Dean Kalimniou writes opinion pieces for Neos Kosmos, a Greek-Australian newspaper in Melbourne. Readers can access his excellent writing on his very own blog called "Diatribe." The following post, which is a year old, speaks volumes of the current state of Greek-Albanian relations and stands in sharp contrast to the meticulous care and respect accorded the German dead on the island of Crete where over 25,000 civilians were killed by the occupying forces. The German cemetery at Maleme where 4,000 Germans were interred was tended by the Cretan hero, George Psychoundakis until his death.
"Recently, the very hypothesis of Ismail Kadare's "The General of the Dead Army" was
re-enacted, this time by the grieving relatives of Greek soldiers who
fell in Albania during World War II. Unlike German and Italian
soldiers, with whom Albania was allied during that war, Greek soldiers
represent an enemy and occupying force that attempted to re-annex
Northern Epirus and denude Albania of its southern provinces. As a
result, the corpses of Greek soldiers have been left to decompose,
being turned over by the occasional plow and exhumed to prove that even
beyond the decomposition of the flesh and the passing of time, hatreds
may still remain, hatreds as tragically Greek as Kadare's own
masterpiece, given that Creon-like, up until now, the authorities,
despite signing an agreement with Greece, have refused these soldiers,
a proper burial.
One of the Albanian workers hired to assist in the exhumation was caught robbing the remains and as a result, was fired. Technically, it is illegal in Albania to perform exhumations without a license and the disgraced grave robber reported to the authorities that he was engaged to desecrate Albanian graves. As the exhumation was accompanied by an Orthodox priest who sang the trisagion, various Albanian members of Parliament, enmeshed in the throes of nationalist hysteria, accused the Orthodox Archbishop of Albania of grave desecration, spying for Greece, being a traitor and called for his removal from the country. The hapless priest, has now been jailed.
The bare bones of paranoia lie just under the surface of the topsoil in Albania and can be stripped down to their essence by anyone, let alone a general. The president of Albania, Alfred Moisiu, whose father was an officer in the oppressive Zog regime and then the totalitarian regime of Enver Hoxha and fought in the battle for Elbasan where Italian troops halted the advance of the Greek army towards central Albania, is absolutely opposed to the proper burial of the Greek soldiers. Circles close to him report that the construction of proper cemeteries to house the remains of the fallen and long forgotten soldiers is considered to be as tantamount to extending the Greek borders up until that spot and it will be a long time before the jagged, hostile and unforgiving terrain that has seen so much misery over the course of the twentieth century, will give up our dead to us. "Us" and "them" is as a reality of today's Albania as it is in the fiction of Kadare."
Read the whole thing here.