Alone in Tirana

Publish date 20-02-2023

by Fabrizio Floris

A third of Albanians live in the capital where loneliness and impoverishment increase

Albania is a country under construction: houses, palaces, villas, skyscrapers. Yet it loses inhabitants every year, falling significantly below the psychological threshold of 3 million inhabitants, one million of whom live in the capital Tirana: what urban planners call the "primate city" because it alone absorbs more than half of the urban population of the entire country.

In the city center 7 skyscrapers are under construction, the squares sparkle with lights, the restaurants are full and the five-star hotels stand out: everything appears tidy, clean, cared for. «And yet, says Fredo, I feel finished, you know what it means to feel in the end, as a person, as a human being, having nothing more to say and nothing to give, nothing to do. I can't say what I'm missing, I simply feel transparent: being there or not being there doesn't seem to make any difference. You are absent from yourself and the world around you. Live like a subject who passively suffers events, but doesn't react. When I walk along the streets of Tirana at night, I observe and pass by. [...] A few days ago, when the mountains around the city were full of snow that pushed cold drafts towards the streets of the center, I saw a man sitting on the ground near the traffic light at the intersection of Rruga Kavajes and Rruga Kongresi. He moved his arms as his angular bones poked out under the light of the street lamps, his back was completely exposed and he ate from a basket with his bare hands. I had observed it briefly, from a distance, then turned away. I didn't know what to do, I wouldn't have known what to say, yet as I walked I felt a sense of shame, I was ashamed of myself, of this distance that I place between myself and the others, this social distance that has become human distance: the inability to make a gesture, even the slightest one, instead of thinking about the answer, what solution can be found, rather than doing my part, not the solution, but a small fundamental part worth being there for: not really finished yet ».

Loneliness and isolation have impoverished everyone, as Wisława Szymborska writes «we are very polite to each other, we say it is nice to meet after years. We stop mid-sentence, no way out smiling. Our people don't know how to talk to each other.'

Fabrizio Floris

NP Dicembre 2022

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