From: Albert Vokshi
Veliera, the Destruction of Cultural and Historical Heritage

With great concern, I am following what is happening in the ancient city of Durrës and the work for the construction of the new square under the name “Veliera,” a medieval ship’s sail made of concrete placed right at the entrance of the marine port. The construction work risks destroying the centuries-old archeological heritage in the thousand-years-old Dyrrachium.

It is not the first time that respect is lacking for cultural heritage laws, norms, and standards in a city that holds archeological and historical values and which convincingly locates the existence of the Albanian people in this area since 627 BC.

In 2010, during excavation work for the construction of high-rise buildings, ruins of an ancient roman neighborhood were discovered in archeological area ‘B.” Surprisingly though, the destruction of a whole neighborhood with unique archeological values was allowed by the state authorities in charge. Today this area has been covered by concrete structures of an apartment buildings. The valid opposition of professionals wasn’t successful at the time.

The case of “Veliera” square is stained by falsified documents on the actual archeological state of areas “A” and “B” (according to the archeological zonification), which in no way justify the actions initiated to damage archeological heritage. Undoubtedly, it should be clear for everybody that the old city, whether well researched or not, should be totally protected because of the evident archeological and historical values.

Such urban provocations should be strictly prohibited in this area of the city. Constructions on the glorious ruins of the past, of what some call the “Underground Museum” should stop; evidence of the past is buried under news buildings.

It is the duty of urban planners to create an organic relationship between the old and the new, determined to preserve at all costs the glorious past of the city that must serve as an inspiring model for the new generations. The urban identity created for centuries is an ideal foundation for the future of urban planning. It must be preserved and nourished and it mustn’t be destroyed using abusive means akin to the ones of the past years, as in the case of “Veliera.”

This case is disheartening but rather normal for Albania and Kosovo, resulting from unreasonable actions undertaken by our decision makers.

The uncontrollable behaviors of people during 1997, in Albania, are fresh in my memory, their actions regarding artifacts, fictional cultural monuments, and state museums. Cases of destruction, robbery, plundering, damaging, and sales tagged with ridiculous prices, outside the country, were normal and destructive for our country and the past.

The underground territories that were inhabited by Albanians in the Balkans are rich with traces of ancient Pelasgian and Illyrian civilizations. The unfavorable historical circumstances and the barbaric battles have hindered a complete research to unearth the historical truth. In reality, there were short historical periods when archeological research was more intensive, especially in Albania but not in Kosovo and other territories with Albanian population, where research was not allowed.

Acknowledging these historical circumstances, I am tremendously irritated by the unreasonable behavior of the decision makers of the two countries and their inconvenient approach to cultural heritage. The case of Durrës, Gjirokastra, Tirana, and many others areas in Albania are serious signs that those that are responsible shouldn’t be allowed to allow the deterioration of cultural objects of heritage.

The inappropriate approach followed by heritage authorities in Berat and Gjirokastra forced the Global Committee of Heritage of UNESCO, in 2015, to reach an unanimous decision and remove this wealth as part of the List of Endangered Global Heritage.

The situation in Kosovo regarding cultural and historical heritage is even more desperate and destructive during eighteen years of freedom. In full consciousness we are deleting the past and acting carelessly toward our urban and rural identity that has never been treated with the desired seriousness.

Construction work, with permission or not, violent occupation of public property, damage of archeological discoveries, collapse and disappearance are but some subtle indications of major illegal actions that we have committed through the years. There are some small positive differences but they are very little to show a serious approach towards these problems.

There is a lot to talk about when it comes to cultural heritage and our behavior towards it for the 21st century and it is to the utmost importance that the approach should totally change to avoid destroying everything.

Cultural heritage is a gem with a considerable value that other countries don’t have.

Smart investments in cultural heritage will only increase the value of this public wealth. There must be professional training, to achieve this, accompanied by the necessary legislation and a constant monitoring to ensure the well-being and maintenance of these values.

It is our last chance to change our naive standpoint in Albania and Kosovo. Material possessions are transitory, and we are left with effects of abusive actions of a fragile time. Who is to blame? We are.