NEWS

Balkans witnessing a new Greek movement

Two hundred years after the first major opening of the north to the Greeks, a second modern version of Magna Graecia is coming to life in the Balkans based on corporate activity, letters and culture, from the Danube to Durres on the Adriatic and from Bitola to Novi Sad. Albania: The staging of «Antigone» at the Tirana open-air theater, built with Greek financial aid, was an important recent event in Albania. Albanians love ancient Greek drama. Homer was first translated into Albanian at the end of the 19th century and in 1930 Albanian intellectuals and poets sent a letter to the Swedish Academy asking for the Greek poet Costis Palamas to be nominated for the Nobel Prize. Greek literature ranks first among translations in Albania today. Yiannis Ritsos and more recent prose writers and poets are well regarded among Albanians, with over 100 Greek writers translated into Albanian. «Greece is once again invited to play the role of a cultural superpower in the Balkans, wielding two weapons: its language and culture. It does so and will continue to do so as its language and culture carry century-old values and messages of peace, tolerance and cultural cohabitation,» said Stavros Daios, the former head of the archives at the Tirana National Library. Albanians not only read books by Greek writers but also speak the language. It is estimated that today 60-70 percent of families in Albania have one member who speaks Greek. Those who speak the language learned it as immigrants in Greece and at schools in Albania: At the Arsakeio School in Tirana there are 500 pupils, 800 in the Greek-Albanian school in Korce and thousands attend Greek-language courses in institutes in Korce, Fieri and other cities. Modern Greek studies are available in Tirana and Gjirokaster and in the south there are Greek schools for the Greek-speaking minority. Greek is the second language in Albania. For many, Greece is an outlet and there is also the hope of finding work in the 350 companies operating in the country. Some 25,000 families depend on Greek companies for their earnings and many others secure a living through trade with Greece. At restaurants, hotels and stores, at least one employee can speak Greek. In tavernas, grill houses and canteens Greek cuisine is highly popular, accompanied by well-known Greek tunes. In the Albanian south and the Korce plain, Greek music is the norm.