Martyrs’ Cemetery, Korçë

Martyrs' Cemetery, Korçë

Martyrs’ Cemetery, Korçë

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Martyrs’ Cemetery, Korçë

Many of the martyrs’ cemeteries in Albania are situated on hills above the towns and villages and this is certainly the case with the Martyrs’ Cemetery, Korçë, where the highest point is a fair hike from the centre of the town below. However, it’s worth the effort as, on a clear day, you have a fine view of the town, the fertile valley below and the mountains to the west as well as a fine example of Socialist Realist Art.

At the very top of the steps, with the tombs of the fallen partisans fanned out on either side of him, is a large statue of a male Partisan. Throughout the country there are a number of Martyrs’ Cemeteries that include such a stand alone, bronze statue. These include Ersekë, with yet another single male Partisan; Librazhd, where the statue is of a male and female; Lushnje, with a very charming statue of a kneeling female Partisan with a young boy; and Pogradec, where there is a group of three, two males and one female.

The statue is about twice life-size and he stands with his feet slightly apart, on top of a concrete plinth. He is dressed in the uniform of a partisan and wears a cap with the star on the front. Around his neck is a tied bandana – so, as is often the case, declaring his status as a Communist. On the belt around his waist there are three ammunition pouches (of five bullets each) in sight. On his feet he is wearing shoes rather than boots but as added protection against the elements he is wearing long, thick socks into which the bottom of his trousers are tucked, the sock reaching just to below his knees.

Martyrs' Cemetery, Korçë

Martyrs’ Cemetery, Korçë

His left arm is stretched up to its full extent above him and the fist is clenched. This, to me, is the authentic Communist salute. His right arm is bent at 90 degrees and his right hand is tightly gripping the top part of the barrel of his rifle. This is a bolt-action rifle and the butt is resting on the ground, just before his right foot. He is looking down on the town of Korçë and into the distance where, at this height, it’s possible to see the mountains of Skrapar.

At the end of 2011 the general area of the cemetery, including the stepped approach was in a sad state. This included the statue, showing signs of wear and noticeable marks on the surface of the bronze. As with many of the Albanian lapidars there has been quite considerable renovation in the last year or so and the result of this is that the statue has had a very recent coating of gold paint.

The sculpture is the work of Avni Bilbili, Piro Dollaku and Ilia Xhano and was created in 1969. That’s early in the construction of Albanian lapidars and the Cultural Revolution. It was very common for there to have been a plaster statue in place initially, with a bronze statue coming later. I have not, so far, seen any pictures which indicate that in Korçë.

The only information I have about Avni Bilbili is that he is the creator of a monument to Naim Freshëri in Rruga Nëntori 28, in Korçë, in 1956.

Piro Dollaku and Ilia Xhano were joint creators of the magnificent Partisan and Child in Borovë. This sculpture, now beside the main road going through the village, used to be part of the main lapidar for the Borovë Martyr’s Cemetery, on the hill across the road. This was substantially remodeled but their bas-relief is now at the entrance gates to the cemetery.

Behind him are two, low, one-storey, rectangular buildings. The space between them is directly behind the statue. These are locked and it’s not, as far as I know, possible to go inside. As was the norm in Martyrs’ Cemeteries these would have been the small, local museum, displaying artefacts and photos from the National Liberation War.

As you look at the front of the statue the building on the left has the slogan; Lavdi Deshmoreve te Atdheut, which translates as; Glory to the martyrs of the homeland. This was the situation in May 2015. On my previ