Durres War Memorial

Durres War Memorial

Durrës War Memorial

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Durres War Memorial

The overwhelming number of Socialist Realist monuments in Albania are constructed from either concrete or bronze. However, there are occasional variations from this norm and there are a few mosaics (though not on the massive scale of ‘The Albanians’ on the National History Museum in Tirana) including those in Bestrove, Llogara National Park and at the Durrës War Memorial.

This change of medium offers greater opportunities to the artists. Concrete and bronze are ideal for giving an impression of solidity, steadfastness and dignity. Mosaic offers the opportunity of presenting movement, human expression and a dynamic not easily depicted in the more ‘solid’ art forms. Also, importantly, mosaics provide an infinite variety of colour, the limit being imposed by the imagination of the artists involved.

What is depicted at the Durrës War Memorial is the entry of the National Liberation Army into the city on 14th November 1944, just three days before the official liberation of the country on the 17th.

Liberation of Durres - 14 November 1944

Liberation of Durrës – 14 November 1944

The Artists

As was not uncommon in the production of the monuments throughout the country the mosaic in Durrës was a collaborative work of three artists. We know their initials as they are represented in stone in the bottom left hand corner of the work – together with the date of completion, 1976. The problem is that finding out some of the most basic information about these exceptional works of art is sometimes equivalent to getting blood from a stone.

Artists initials and date

Artists initials and date

One of them is Nikolet Vasia (the NV). He came from Durrës, worked during the Socialist period in the city’s Archaeological Museum and was known to have worked in mosaics. Unfortunately, as with a number of other ‘artists’ from the period his level of commitment to Socialism was limited, to say the least, and given the opportunity after the chaos of the 1990s gave the weak excuse of ‘only obeying orders’ and until his death in 2011 just produced individualistic and banal pieces of work. He didn’t even seem to have any pride in this wonderful mosaic.

(The small municipal art gallery, in the same square as the Town Hall, bears his name and is worth a visit for those with an interest in Socialist Realism as the permanent exhibition consists of paintings, drawings and sculptures from the period. The gallery is only one room and temporary exhibitions will take all the space so things are very hit and miss. However, it is one of the few locations outside of the National Art Gallery in Tirana that still displays art from 1944-1990.)

The other artist is Gavril Priftuli. He was born in the province of Korçe but moved to Durrës when very young. He also worked in the Archaeological Museum – it seems that in the city this was the way that artists earned their living, doing something for the community. However, when things changed he moved quickly and opened the first private gallery in Durrës in 1993.

Nikolet Vasia and Gavril Priftuli worked together on some of the works in the Skanderbeg Museum in Kruja.

F SH I have still to identify.

The architect for the complex was Kristo Sitiris (1870-1953). Building began in 1947 and was, therefore, one of the first in the country. It is also unique in that it is the only Martyrs’ Cemetery in Albania to use the niches rather than tombs. Those commemorated were both those who died in combat and also those who died in Nazi concentration camps outside of the country.

As the mosaic dates from 1976 this means that it was a decision of the Albanian Cultural Revolution to embellish the site with the magnificent mosaic.

One slightly strange aspect of this mosaic is that it is ‘signed’ – even though with initials. Names, or indications of the actual artists of the lapidar, didn’t really start to become common until the later creations in the 1980s, especially after the death of Enver Hoxha in 1985.

The Mosaic

The official name of the art work is ‘The Liberation of Durrës’ and measures 5.3 x 3.2 metres. It depicts a group of eight Communist Partisans entering the city on 14th November 1944.

We know it’s Durrës because in the top right hand corner we can see part of the crenellated Venetian city wall. This looks very much like that part of the wall known as the Torra which is down by the road that runs alongside the coast. (This tower, which has always offered the opportunity to see the inside of the walls has now been converted into a bar and cafe – whether it moves or not, whether it has any historic value or not, privatise it seems to be the mantra.)

We know they are Communists as all of them sport the red star on that caps. That’s slightly different from the other monuments described here so far. Normally there’s a mix of Communist and non-Communist soldiers, as was the make up of the National Liberation Army (NLA) after the Conference of Peze in August 1942. They are all armed (we have to assume that the woman at the back is so although no weapon is visible). The lead male has, in addition to his rifle, which is raised above his head in his right hand, a British mills bomb (grenade) attached to his belt. He also has a red scarf around his neck. (One of the advantages of colour is that here we can see what colour the stars and the neckerchiefs are whereas we just have to assume on the concrete and bronze statues.)

Behind the lead male is another man, moustachioed, with the barrel of his rifle peeking up over his left shoulder. He holds the flag that was to become the national banner of the country between 1944 and 1990, the double-headed black eagle with a gold star over the two heads, all on a bright red background. To his left is a female partisan, a rifle over her right shoulder, a bandolier over the same shoulder and a pistol, in its holster, attached to a lanyard around her neck. This would normally denote an officer in capitalist armies and I think (although perhaps not the best of ideas to emulate from the enemy) this was also the case in the NLA – it takes time to ditch the old as you attempt to build the new. If that’s the case it’s worth while mentioning that women held senior positions in the Partisan Army, where promotion depended upon merit and not class background.

Behind her is another male who looks like he’s carrying a heavy machine gun on his right shoulder. All these Partisans are in uniform, although there are various colours. Two of the other males in this group have whitish uniforms, on has a moustache. The other one has his light machine gun in his right hand and it’s pointing up in the air. I doubt whether he would have been firing but it’s the image we now see often when different armies or groups of soldiers enter a location in victory.

There’s another unusual, and almost impossible to depict in concrete or bronze, aspect with this male and that is it looks like he has a bandage around his forehead, with a bloody spot over his left eye. In war many die, even more are wounded.

Behind these two there’s the seventh of the group, of whom we only see the head. This is of a female partisan with long black hair. And she’s smiling. In fact all the Partisans are smiling, as are all of the civilians. Again this is something it’s possible to depict in a mosaic which, in a sense, makes the image more ‘human’. Emotions can be depicted with the varying use of colour.

The last of the Partisans is at the right hand edge of the mosaic. Over his left shoulder he has his rifle, the barrel pointing down and he has his right fist clenched in the revolutionary salute (something we saw a lot of on the Peze War Memorial) and his mouth is open as if he is shouting or calling out. His uniform is cream coloured and his bandana is of a deep red, similar to the colour of the flag.

So the scene is of Partisans who are happy that the fighting is all but over and the people of Durrës are happy that they are no longer occupied by foreign Fascist forces. We have to remember that it was in Durrës, among other Albanian port cities, that the Italian forces landed in April 1939. At that time the self-proclaimed ‘King’ Zog ran away to Britain and a small group of patriots, led by Kujo Ulqinaku (whose statue is close to the seafront) attempted to delay the invasion for as long as possible and lost his life in the process.

The lead male has his left hand on the shoulder of a young boy. What is interesting here is the colour of his eyes. When discussing other monuments I have mentioned how the all-Albania aspect of the liberation struggle is shown through the traditional clothing of those depicted. During my travels around Albania I have been surprised by the number of people, both male and female, who have such astonishing grey-blue eyes, a much greater incidence I have seen in any other country I might have visited. For a country with such a small population this is obviously a not inconsiderable genetic trait.

Albanian boy with grey-blue eyes

Albanian boy with grey-blue eyes

This young boy doesn’t look as if he has arrived with the Partisans, his dress is more civilian than military, but in his right hand, his arm hanging down, he carries a rifle – presumably taking the load off one of the victorious soldiers but also a reference that under Socialism, for success to be achieved, the fighters of the past have to pass the same consciousness of struggle on to future generations. The failure of Socialist societies in doing that having led to the disintegration of the glorious revolutionary successes of the 20th century.

The only civilian on the right hand of the picture is an older man, moustachioed, who is giving, and receiving, a double-handed hand shake with one of the soldiers.

On the left of the mosaic we have a collection of Durrës citizens.

From the extreme left we have a couple of musicians. The one in the front is in traditional Albanian dress, wearing a somewhat battered fez and sports a moustache. He is banging a lodra – a double-headed drum – with a thin drum stick, one skin of the drum facing us. Behind him is a younger man playing a surlja (an early type of clarinet) with the bell pointed up to the sky. The music creating a festive atmosphere to the proceedings.

The remaining people represented are what could well be a family. There’s an older man, balding, waving his cap in the air and next to the lead male partisan an older woman wearing the traditional headscarf and clothing. Then there’s a younger couple and three children, a teenager and (possibly) a younger sister (also dressed in traditional clothes) and a bare footed very young boy – the last two running towards the parade. In her hands the younger woman holds a bunch of flowers.

Here we have the sort of people, working class and peasantry, that would have to try to make something long-lasting of the victory gained by the Partisans. The gaining of liberty and the taking of State Power is only the beginning. It’s only then that the real struggle, the real challenge, the real problems have to be faced and overcome.

There’s a lot going on in this mosaic, a lot of movement and a lot of questions being asked. This is the principal monument in a Martyrs’ Cemetery so there’s an obvious connection between the living and the dead. Those who fell in the war are martyrs but it’s up to those still alive (and those yet to come) to decide if what they died for had meaning or not.

The construction of the mosaic

It’s well worth have a really close look at this mosaic. As yet I haven’t had the same opportunity to study the other mosaic monuments but from a cursory glance they seem to be made from multiple pieces of ceramic. The Durrës mosaic seems to be based more on the natural stone, with here and there pieces of terracotta, than classic ceramic tiles. These stones, which look at times like pieces of marble and pebbles from the beach, have been chosen for their size, colour and shape. The task of putting this together was immense but that of actually finding the right stones in the first place must have been greater. I’m sure the individual pieces had been chipped away to fit and this process can best be seen with the construction of the bunch of flowers.

Stone flowers

Stone flowers

In general the mosaic is in a good condition. The only sign of damage on my last visit in November 2014 was in the top left hand corner of the People’s Flag, where a handful of stones have fallen and there’s been a somewhat ham-fisted attempt to prevent the situation getting any worse.

In the small amount I’ve been able to read about Nikolet Vasia there has been no mention of this monumental (in more ways than one) piece of art. Why not when it’s a masterpiece is a mystery to me. At least it hasn’t undergone any State sponsored vandalism as has the mosaic in Skanderbeg Square in Tirana.

Martyrs' Cemetery, Durres, 1971

Martyrs’ Cemetery, Durres, 1971

The Cemetery

Unlike most Martyrs’ Cemeteries throughout the country there are no graves here, rather there are niches in the wall of the curved colonnade, up the steps from the mosaic. There’s a small platform which looks out over the gardens and would be the place where official commemorative events would have taken place.

Above the colonnade is a stylised flag tied to rifle with bayonet attached. In large letters are the two words Lavdi Dëshmorëve – Glory to the Martyrs. The letters and the decoration are made of metal.

In the centre of the colonnade, with a background of yellow, stone slabs, is bust of an unnamed female partisan on a rectangular plinth. To her left is a marble plaque with gold lettering:

Lavdi të përjetëshme dëshmorëve tanë të rënë në fushën e nderit për çlirimin e atdheut tonë të dashur.

Eternal glory to our martyrs who fell on the field of honour for the liberation of our beloved motherland.

On the right of the bust, against a whitewashed background is a marble plaque with the letters:

Të rënë në kampin e përqendrimit ‘Mathauzen’

To those murdered in the Mathausen concentration camp

Followed by a list of names. The first is Kozma Nushi – Hero I Popullit (People’s Hero), a cadre of the Albanian Communist Party and one of the organizers of the National Anti-Fascist Front in 1942. All these anti-fascist fighters would have been captured and then transported to the concentration camp of Mathausen, in Austria, never to return.

Mathausen camp was for political prisoners, a slave camp, with the philosophy of extermination through labour. It existed from 1938 till the end of the war.

At the camp nowadays there’s a statue by Odhise Paskali (the Albanian sculptor), Monument to the Victorious Partisan (1968), which depicts a defeated Nazi soldier on the ground with a partisan about to disarm him of his Walther P-38 pistol. A copy of this sculpture is in the Armament Museum in Gjirokastra Castle.

Monument to the Victorious Partisan

Monument to the Victorious Partisan

At the beginning of the left hand side of the colonnade, also against a white background is similar marble plaque with the words:

Të rënë në kampin e përqendrimit ‘Zemun’

To those murdered in the Zemun concentration camp

and then a list of names. These partisans would have been transported to another concentration camp. Zemun was originally a concentration and extermination camp in Croatia, on the outskirts of Belgrade. After 1942 it became a camp for captured partisans and members of resistance units from different parts of Europe.

The niches in the wall are faced in marble, the name of the deceased and (often) a picture of them some short time before their deaths as well as the year of birth and death. The Communists are indicated by a star on their caps in the photo.

Museum of the History of the Liberation War

The rooms above the colonnade used to house the local museum. This was either looted or just destroyed during the counter-revolution of 1990. Whatever its fate there’s no longer a museum to the anti-fascist war in the city. During its heyday veterans used to give presentations to young school children in the museum’s lecture hall.

The sign at the top of the stairs on the left hand side of the building indicating that this is now the location of ‘The British Children’s Library of Durrës’ but I never saw any children in the vicinity. The sign also looks like it had seen better days, fading as is the island at the western edge of Europe.

This library was originally ‘Dedicated to the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales’.

The placing of such symbols of imperialism in once Communist museums, cemeteries and public spaces is similar to the idea of the ‘extirpation of idolatry’ perpetrated by the Catholic Church during the invasion of South America.

The Gardens

When I first visited the site in 2011 the plants were allowed to droop over the edge of the platform and they were starting to obscure part of the mosaic. This has now been cut back and the gardens themselves now seem to be regularly maintained and are a pleasant oasis of calm, away from the noise of the traffic along one of the main streets of the city.


N 41.31886804

E 19.44440503


41° 19′ 7.9249” N

19° 26′ 39.8581” E

Altitude: 13.9m

How to get there:

This is simplicity itself. If you arrive in Durrës by either bus or (now the sadly neglected and infrequent) train you just come out to the main road and continue in the direction of travel you had been following before setting foot in the city, going roughly west. It’s about 800m from the bus/train station.

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Peze War Memorial

Peze War Memorial

Peze War Memorial

More on Albania ……

Peze War Memorial

The third major monument in the Peze Conference Memorial Park is the cemetery to those from Peze who fell during the anti-Fascist war of Independence. The Peze War Memorial is a short distance from the main area of the park and you could be excused for not knowing it’s there.

At one time this area must have been a pleasant place to spend some time away from Tirana. In the past the capital itself was not a busy, noisy and polluted city (as it has become now) and the contrast wouldn’t have been so great. Now that Tirana has all the negative aspects of capitalism such oases of quiet should be at a premium but that doesn’t mean that they are looked after.

On my recent visit the waste bins hadn’t been empties and if the litter hadn’t just been left on the grass the wind would blow the plastic bags from the overflowing bins and were everywhere. This includes the small river that runs through the park – you really wouldn’t want to be a river in capitalist Albania, see, for example, the fate of the River Kir in Skhoder.

The Peze War Memorial and cemetery is across a bridge over the river and it’s more than likely there will be some kind of makeshift fence that gives the impression that you are going into someone ‘s field. The cemetery is slightly around the corner, up on the right and with the trees in full leaf it’s not possible to see exactly what’s there.

However, just go through the fence (only bits of scrappy string hold the ‘gate’ closed and once on the other side of the bridge you’ll see the monument sitting against a backdrop of pine trees, which you reach after going up a flight of low steps.

This is the work of the sculptors Mumtaz Dhrami and Kristo Krisiko with Nina Mitrojorgji as the architect. The official name is ‘Monumenti i vendosur në varrezat e dëshmorëve në Pezë’. It was unveiled in 1977, the same time as the Monument to Heroic Peze at the junction of the Peze-Tirana-Durres road. They must have been part of a joint project (together with the Monument to the 22nd Brigade) and it’s possible to see similarities in the style and imagery.

The bronze part of the monument is embedded into a concave mass of white concrete. (There’s been a lot of painting of the Socialist period monuments recently and I’m not always sure if they were originally designed to be whitewashed or if the bare concrete was considered to be more aesthetically appropriate.) The bronze section is in two parts. The large concave section is decorated in bas-relief and in front of that (but also attached) is the statue of a group of four partisans on top of a plinth.

These statues are not complete figures, the male partisan at the front is only shown from a point midway between his knees and thighs and of those behind him there is more as they are raked so that we can see all of their faces.

The prominent, young male is dressed in what would have been the partisan’s uniform, wears a cap with a star and has what would have been a red bandanna around his neck. In his right hand he holds the top of the barrel of a rifle, the butt of which would be resting on the ground (unseen). Across his right shoulder there’s a bandolier (broad ammunition belt) and he wears another around his waist. On his right hip there hangs a British made Mills bomb (a fragmentation grenade). Over his left shoulder is a narrow strap that is attached to a small satchel that hangs just behind the grenade. His left hand is clenched into a tight, angry fist. He is looking straight in front of him, his head held high and proud.

Standing at his left shoulder is an older woman. She is very reminiscent of the depiction of the female on the Peze junction memorial, on that part that looks in the general direction of Tirana. She is not in uniform but wears traditional peasant dress with a hood pulled over her head. As I’ve said a number of times now the women are always armed (including in the description of the Albanian Mosaic on the National Museum) and she has a rifle slung over her left shoulder. She is looking slightly to her left, the only one of the group not looking straight ahead.

Behind her, and head and shoulders higher, is another young man. He is also not in any formal uniform. He has his sleeves rolled up, holds the top of the barrel of a quite significant machine gun in his left hand and his right hand is clenched in a bent arm salute, his hand directly over the head of the partisan soldier at the front of the group. He doesn’t wear a hat. He is looking in the same direction as the partisan.

The last of the statues is of an older man. His face looks over the right shoulder of the forward male. He has a bushy moustache and wears a fez. His right arm, sleeves rolled up, is also bent and his fist clenched in a revolutionary salute. He is also looking forward but there’s no evidence that he’s armed.

The plinth upon which they are standing carries the slogan: ‘Honour to the Martyrs of Heroic Peze’

As a backdrop to this group there’s a large five-pointed star (only three points are visible) on the concave bronze background.

Here we have the representation that the war against the Fascist invaders was a war that was fought, and won by ALL the people. A National Liberation War is not like those wars fought by the mercenary armies of capitalist/imperialist nations. As Mao Tse-Tung said: “The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea” and that was how the Albanians were able to defeat the invader. And it meant the involvement of all the population, regardless of age or gender.

There are a lot of stars on this monument. Two of them have letters on them. One on the left hand side of the group has the letters VFLP – which we have already seen on the Peze junction monument, “Vdekje Fashizmit – Liri Popullit!” (“Death to Fascism – Freedom to the People!”). Another, on the right hand side of the group has the letters PKSH – Partia Komuniste Shqiptare (Albanian Communist Party) which was later to become the Party of Labour of Albania (PLA).

Immediately to the right of the group on the bas-relief is the depiction of a young family, a mother, father and child. Both the man and the women are armed (with rifles slung over their shoulders) but it’s only the woman who is in the uniform of the Partisans, wearing a cap with a star and the red neckerchief. Her fingers of her left hand are tucked behind the strap of her rifle and she holds something hanging down from her right hand but I’m not able to work out what it is, it looks like a bottle/container of some kind.

Holding the baby

Holding the baby

What’s a little bit different (and unique, so far, in my travels) is that it’s the man who’s left holding the baby. He is static, looking out at us, but she is marching towards the left hand edge of the tableau, as if marching to war. However, this doesn’t mean that she is doing the fighting and he is the stay at home dad as he is also armed and is obviously a fighter as well as she.

Next to them, and taking up the space for the rest of this side of the monument, there is a lot going on. In the front, at the bottom, is another family group. Although looking in the direction of the battle, of the front, of the attack, the man has his right arm around his wife and she is pressed tightly against his chest, her right hand on his shoulder and a bag hanging from her left. She is dressed as a peasant woman of the time, her hair covered with a scarf.

The man is not in uniform and his sleeves are rolled up and he is clutching a rifle by the bottom end of the barrel. Grabbing hold of the wooden butt of the gun is a young boy. Whilst he is standing with his back to the action that is drawing the attention of his father he has his hands on the gun as he looks back over his shoulder as if to say ‘give me the gun and I’ll go and fight the invader’. The woman is wearing what would now be called flip-flop sandals and the boy appears to be barefooted. Is this the farewell before he goes off to the mountains?

The gun's mine

The gun’s mine

Behind this family group is a single male. He’s looking in the same direction as the others on this side of the monument but he is not pointing his gun (which looks like what I think is an Italian FNAB-43 submachine gun – the same as one partisan is carrying in the 22nd Brigade Monument) but brandishing it high above his head, as a challenge to the enemy – ‘we are going to get you’ he seems to be saying.

The next group, slightly higher and at a diagonal to the family, is a group of three males, of different ages and, by their dress, from different parts of the country. Two of them have their guns at the ready as if they are about to, or have just fired at the enemy. The third, the moustachioed and wearing a fez, for some reason isn’t armed and merely has his right hand clenched.

This is not the first time that groups of three have appeared in Dharmi and Krisiko’s work. I don’t know if that this is just a fad that they have or whether it holds a greater significance. (See the Heroic Peze Monument.)

Next up is a single male. He is a Communist as we can see the star on his fez. He’s full on. His right arm is high up above his head, in which he holds some sort of grenade he’s about to throw – I don’t recognise the type. (This looks similar to what the young mother mentioned before has in her hand.) This Communist has an FNAB-43 submachine gun in his left hand, ready to put it to work once the grenade has caused its havoc.

Next, and higher up, is a group of four (three men and a woman) partisans, all in the act of firing at the enemy, the three with rifles have them up to their faces in the act of aiming and one with a heavy machine gun on a tripod. Three of this group wear a star on their caps.

The remaining two partisans on this side show that victory does not come without casualties, without sacrifice. At the highest point of the bronze we have a female Communist (star on cap) with her left hand under the arm of a wounded male comrade. He is unable to stand on his own and she keeps him up. His left hand is on his rifle and she grips the same rifle by the barrel, whilst looking in the direction of battle. He might have fallen but there will always be someone ready, and willing, to pick up the rifles of the fallen to continue the struggle.

There’s a different dynamic on the other side of the group of four. The only one who is looking in the direction of the battle in which his comrades are involved is the standard-bearer. He holds the flag pole, the banner itself fluttering in the direction of battle, with the star over the heads of the two-headed eagle. Whilst his left hand is holding the flag pole in his right he holds a rifle and has a bandolier from his left shoulder.

The rest of the bronze on this side is taken up with a group of ten partisans.

The front group is made up of four males, all armed. Three of them are holding their rifles by the barrel whilst the butts are on the ground, but all these rifles are held so that they are very close together. One of the group looks like a teenager, he is smaller than the others and one of the men has his left hand on the young lad’s shoulder in a comforting, supportive manner. However young he might be the lad is armed as well as the others. Three of this group are wearing caps with the red star (including the youngster).

I’m trying to work out what they are doing, looking at. On the other side virtually all the attention is paid in one direction, where the conflict is taking place. On this side the group has no common point of interest. Although the four individuals are obviously together, the uniting of their weapons tells us that, where they are looking does not indicate unity, at least to me. Possibly it’s a meeting with a commander, who would be the one who is looking out at us, and that’s the reason the others are looking inwards.

Behind the four principals we only see the heads of the other six fighters. As with the front group there’s no common direction of attention.

On the far right we have a hatless fighter, the top of the barrel of his rifle peeking out behind his shoulder. Next along is a Communist partisan woman, with a star on her cap and her rifle raised above the heads of the males in the forefront. Both these are looking out at the viewer.

Behind the woman there’s a group of three males, of different ages (again stressing the fact that war is not just a matter for 19-20 year olds) looking generally over to their left. Things get squeezed a bit here and above their heads can be seen the tops of the barrels of various weapons and what appears to me to look like a pitchfork. This suggests two things. The first is that any weapon can be used against an invader. Secondly, even though the PKSH was a workers party Albania at that time was also a country with a predominantly peasant, agricultural population. Collectivisation and the establishment of State Farms after liberation would alter that class structure but the monument represents the situation in the country pre-1944.

The remaining male on this side looks out at the viewer, hatless but with his right fist clenched in the revolutionary salute. It might be useful to stress here that this group is collected together under the star with the letters of the anti-fascist slogan, VFLP.

This monument is in a very good condition, the only signs of wear being on the white concrete base which shows the stains from the pine trees behind. The condition of monuments throughout the country varies. This varying situation depending, I would have thought, on either the ruling political force in the locality as well as devoted individuals who take it up themselves to respect the memory of the past and the contribution made by the men and women who gave their lives for the liberation of their country. A case where, institutionally, this looks like the case is the Martyrs’ Cemetery in Berat.

This monument exists as a celebration of those from Peze who lost their lives in the war against first the Italian and then the German invaders. I don’t know if all the tombs are actually the final resting place of those who died but I’m sure there would have been a great deal of effort after the war to collect the remains of as many of the fallen as possible and place then close to their home town.

Before 1990 all of the cemeteries throughout the country would have been in a pristine condition. On significant dates relating to the war there would have been memorial services where, traditionally, children would place flowers on ALL of the graves. This served a double purpose. It ensured that those who might not have had any living relatives were not left out in the commemoration and also served as a lesson to the young to remember, recognise and respect what others had done to ensure their freedom.

Peze Cemetery

Peze Cemetery

On my visit in November 2014 it was not pristine but there had obviously had been some attempt to tidy the garden and at least the marble slabs on the steps hadn’t been looted as they had been at Korce, for example.

The cemetery is also in a very pleasant location. The village of Peze itself is at the head of a valley which is wide close to the Tirana-Durres road but which narrows significantly at the village. The cemetery is on one side of this narrow valley looking out to the fields that, during the Socialist period would have been full of activity but which are now is only worked sporadically.


N 41.21647504

E 19.70247201


41° 12′ 59.3101” N

19° 42′ 8.8992” E

Altitude: 109.7m

Getting to Peze by public transport:

Getting to Peze is not difficult but it does require a little bit of pre-planning and a bit of organisation as the starting point in Tirana is slightly out of the centre and it’s not a particularly frequent service. The bus stop is on Rruga Karvajes, opposite the German Hospital and just a few metres east of Rruga Naim Fresheri. The journey takes between 45 minutes and an hour, depending upon traffic and the driver, and costs 50 lek each way.

Departures from Tirana: 09.00, 12.00, 13.30,

Departures from Peze: 10.00, 12.45, 15.15

These times can be flexible in the sense of leaving later than stated. I suggest you allow at least an hour to explore the park. There are a number of bars and restaurants close to where the bus turns around so you can move quickly if necessary.

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