Albanians Raised in Communist Labour Camp Recall Lost Childhood

"I'm realising over time that what I'm doing is a cleansing, a spiritual catharsis, and I was very young at the time of that system, I wasn't even a member of any [Communist] organisation, nothing. But it is your duty, it is your obligation to the history of your country," he insisted.

The women who were interned at the Gradishta labour camp were children of people who had been accused of crimes against the repressive Communist regime, or relatives of those who had committed the crime of escaping from Albania. Some of the women were born in the camp, while others were brought there with their mothers when they were little.

Whole families were interned in the Gradishta camp, former child inmate Fatmira Bajo says in the film: "Imagine a kid, nearly 12, my old grandmother, my pregnant mother and my two younger sisters."

The internees had a few rights, and were allowed to go out of the camp if they were given permission - to work in jobs assigned to them by the authorities or for young children to go to school.

But they were considered 'enemies of the people' by the Communists. They lived in makeshift huts and did not have the right to an education after the age of around 14, when they would have to go and work in the fields.

The film uses archive footage to show how the internees lived, and how the women did hard agricultural labour. One of them, Eva Pervizi, describes how tough the conditions were: "The rope from the sack dug deep into my shoulder. The mud. They assigned us to dig trenches with shovels and hoes. The cold. The dampness. Our boots never kept the water out," she says.

Film-maker Bujar Alimani with women who participated in the documentary 'Butterflies'. Photo courtesy of Bujar Alimani.


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