We lived near Tirana’s main park, the Grand Park, and most days I walked there, usually accompanied by a small gang of local street dogs who had adopted me into their pack. In the heavily polluted city the park together with the imaginatively named Artificial Lake provided one of the few escapes from the traffic, the pollution and the general chaos of Tirana. Every day the locals would come to walk, to play, to cycle, to picnic or just to sit and relax. On the weekends in particular the older generation would put on their Sunday best and promenade on the pathway that winds around the lake.
On this particular day I was watching life from a park bench when these two older gentlemen, strolling and chatting, approached and sat down a little way from me. They sat there in mostly companionable silence, exchanging the occasional few words, and I snapped this picture of them discreetly. They reminded me of my grandfather, though he was of an even older generation. Granda Moore always wore a suit and tie. I can’t recall him ever wearing anything else. He wore simple but sturdy leather shoes and he never went out without a hat. I could well imagine him sitting on the bench beside these two passing the time of day.
What I could not imagine is all that these two had witnessed over the years. This was 2007 and they would have been old enough to remember the war, the triumph of Hoxha’s partisans, Hoxha’s increasing paranoia and endless splits with other communist regimes, his scorched earth anti-religious policies, his death, the weakening of the regime’s grip, its chaotic collapse, the social disintegration that followed, the succession of corrupt and venal politicians and gangsters who controlled the country for years and more besides. At a time when we in the comfortable west go into meltdown at every imagined slight and minor inconvenience it is good to be reminded of the resilience of those generations who have witnessed a lifetime of trauma and dislocation beyond our imagining.
By 2007, though still with its problems, Albania had gained a measure of stability and I like to think that these two were at last enjoying the freedom to walk in the park and say what they wished, reflecting on the past and remembering the good times in the midst of all the darkness. I suppose by now that both of them have passed away, though I like to imagine that they are still soldiering on, still taking their walks in the park. If not, then this is my tribute to them.
(This was taken on a 4MP point and shoot and the file then cropped to a mere 900 pixels wide for my Tirana blog and the original discarded. I enlarged it to 1800 pixels in Lightroom and it looks fine. Just don’t look too closely.)