Descendants of Bosnian and Armenian Migrants Keep Ancient Ways Alive in Albania

Kapidani is cataloguing any documents that he can find about his ancestors. "We've collected documents and testimonies from the elders, aiming to reconstruct their trip by land and sea," Kapidani told BIRN.

Back in the 1870s, Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the most culturally diverse parts of the Balkans, was mired in a multisided conflict.

As the Ottoman Empire began to disintegrate, both the Russian and Austrian Empires competed to replace it in the Balkans, along with Serbia, Greece and other local actors.

After the Ottomans were defeated by the Russian Empire in the 1877-78 war, the Great Powers intervened to decide what would be done with several parts of the Balkans.

Legend has it that a group of Bosnian Muslims from the Mostar area in Bosnia decided to emigrate to other parts of the Ottoman Empire, as the Austro-Hungarian Empire took over control of Bosnia.

Kapidani says many took ship for what today is European Turkey, an area where millions of Muslims of various ethnicities settled after emigrating from various former Ottoman lands in the Balkans.

But their ship suffered an engine failure and was obliged to land in Durres instead.

Kapidani says an army officer from Bosnia stationed in Durres urged the immigrants to settle there, instead of going further south in a hazardous journey on the Ionian and Aegean seas.

They settled in a hilly area around the town of Shijak and saw it as very similar to their previous home. For them, the nearby Erzen river substituted for the river Neretva flowing through Mostar in Bosnia.

Locals referred to the arrivals as "muhaxhire", a Turkish word for "emigrants". However, relations were good and no conflicts arose. The Albanian state granted them the...

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