month went by that some leader from Turkey came, once to Skopje and Belgrade was especially Fuad Koprulu, he was Minister of Foreign Affairs or something, he came very often. And you couldn’t ask to move to Turkey unless someone sent you a guarantee and go declare at the Embassy , at, at the Consulate that you are Turkish, not that you are Albanian.

All of that was done intentionally, because if they say they are Albanian, one day, they’ll ask for their rights, or, and schools and stuff. So when people ask for schools today, it’s in vain. Why aren’t there schools in Albanian language? Because you presented yourself as Turkish, they won’t give you schools in Albanian. Those were things that whoever thought a bit more about, didn’t work. Even though, our people were found, most of them, I mean lately the first generations, they couldn’t get schooled. Rarely, someone had to work. It was a struggle for existence, but, now, they have achieved a lot.

My sister-in-law went with eight of her children, they went, don’t even ask how my nephews have become, they are getting schooled and all but they have lost their identity. Only the old generations like me are left, the son and daughter of my sister-in-law speak in Albanian, the rest speak Turkish. That’s why it happened, someone who thought about it more endured that hard life at that time, you know, to not leave the country and go. Also, there was no awareness, you know, mostly people were uneducated, not calculating, not knowing about the future, right, like this.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: What did you learn in your 80 years of life?

Ajten Pllana: What?

Kaltrina Krasniqi: What did you learn in your 80 years of life??

Ajten Pllana: Ooh, what I learned, what I learned. Many things (laughs) I learned even through 80 years, 80 (laughs) years of life. To know how to fight for life. If you can, but I’m not a fighter, I’m not like that, and sometimes I think if I had studied more, and if I had that, but again it’s good like this too, right. What else, nothing concrete more than what I was able to achieve, no. I think, I’m content with the profession that I chose, I think it’s one of the most noble professions, most valuable even though some, some don’t appreciate it. But, being a teacher, working to enlighten three hundred or more kids, it’s something big, something valuable and so on.

Then my kids have achieved a lot, we live a normal life, nothing more. We don’t have megalomaniacal goals to get rich, normal, a normal life how an intellectual can live it, like this. I travelled the world enough, there, there I saw, I… It could be better, better things could have happened, but I’m not preoccupied, I’m content.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: From your close family, your sisters and brothers, who is left?

Ajten Pllana: I have a brother, a sister, and two brothers that are now both retired, I have a picture in the book. Even the youngest one is retired. He was a journ…albanologist, he worked as a journalist at the Pristina Radio Television, his wife is also an albanologist, journalist, but, when the Television closed, they had to go back to Skopje. They had their children here, two children, and another girl there. So my brother has retired a year ago, they had their first steps in Pristina and they have a very nice family.

The other brother that is alive, he is a lawyer and retired. He translates a lot of books of value from Turkish into Macedonian and from Macedonian into Turkish. My big brother, he was the backbone of the family, he died when he was 64, 74 years old. He was a lawyer, he was a political prisoner, the other one was the cyclist, he also died four or five years ago. When I go there, I miss my brothers… Because we, my father didn’t have siblings, his mother was from Presevo, living in Skopje, so we didn’t have relatives there.

My father had an old uncle with a daughter and he died in ‘54, he didn’t leave, he only left his daughter. And she later got married, she studied French. We were very lonely in Skopje, to say, like leaving wood in the desert. But, the family expanded with all the children, and now the children of the children, and so on, I go there, they come here to visit, and life goes by.  

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Once more, so it is more accurate. You were born in 1938, right?

Ajten Pllana:  ‘38, yes.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: Okay, thank you so much, it was a pleasure talking to you.

Ajten Pllana: Thank you for the time and interest.

Kaltrina Krasniqi: It was so much fun, it was so much fun, thank you so much.

Ajten Pllana: Really? Thank you, thank you.

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