Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Nana's family.

My wife’s family is Christian Orthodox, from southern Albania, she always tells me they are from a very classy family.

This amazing photograph is of her grandmother, her Nana, with her family. One of the little girls is her Nana, the little one in the back row. The two men are my wife’s Great Grandfather, and her Great Granduncle. Their wives are standing on either side of them in the back row. The one in the ethnic dress is her Great Grandfather. He insisted on wearing traditional dress for this photo, his brother is in the three-piece suit. They were successful traders and businessmen and had offices in Egypt as well as Albania and Greece. I guess they were very classy.

The Greek Evzones, at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, wear the fustanella, the kilt, it is from northern Epirus (Albania), and the uniform is made up of various traditional pieces of costumes from all over Greece. The skirt has four hundred pleats for the 400 years of Ottoman occupation. I am not sure all Greeks will accept that the principle piece is Albanian, but it is.

I then have to assume the three-piece dark suit is from Albania as well. All stockbrokers and businessmen throughout the world owe their look to the Albanians, maybe even to my wife’s Great Granduncle.

OK, maybe the three-piece suit is not Albanian, but it could be.

This is a wonderful photo and the woman in the middle is the mother of the two men, Jeannine’s Great Great Grandmother. The Albanians probably invented the camera as well. Why not?

It is established that Columbus is Greek, why shouldn’t the 3-piece suit, the fustanella and the Camera not be Albanian?

We did visit her Grandmothers village, Leusa in Permet. It is just over the Pindos Mountains between Greece and Albania, not far from the Zagarohoria, north of Ioannina. The architecture of their village is very similar to the Zagarohoria, 3 story large stone houses, and arched stone bridges and in the mountains towering over Permet. There are really no differences between the two countries up there physically.

After all those years in the ad business I occasionally wore a 3-piece suit. I never realized I might be wearing traditional Albanian clothes. Yes, I like the idea that the fustanella and the 3-piece suit are Albanian inventions.

OK! OK! The camera is not Albanian, I concede that one.


  1. The Brooks Brothers were actually Albanian.

  2. On our visit to Leusa, we had to leave our van at the foot of the entrance to the town and walk up the horribly pitted, stone paved mountain road. Once so prosperous, the town had been destroyed by the Germans during WWII. Fortunately, my grandmother left for America in 1918 to marry my grandfather and her memory of the village remained as she remembered it, vibrant, with beautiful valley's and a river below it. The once impressive merchant homes that survived the bombings and raising of the town were reduced to one-story structures and are now occupied by people that wandered in homeless after the war; The original families fled to and settled in Tirana. Only a few people remained that knew the history of the place.
    I carried with me a 1935 archive photo of the village sent to my mother by my Nana's first cousin-the little boy in the photo sitting on my Great, Great-grandmother's lap,a third brother, his father was in Alexandria and not present for the photo-so I was astonished to see the church of St. Maria looming large over the entrance to the village, still standing; all the other family churches had been leveled or raised. We found the caretaker who opened the church for us and what we saw when we entered was so unexpected and so beautiful. Before us remarkable late 17th century frescoes covered the walls and ceiling, painted by two celebrated brothers in a more liberated painting style...Italian fresco influences apparent with a touch of traditional Byzantine style, not a scratch on them, but the highlight of the experience was the magnificent, intricately carved wooden altar before us and the ornately carved pulpit with the scenes of the crucifixion winding up and around the pulpit itself...The gold sacrament vessels and the many gold covered icons were confiscated by the government after the war. Upstairs we saw the place where women must have stood to witness the church service, behind a lattice work wooden screen and yet more carvings. When I asked the caretaker how the church survived the devastation, I was told that the German officer who ordered the raising of the town, had entered the church as it was about to be set alight and stunned by it's beauty spared it.
    I found what remained of my grandmothers home, walked fondly in her footsteps up and down the narrow stone paths and brought back a collection of what I thought might be pieces of grey-green roof slate and quietly thanked her for making that arduous journey across an ocean to America.

  3. you need your own blog, really great

  4. Jeannine's comment was better than the article. It really came from her heart. You're right Greg, jennine SHOULD write a blog. Wonderful story. You supplied the humour and Jeannine supplied the pathos. Great photo.