Lone Family Keeps Fading Silk Cultivation Tradition in Albania Alive


For 13 years, Pjetraj and her family have run a small silk farm in the village of Dajc, part of a wide low-lying and fertile plain in the region of Zadrima in north Albania.

Zadrima is known among Albanians for their motif-rich, labour-intensive handwork in tablecloths or silver ornaments, whose motifs usually combine red and white and bear the name Zadrimore.

Silkworm cocoon is the first stage of the creation of the silk. The life cycle of the worms is only about five weeks. Photo: Nensi Bogdani/BIRN.

In communist times, the cash-strapped government encouraged the cultivation of silkworms by farmers due to its export potential. In the nearby town of Shkodra, a workshop was built to process it.

Mimoza remembers how most families in the Zadrima region used to cultivate silkworms for their own use. Now she and her family are the only ones who still do so in almost the whole region.

Mimoza Pjetraj taking care of the food and the conditions of the cultivation of the silk worms in her farm. Photo: Nensi Bogdani/BIRN

"It is a tiresome process. It needs a lot of work and care. That explains why we are only ones left in this craft," she told BIRN.

"More than 10 people help out with the process for the whole life cycle of the worm till the final processing," she added.

Silkworms at the Pjetraj family farm in Zadrima, north Albania. Photo: Nensi Bogdani/BIRN.

The life cycle of the worm lasts about five weeks before it turns into a moth. In the process, the worm creates a protective hard cocoon.

Before the moth emerges from the cocoon, it releases an enzyme that breaks the silken coat. This is placed in hot water to preserve the thread. The worms live only under...

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