This is an introduction to the community, which needs everybody’s attention and support. In order to give you a complete picture of the life in this community, we would like to invite you on an imaginary trip to the place where they live.
A first look at Skroska community: If you happen to be at the top of a mountain during Spring time, you will be pleasantly surprised by the beauty of its nature. All around seems like a landscape that must have been painted by an outstanding painter. The houses, which are mostly made of stone and covered with stony slabs look like gigantic mushrooms that have resisted the time. The greenery, which seems to cover any piece of land intermingles with their grayish color, the bluish of the sky and with various colors of the blossomed flowers. From up there you can see the whole village, which is widely spread from the foot high up to the mountain. If you happen to see it in the winter it might be half white because of the snow and half gray or brown. Besides, in Skroska community there has existed an ever-lasting fight between the dust of the roads, which rises up to the sky with the aim to cover with its rusty color anything around, and the mud when it rains or even the snow in winter, which covers everything with its white carpet.
Life in the community: In spite of the beauty of its nature, while getting deep into Skroska community life, it is not hard to realize that Skroska is a very poor community. Based also on official data, it is the poorest and one of the most remote rural areas of Qukes Commune, in Librazhd District, about 120 km away from Tirana, the Capital City of Albania. There are 414 families living in 340 scattered houses comprising a population of 1620 inhabitants, 829 male and 791 female. Most of the families live in a very difficult economic situation. Only 72 of them are provided with a social assistance by the Local government up to 3000 Leke per month, which is so inconsiderable that it does not suffice to meet any of their immediate needs.
Due also to the severe weather conditions and mountainous terrain, life for many families in Skroska community is very difficult. This is more serious when it comes to a number of families, whose house heads are incapable of working due to problems with their health, physical or, in a few cases, mental disorder. Most of them have many children and it is impossible for them to meet even their most basic needs. In some other cases, children live in single parent families, which lack even the most necessary household facilities. Many of them live in houses, which do not meet even the most minimum requirements. Parents feel so powerless to create better living conditions for their own children.
When speaking about important family issues, based on the traditionally patriarchial norms, men are generally those who take most of the decisions. Since life in their village is very difficult and their land does not offer them enough income for a decent living, many of them, sometimes also young boys, try to emigrate seasonally to neighboring countries especially Greece in order to get better income to support their families. Even though, when successful, this helps children and their family in some way, their absence at home affects them seriously. Children lack the support of their fathers, whereas women are forced to do the hardest work. They have to work in the field, milk and carry food for the cows, cook, take care of their children and also do the housework.
Children as well are charged with different duties, which take most of their time. Besides collecting water, girls usually help their mothers cooking, doing the housework or taking care of their younger brothers or sisters, whereas boys have to look after their cows or goats, in case they have any or chop fire-wood.
Even though the mountainous terrain and lack of water system make it difficult to develop agriculture production, farming and livestock remain the basic income resources.
Education and infrastructure: In spite of the very difficult life conditions, children like school and many parents have started to realize that education is very important for their children’s future. Because of a very wide extension of the village throughout the mountain-side from the foot up to the top of the mountain, and mainly because of lack of good infrastructure, many children have to walk for a long time to get to school. During winter, when it rains, they have to walk in the narrow muddy paths which are the only roads across the village and get all wet and muddy which makes it difficult for them to concentrate during the lesson hour. They just hope it won't rain again on their way home.
Fortunately, due to inclusion of Skroska school in an integrated education project implemented by Plan International/Albania during the last two years, the old and dilapidated school building was replaced by a new and high quality one, which was also furnished with quality school equipment and didactic materials. Children feel blessed with this big present, which has made a tremendous change in their school life and they try hard to keep it clean and protect it from any damage. But, unfortunately, this is hard due to the school location and outside conditions. Besides a small surface of the school yard, which is paved, the whole surrounding area is unlevelled and full of mud, a large mass of which gets inside the school. While playgrounds or sports centers exist only in their dreams, children try to invent games or exercises that do not need them.
Students and teachers have planned a few times to plant flowers or trees in order to make the school environment a pleasant and healthier place, but, unfortunately, they have not lasted long, because, due to the lack of a surrounding wall, they have been damaged by the sheep or cows of the village.
Even though they live in difficult conditions, it won’t be very hard to read in their eyes their dreams and great desire for a better education and a bright future.
Culture: Even though they live in very difficult economic conditions, they have inherited a very rich culture by transmitting their old traditions and customs from one generation to another. They also have a very rich folklore, which emerges ever vivid in the songs and dances performed in different occasions such as holidays or weddings. If you happen to be a guest on a wedding day, you will have the chance to see many traditional customs and rituals and hear lots of joyful songs generally/mostly dedicated to the bride or the bridegroom. You will see many happy people, yet none happier than the children who are everywhere running and playing, singing and dancing with the music of the orchestra. They love every moment of it. Hospitality is a virtue of Albanian people. If you happen to be a guest in any of Skroska families, you will be led to the best room and asked to sit in a place of honor as well as served the best food they have. While at the table, you will be given the chance to try "raki", their home-made drink which is used for "dolli" (toast). Everybody will drink for the health of the members of your family and also your close relatives. This is a sign of respect through which they want to show that you are special and have honored them with your visit.
There is a lot more about the difficulties and the beauty of life in Skroska community, but this is all we thought to share with you this time so that there is something more to see and feel when you get the chance to visit them in reality. Thank you for your great attention and commitment and until then, mirupafshim! (Goodbye!)