A P P E A L
ROMANIA, BULGARIA, SERBIA, AMERICA, FRANCE, THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA
It is accepted that the old city of Voskopoja (Moskopoli, as it was formerly called) was founded around the XVI Century. Until 1916, it was ranked among Albania's largest cities -- indeed, at one time it was the second largest city in Ottoman Europe and a key city in the Balkans. Voskopoja was destroyed three times -- twice by Ali Pasha, and the last incident, the burning by Sali Butka's forces in 1916, brought the complete destruction of the city. But the people survived and Voskopoja, a Phoenix, rose from the ashes to resume life anew, this time as a large village with a developed economy. In 1943, however, during the Second World War, Voskopoja was burned by Nazi-fascists.
Voskopoja: once boasting a population estimated at 40 and 60 thousand people; the city of the Academy and of the first Balkan printing press; the city of well-known philosophers, savants, artisans and writers; of merchants who had economic and trade links with many other European countries; the city once possessing dozens of magnificent churches -- several which still stand today, and which attract visitors with their splendid architecture and frescoes -- this remarkable city now clings to life as an abandoned and forgotten village.
There are many books about Voskopoja/ Moskopoli. All who love its art, culture and beautiful setting among the hills and mountains (18 km west of the city of Korçe), and who adore its delightful climate in winter and summer, suffer when they see it abandoned in its destruction. Voskopoja has great potential -- not only do its surviving art and beauty offer nostalgic memories, but it alsooffers people fresh and pure air, the scent of flowers and pine woods, crystal-clear water -- things people could not enjoy under the dictatorship. Those who have visited Voskopoja even once have remarked that in this place one wishes to live, one feels the joy and happiness of life.
We appeal to everybody: Help Rescue Voskopoja!
But where does one start?
Many significant structures of value remain in Voskopoja and can be the focal point for its renewal. There are two inns, which with some small investments can be renovated to host tourists and visitors. There are 200 inhabited houses which can also host guests. The village produces many animal products which may satisfy the needs of visitors and guests. As mentioned earlier, there are many beautiful places and churches to explore in Voskopoja as well as in the surrounding villages. Therefore, it is of great value to start with tourism.
Voskopoja has to be known; the magnificent culture and art of the Vlachs, whose cradle is Voskopoja. Thus, the village could serve as a gathering place for the various Vlach folkloric groups of the Balkans, who could bring with them a shared pride and the unique characteristics of dialect, costumes, history, various cultural influences, and talents. There is no longer any political barrier to impede these gatherings.
But how to travel to Voskopoja? No proper road exists, even though there are only 18 km separating it from Korça city. The government has given insufficient funding for road repair and reconstruction.
But how to communicate with Voskopoja? No contemporary telephone connections exist. What if one becomes ill? There is no adequate medical service. There is no appropriate system of energy supply. An electrical transformer with a greater capacity than the present inadequate one is critical. The water supply system must be improved. The building of a modern dairy plant for the treatment of milk is also feasible since stock-breeding is concentrated here. And because this region possesses lush pastures, the milk here is of a higher quality and superior taste than in other parts of the country.
The old tradition of wool processing could be revived with the construction of a wool combing factory. Because of the forests, a wood processing industry could also be established.
These business opportunities, if responsibly addressed, would greatly increase the welfare of the peasants, and hopefully stop the emigration of the young people -- the most painful wound, which is currently bleeding the village and separating families.
The streets of the village can be repaired, saving the unique tradition of flooring using white round stones.
The land should be given to people freely to build villas, houses or hotels.
The secondary school has to be reconstructed, along with the building of a middle school for about 200 pupils and a boarding house where students from the surrounding villages can be lodged.
* * *
In collaboration with the Voskopoja District an organizational commission is now established with the aim of implementing these immediate objectives. This commission has set forward the following issues to be solved:
1. To suggest to the Albanian government, through the local government bodies of Korça, the approval of funds for the reconstruction of the road which links Voskopoja and the surrounding villages with Korça city.
2. To establish the "Voskopoja" Foundation, which will raise and secure financial funds from:
3. To organize a study on village planning, so that the style of construction suits Voskpoja's architectural and cultural traditions.
4. To establish a Tourist Agency with a main center in Tirana and branches in Korça and Voskopoja that will create links with other foreign agencies and organize tourism for Voskopoja.
5. To establish a twinning (sister city) arrangement between Voskopoja and cities or villages of other countries which have had historical ties with Voskopoja, such as Metsovo in Greece (one of the quarters of old Voskopoja was called Mecovo) or the city of Constantsa in Romania, where many people of Voskopoja live, or with Krushevo in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
6. To establish a collection of all documents written on Voskopoja: the literature of the historians, voyagers or chroniclers which are kept by citizens. These sources will then serve as a base for the eventual writing of a complete history on Voskopoja from its earliest times up until the present. It is hoped a library will be built to house these and other documents.
"Voskopoja" Ltd. Company is appointed to organize and collect the financial funds. It will maintain a regular record with all financial documentation for these procedures which will be overseen by the Commission. This company will operate the funds destination until the establishment of an adequate body of the "Voskopoja Reconstruction."
The bank account where the funds will be accumulated beforehand is:
"Voskopoja" Ltd, Account No. 9423/116
Once more we make this appeal for contributions from individuals and groups which you may represent for the "Reconstruction of Voskopoja."
We thank you in advance. Your name will be written in the book of Voskopoja as a continuation of that of Saint Prodhom Monastery.
FOR THE COMMISSION:
The above document was sent to us by Prof. Tom Winnifrith, who obtained in during a recent trip to Albania. It was written in less-than-perfect English, and we thank Robert Talabac for polishing up some of the the language while still retaining its flavor and meaning.
It is safe to say that there is no town on earth, indeed no single location, that is as bound up with the history, identity, and development of the Balkan Vlachs as the once-thriving town of Moskopoli/ Voskopoja, now a village in semi-ruin.
We do not know the authors of this obviously heartfelt appeal, and we obviously cannot vouch for them. But we can say that the reconstruction of Moskopoli/Voskopoja may be the greatest opportunity in many years to preserve Vlach culture and history.
We encourage our readers to call or correspond with the writers of this Appeal; to visit Moskopoli/Voskopoja and witness its potential; and to bring this rare opportunity to the attention of anyone involved in cultural, artistic, religious, or architectural preservation.