Albanianism of Chameria (Thesprotia) in Continuity

Sali Bollati

The Albanian Region of Chameria comprises the Southern part of the Albanian ethnic territories, inhabited by Albanians since the ancient times (Pellasgo-Illyrian times) until today. Even the ancient historians Straboni and Plutarch wrote that the inhabitants of Epir-Chameria spoke a “barbarian” language, because their mother tongue wasn’t Greek. The Cham dialect is one of the oldest of the Albanian language.
The Chams (both Muslim and Christian believers) are ethnic Albanians in the area of north-western of present-day Greece known to the Albanians as Chameria and to Greeks as TThe Albanian population of Chameria is comprised of both Christian and Moslem believers, who use Albanian language at home. In reality the Greek government denies the existence of this in particular for Christian Chams. The Greek historian Spiro Muselimi in his book ”A historic journey through Thesprotia”, edited in Ioannina in 1974, quoted as follows: “In the year of 1877, the Metropolitanp of the Orthodox Church of Thesprotia had to translate the New Testament in Albanian language, because the Christian Chams did not understand what was predicated during masses in Greek language”. In the same book, it is also written that in 1910 all Orthodox and Moslem inhabitants Chameria spoke only Albanian
For those Chams of orthodox faith who remained in Greece after 1945, their Albanian identity was suppressed by a harsh repressive policy of assimilation and the Albanian language was not allowed to be spoken in public, nor taught at schools. Greece wanted the demographic structure of the region changed because it did not trust the rest of the Albanian population who remained there, even though they were of the orthodox faith. As an estimation, more than 60’000 Christian Orthodox Albanians live today in Chameria region.
The Albanian Ambassador in Greece in 1972 Lik Seiti accompanied by a Greek Minister in visit of Chameria met Mayor of Municipality of Gumenica and talked in Albanian; the Mayor told that there are more than 40 villages that speak Albanian; old people speak only Albanian as didn’t know Greek
In 2010 together with my wife and some friends, thankfully to American Passport (as “democratic Greek” authorities don’t permit to enter Albanians born in Greece?!); in city of Parga we met enjoying talking Albanian a lot Christian Albanians living there. Uncle Pano told us that in Rrapeza, village near Parga all people speak Albanian.
Last years the Greek “democratic” authorities orders Albanian Government that must don’t mention in at all the name Chameria as non exist such name; even if not implement the order, the Greek government will vetoed the Admission of Albania in EU
In realty the Albanian Chams-Christian believers, are living there, speaking Albanian even the Greek authorities don’t allow in public.
Not for surprise but in realty some days before, I watch an article published in Paramithia

Γράφει για την, η Αλεξάνδρα Παυλίδου Θωμά*


Among other thing things writes…….. Κάποτε ήρθαμε στην Παραμυθιά, μα δεν πήγαμε στο σπίτι του παππού μας. Τα σπίτια των αλβανοτσάμηδων ήταν άδεια μα χιλιοκατεστραμμένα. Σε ένα τέτοιο σπίτι πήγε η μάνα μου, με δίπλα συγγενείς και φίλους,σε χώρους που ήταν καλοί χωρίς πολλές βλάβες. Εκεί ζούσαμε λίγο καιρό μέχρι να φύγουμε σε λίγα χρόνια για την Αθήνα. Για μένα και τούτα τα χρόνια δεν ήταν σταθερά.
Ο πατέρας μου για λόγους που τότε δεν καταλάβαινα, υπηρετούσε σε χωριά δίγλωσσα, σε χωριά που υπήρχαν άνθρωποι μέσα στις οικογένειες που αγνοούσαν τα ελληνικά.Μιλούσαν μόνο αρβανίτικα.

Ήταν χριστιανοί ορθόδοξοι, είχαν ελληνική συνείδηση μα δεν γνώριζαν οι γυναίκες καλά Ελληνικά οι βάβες ίσως καθόλου. Πολλοί μιλούσαν μόνο τα αρβανίτικα έστω κι αν γνώριζαν καλά Ελληνικά.

Τι σκοπό είχαν οι δάσκαλοι που γνώριζαν και τα αρβανίτικα. Να κάνουν μαθήματα και στις βάβες ακόμα γιατί ο εχθρός,, όπως και τώρα παραμόνευε

…Once we came to Paramythia, but we did not go to our grandfather’s house. The houses of the Albanian Chames were empty but milky. In such a home my mother went with relatives and friends to places that were good without much damage. There we lived a while before we left for a few years to Athens. For me, these years were not stable either.
My father, for reasons I did not understand at the time, served in bilingual villages, in villages where there were people in the families who ignored Greek. They only spoke Arvanitika-Albanian

They were Christian Orthodox, they had Greek consciousness but women did not know well Greek the elderly probably did not. Many of them spoke only the Albanian, even though they knew Greek well.

What purpose did the teachers they knew and the Arvanitika-Albanian. To do lessons and to the boys and more to the elderly, till because the enemy, as he was now, was passing away, even today with a disdainful look.

So, today I don’t have to say some thing more, but last week the “ALBANIAN RROOTS” a non profit organization; created and directing by Mr Marco Kepi-an Albanian -American young intellectual educated here in the USA devoting oneself to a cause Protecting Human Rights, companionable with famous journalist Mr. Marin M ema even a “Persona non grata” in Greece, organized a Meaningful Parade with flying colours dedicated to Chameria. Thousand Albanians from all ethnic regions of Albania, declaring publicly that Greek authorities to issue an announcement to have a bad conscience about wholesale murder that was done against Albanians of Chameria in years 1944-45, to let them permit to enter in their birth place, knowing and protecting the Human Rights for the Christian Albanian. We don’t want a revenge, only to live in friendship and peace with Greek people as our thousand years in the neighborhood.

Sali Bollati-Cham Albanian American survivor. NY June 24/2019