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His father was a native of Kosovo but in 1924 he made his way south to Albania and settled in Tirana where he got married and raised a family. His mother was trained in Golem near Durres at the American school to become an English teacher. He confesses that her many children became her only pupils as she often spoke English to them. In 1989 his home received a special guest, Mother Teresa. He recalls that she was of a small stature with small feet and hands and wore slippers, no shoes. He remembers that she was a kind woman concerned about the children and at no time did she express interest about politics. He shows some pictures to me taken at the time of Mother Teresa’s visit at his father’s home. It shows her sitting at the table talking to the members of Zajmi family, it shows her talking to important members of politics who were guests at the home at that time and there is a picture where she is hugging his daughter.
His father, Hamdi, was skilled with his hands and he took to shoe making. Later influenced by the well known sports man, Selman Stermasi and financed by him he took a vocation in Milan. There he visited shoe shops and brought back samples of sports shoes. So he settled in the trade of sport’s product near Qemal Stafa stadium. Age and Drane, sister and mother of Mother Teresa were regular customers at Hamdi’s shoe shop and at the time they needed a place to rent. Hamdi rented his home to them from 1943 to 1946, the home that mother T so kindly paid a visit to. Mother T didn’t have access to her blood land during the communist regime. What are left of her family are a table clock and a Siemens radio with lamps that he keeps in the basement.
Bashkim Zajmi was born in 1940 and I will look like him by 2064. His face radiant and optimistic shares with me stories that are the stories of his generation. He shares his story with the story of my father. Their stories endured the pain of a system that built and the other that destroyed. In the 1990s a sort of enmity prevailed that condemned the good work of the previous generation. Bashkim is well into his mid seventies but on his earlier years he was working in the map printing house. Now he says the maps he published are outdated, as the divided Germanies reunited, countries in Africa have changed and many Yugo countries including Kosovo are recognized as independent countries. His place of work much valued and esteemed at the time is demolished and instead of it now stand apartment buildings.
Too bad some of us won’t see in or point at the places where our fathers and grandfathers worked. The 90s generation rebelled; they rebelled like many misdirected rebellions go, by destruction of what is perceived to be old. And so went discarded the printing machinery imported from Leipzig. Bashkim welcomes me out and says that the front yard was adorned with two long tulip beds on the rims. Now there are some pink ortensias. Half of the well protrudes from the side wall. Now it goes unused. In the future he is happy that his oldish house and some others of the block will be torn down to build modern residential buildings.
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