The fate of Russian women trapped in 1960s Albania to be made into movie

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 19, 2017 14:02

The fate of Russian women trapped in 1960s Albania to be made into movie

Story Highlights

  • “When two countries clash, the fates of many people found in-between turn upside down. But when the clash happens between two communist countries, everything is twice more dramatic. This is the story of dozens of foreign women who the same to the frightened gazelles, suddenly found themselves amid the clash between two countries of the communist bloc. This movie is a requiem for those women,” Kadare has said about his screenplay.

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TIRANA, July 19 – Russian directors have started working on a movie tracing the fate of more than a dozen Russian women who were trapped in Albania in the early 1960s when Albania broke up with the former Soviet Union.

The movie is based on the “Sorkadhet e trembura” (Frightened gazelles) screenplay written a decade ago by Ismail Kadare, Albania’s internationally renowned writer, who also studied literature in Moscow in the late 1950s.

“When two countries clash, the fates of many people found in-between turn upside down. But when the clash happens between two communist countries, everything is twice more dramatic. This is the story of dozens of foreign women who the same to the frightened gazelles, suddenly found themselves amid the clash between two countries of the communist bloc. This movie is a requiem for those women,” Kadare has said about his screenplay.

Hundreds of Albanians went to study in Russia in the 1950s in the honeymoon with the former Soviet Union. Some of them even married Russian women and brought them to Albania

Alexander Sokurov, the international award-winning Russian filmmaker, will be the artistic director of the movie that is directed by Yuri Arabov, known for his long-lasting collaboration with Sokurov.

Speaking in an interview with Albanian media during a recent visit to the country, Sokurov said the movie traces the well-known story of many Russian-Albanian families who suffered the communist paradox. “It was a tough chapter not only for the former Soviet Union but also Albania,” Sokurov has said.

The 66-year old is hailed as Russia’s most distinguished living film maker. He was a Golden Lion winner at the 2011 Venice Film festival for his film “Faust.”

Named “Gjirokastra,” after Albania’s UNESCO World Heritage site, the movie focuses on relations between a young couple, a Russian woman and an Albanian man, who decide to live in Albania after graduating in Russia, only for their lives to take a sudden U-turn following the sudden cut of relations between the two countries in 1961.

Asked about when the movie will be released, Sokurov believes shooting will finish by the end of this year and if enough funding is secured and the Albanian government supports the project, the film could make its launch by next year.

The movie will feature an almost all-Albanian cast with only one Russian actress picked to perform the lead role of Katya.  The whole movie will be shot in Albania, in the cities of Gjirokastra and Tirana.

Yuri Arabov, the movie’s director, has earlier noted the movie is not a story about the past, but about the present and the future.

“I think Russia and Albania had the same fate. We lived for a long time under the Stalin rule, the same like you suffered for many years under Enver Hoxha’s dictatorship. It’s almost the same story of persecutions, killers and killings,” Arabov has said.

“I am doing this job with a strong desire and I think it is important that this story is confessed as it is not a story about the past, but about the present and the future. This movie will speak up for freedom, but also the same fate of people from different countries under communism, but will mainly be addressed to youngsters,” he added.

The Kadare screenplay is based on real stories as the writer consulted investigations into Russian women in Albania from the notorious archives of the Interior Ministry. Among them, there were also tragic stories of Russian women who escaped persecution in Russia to find love in Albania before ending up in prison to suffer the same tragic fate.

More than a dozen of Russian women were imprisoned in Albania after the two countries broke up in the early 1960 and dozens of others interned just like dozens of thousands of Albanians suffered under 45 years of Stalinist dictatorship.

Citing Albanian statistics, a Russian study says there were nearly 400 mixed marriages between the ethnic Albanian men and Russian women from 1947 to 1961.

“Most of these women moved to Albania permanently with their husbands. In fact, this is the only time that we can speak about the emergence of a full-fledged Russian diaspora in Albania, says the Russian government-funded Russkiy Mir Foundation in an article on “The tragedy of Albania’s Russian community.”

“For a variety of reasons, however, about half of the Russian women remained with their husbands in Albania and as a result were completely cut off from their homeland. Moreover, anyone who had studied in the Soviet Union was declared to be a spy – along with their family,” says the Russian Foundation.

Many of the Russian women were imprisoned for 15-20 years and sent to perform hard labor in remote mountainous regions of Albania.

“All correspondence was banned, it was impossible to make phone calls, and moving from one city to another was not realistic, because there were roadblocks everywhere. And there were mountains all around,” recalled Luiza Papayani.

In 1950, Luiza Papayani, maiden name Melnikova, led a group of Soviet lawyers who created the first Albanian forensic laboratory. She also became the first Russian director of Radio Tirana.

“We all (Russian women) completely lost contact with our country and were isolated from the world and our relatives. Those were the circumstances we had to survive in and raise families, hoping for better times,” she is quoted as saying.

Albania-Russia relations date back to the late 1940s when the two then communist countries developed close ties until 1961 when they broke over ideological grounds.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 19, 2017 14:02