Piet J. Kroonenberg, Amsterdam and WOSM, Geneva.


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Albania is a small country squeezed in between Greece, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and the Adriatic. The name Shqiperia, as the Albanians call their homeland, means "Country of Eagles" and one of these is represented in their national flag, their coat of arms and their scout and guide badges. In 1998 the population was around 3 million, 50% of those being children.

It is always difficult to tell where mythology ends and real history begins and where the two are still very much intertwined. Such is very much so where the ages Before the Common Era (BCE) are concerned e.g. in the history of ancient Greece but also in Albania's.

The Albanians claim that they are the descendants of the old Illyrians, contemporaries of the ancient Greeks and Macedonians. Apparently the Illyrians came to the Balkans at the same time as the tribes that were later to be known as the Thracians, the Greeks and the Macedonians. As the northern neighbours of the ancient Greeks and Macedonians, the Illyrians are said to have been inhabiting the region south of the Austrian Alps presently known as former Yugoslavia, present Albania and up to the Bay of Ambrakia in Greece

The Roman Empire was the first to greatly influence the Illyrians. The Romans' contest with Cartage ended when during the Third Punic War (146 - 144 BCE) the latter was beaten and destroyed and the Romans extended their territory by taking over the Cartage possessions in the Mediterranean including those in Greece and Macedonia. About 201 BCE they also occupied the Dalmatian Coast and it came to clashes with the Illyrians. Later still the Roman Legions penetrated the Balkans making the Danube their Empire's northern border. Like the Greeks and the Macedonians, the Illyrians defended themselves but they too were no match to the Roman Legions. They were overwhelmed and subjected to Roman rule. Illyrian cities and villages were destroyed and thousands were enslaved and sometimes deported. Their territory was annexed and became known as the Roman Province of Illyricum, later to be split into two departments' Dalmatia and Pannonia. Yet during the following ages the situation changed gradually. The Illyrians may not have been Romanized, yet they were influenced and adopted the Roman civilisation, the way of life and the culture. From slaves they became allies and equals. Some Illyrians rose to very high office in the Empire and Illyrian Legions fought side by side with their Roman brothers-in-arms to - at first - enlarge and to - later - defend the vast Empire's long borders.

All went well until the decline of the Roman Empire set in. Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337 ACE) moved the Imperial Throne and the government from Rome to the city of Byzantium on the Bosporus. (1) Byzantium was to be renamed Constantinople in 330. In 395 the Roman Empire was split into the Western and the Eastern Roman Empire. The latter soon to be known as the Byzantine Empire. The borderline ran more or less straight from the Danube in the north to the Adriatic in the south, thus cutting the Balkans as well as the original Illyrian homeland into two. In the long run the West Roman Empire was no longer able to defend its borders against the attacking Goths. The latter conquered Italy. The city of Rome fell in 476 and soon all of Italy and the northern part of Illyria had been taken over by the Goths who founded the Ostrogothic Kingdom. The Illyrian Legions belonging to the West fought bravely. But meanwhile the Illyrians were driven out of the northern part of their homeland and most of them found refuge behind the border of the East Roman or Byzantium Empire, which they further helped to defend. Around 568 the East Roman Empire had succeeded in taking large parts of Illyria away from the Goths. But the Empire was threatened too, from the north and from the east. The Slavonic tribes, which used to live north of the Danube and had long been kept out of the Eastern Empire, managed to infiltrate the Balkans. Again the Illyrians were pushed back and were driven away. What was left of them concentrated and settled in the areas presently known as Albania, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia and parts of Montenegro, with their backs to the Adriatic unable to go any further and making a stand until this very day.

Meanwhile the Byzantium Empire was also threatened from the east. The Turks, originally living in the southern regions of Siberia, were on the move westwards. They took Minor Asia, until then part of the Byzantine Empire, and (1071) founded the Osman Empire. By that time the Byzantine Empire had shrunk considerably. The Slavonic tribes had settled to the north and the west of it and on its (or rather Illyrian) territory and had founded independent states such as
Bulgaria and Serbia. The latter for some time stretched from the Danube to deep into Greece and included almost all of the Illyrian territory which the Serbs, from that moment onwards,
always considered as to always having been theirs. Throughout history many conquerors used to suffer of such a loss of memory.

By 1353 Byzantium was restricted to a small territory in Europe and a small stretch of land on the Asian continent. The Turks had reached the city walls of Constantinople and a long siege began. The city stuck it out for a considerable time. Mainly because it could still be reached and supplied by sea and some reinforcements and some assistance were received from Western Europe. But the prolonged siege did not hamper the Turkish urge to the west. They crossed the waters and landed on the European beaches, moving into the Balkans, overrunning what was left of the East Roman Empire and marching into Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia. Nothing seemed to be able to stop their advance into Europe.

The Balkan peoples resisted and many battles were fought. One of these is still famous and is known as "the Battle in the Field of the Black Birds" or "Kosovo Polje". According to the Enciklopedija Jugoslavia, published during the Tito era (1945-1980), the Bosnians, the Serbs, the Bulgarians, the Hungarians and the Illyrians (by then already also known as Albanians) formed an army which was also reinforced by some " Frankish Knights ", that is knights from Western Europe urged by the Pope to come to the defence of the Christian Religion. One day in June 1389 this allied army met the Turkish forces in the field of Kosovo. Again it is difficult to say how much history is mixed with myth. The battle was fierce, thousands were killed including most of the commanders on both sides and the cruel encounter in reality did not know any victors at all, be it that the Turks soon recovered whereas the other side was dispersed. It certainly did not delay the Turkish advance to the West. Almost all of the Balkans and Hungary fell pry to them.

In 1453 in their hinterland the Turks at long last managed to storm and climb the Constantinople city defences and that was the end of the Byzantine or East Roman Empire. The city was renamed Istanbul and proclaimed to be the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

The Turkish advance westward was stopped in 1529 when their armies reached the city of Vienna the capital of the Austrian Empire. They laid siege to it but despite all their efforts and losses did not succeed in taking it. Vienna was relieved by a Czech army and for the first time the Turks, used to victories only, had to retreat into Hungary.

Decades of armed clashes followed. Many battles were fought but it was not until 1683 that the Turks once again besieged Vienna but were forced to retreat once more, this time to never return again. (2) The Turkish march to the west definitely ended once and for all. They were forced to sign the Peace Treaty of Karlowitz (1699) and had to cede large areas of Hungary to Austria.

And so for hundreds of years the Hungarians, the Slavonic inhabitants of the Balkans and the
Illyrians - now also named Albanians - had to endure Turkish domination and direct rule byTurkish civil servants and governors. The nations had lost their freedom and that is never very pleasant to say the least.

The Christians of many - mainly West European - nations, colonising the world, sword in the hand, forcing the overseas populations to not only subject themselves to their domination, rule and "civilisation" but also to abandon their original religions and to accept the Christian belief. The Turks, being Islamites, were rather lenient. They seldom forced someone to convert but the young Christians of prominent families which they more or less kidnapped and obliged to join the Janitsjars, a crack regiment. Some of the surviving leaders of the nations now under Turkish rule, aware of the fact that they had lost all leadership and influence, sometimes thought to regain some say in the course of events by voluntary converting to Islam. And indeed it worked and they were reenlisted in the administration and - being leaders - their example was followed by their dependants.(3) In the Balkans, particularly in Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Albania there came to being Islamic pockets. Those who wished to embrace Islam were permitted to but on the whole the Christians were left alone. The Orthodox Church was able to proceed unhindered and was able to build many churches, cathedrals, monasteries and convents particularly so in the regions presently known as Serbia and Kosova or Kosovo.

After 1699 the situation was rather stable. The surpressed peoples were cut off from Western
Europe. But as always every powerful Empire is getting selfcomplacent, easy going, soft, decadent and perceptibly weaker. Bit by bit Austria took over more Balkan and Hungarian territories from the Turks. The oppressed often revolted but were mostly surpressed again with
an iron fist and often cruel means. The Greeks, with West European assistance, managed to permanently liberate large areas of their country (1821). Russia and Great Britain began to take an interest. They put pressure on Turkey, which lost territories in Ukraine and Crimea, North Africa and the Balkans. In 1875 Bosnia threw off the Turkish yoke but later had to yield to Austria whose province it became. In 1882 the Serbs rose and expelled the Turks whereas in 1887 the Bulgarians regained their freedom. The Illyrians or Albanians - Islamites and Christians alike -rose several times and maintained a guerrilla warfare for years. In 1910-1911 there were so many uprisings and rebellions at the same time in what was left of the Ottoman Empire on European soil that it was like a war. The peoples of the Balkans came to an agreement to unite and to expel all Turks. The First Balkans War began and lasted from October 1912 - May 1913. The united forces succeeded in forcing the Turks to retreat to the very outskirts of Istanbul and the Turks only just managed to hold a grip on the European part of the city which was beleaguered but not taken as a peace treaty was signed only just in time.

The victors divided the spoils and ..... fell foul with each other, the Bulgarians being accused of having appropriated too much. And so the second Balkan war began (June - August 1913).
The Bulgarians had to defend themselves against the Serbs and the Greeks who were joined by the Turks wanting to regain something of their lost European territory. The Bulgarians got the worst of it and had to cede territory when a new Peace Treaty was signed. The Turks had indeed regained some European territory, be it small in seize. The Albanians were involved in all these conflicts.
After many hundreds of years the Balkan region had been cleared of the Turks. Not meaning
that all had gained independence. Croatia was in some sort of a federation with Hungary, Slovenia was part of Austria and Bosnia and Herzogewina also remained under Austrian protection and domination.

During the Turkish dominance the former national borders had faded away. The peoples of the
various nationalities had been - more or less - free to roam and settle whereever they liked to. Yet they never mixed and contrary to the West Europeans they were never really able to create one nation with one language and sharp national borders. Large areas had mixed populations of Serbs, Bulgarians, Croats, Bosnians, Illyrians or Albanians etc. Particularly so in North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzogewina and Kosova or Kosovo. There were minorities everywhere. Further they were divided in various religious groups, the Orthodox and theRoman Catholics and the Islamites.(3). This led to clashes the one minority suffering this time, the other one the next times. During the two Balkan Wars each nationality had been aiming at taking as much land that was inhabited by their national majority, never mind the minorities. The Serbs were dreaming of uniting all Serbs in one Great Serbia and as a result clashed with the Austrians over Bosnia and Herzogewina in which many Serbs were living. The second Balkan War had only just ended in May 1913 when on 28/06/1914 a fanatic supporter of a Great Serbia, 20 years old Gravillo Princip, in Serajewo emptied the contents of his revolver
into the bodies of the visiting Austrian heir to the Imperial Throne, the Archduke Frans Ferdinand and his wife. Both were killed and this led to a new war which would go down into history as the Great War or World War One (1914-1918).


From 1800 - 1822 Turkish Albania, Macedonia and Thesalia (now Northern Greece) formed
one administrative region which Ali Pasja was governing on behalf of the Ottoman Empire. He was an Islamic Albanian and gradually he acted more and more independently until the Turks decided to send an army to bring him back into harness. Ali's forces where defeated. His regime came to an end and he himself was killed. Pure Turkish rule was restored.

In 1878 a congress was held in Berlin. It was called by the big European powers and was supposed to deal with the Balkans. Most nationalities were represented and the Albanian delegation was present but seldom heard or consulted and its opinions and demands were ignored or neglected. They vehemently protested when large tracts of land, having been inhabited by Albanians and always having belonged to the Illyrian ancestors, were allotted to Serbia (Kosova or Kosovo), Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece. The Albanian Liga, a revolutionary
resistance movement, was founded which the Turks and the other nations tried to surpress or
ignore. Its aim was to liberate all the territories inhabited by Albanians and to form one country. Regretfully these territories all had a mixed population in which the Albanians were either a majority or a minority. Just before the First Balkan War (vide above) the Turks granted the Albanians a far going autonomy. Italy, and Austria/Hungary, seeking to limit the Serbian urge for a Greater Serbia, supported the Albanians and others involved. During the First Balkan War the Albanians also rose and managed to evict the Turks. On November 28th, 1912 in the city of Vlore an All-Albanian congress was held and, under the leadership of Ismael Kemal, Albanian independence was declared. The new soevereing state was to become a Principality and Wilhelm von Wied, a German noble, was invited to mount the throne. Arriving in March 1914he found an unmanageable, chaotic country, with disputed, far from recognized and fixed national borders. The European Big Powers decided to assist its pacification. A special international gendarmerie was created mainly commanded by Dutch military police officers. (The second in command - Dutch Major L.W.J.K. Thomson - was shot in June 1914.) Prince Wilhelm von Wied departed. When in August 1914 World War One began, Albania more orless faded away. It was at the mercy of the waves of the war that raged on its territory. Austrian forces invaded and fought the Allies being the Greeks that took the south and the Italians and the French that landed troops in several Albanian ports. The country was destroyed and the population suffered.

In 1917 the Austrian forces had to withdraw and once more the Albanians proclaimed their independence. When the war ended in November 1918 and thereafter the peace negotiations began, the Albanians once again tried to obtain some attention, but again mostly in vain.

Serbia belonged to the Allied Victors and had great influence. A group of intellectuals originating from Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Serbia had met in England and worked out a plan to unite all South Slaves into one country - South Slavia or Yugoslavia - Jugoslavia. In their enthusiasm they overlooked the fact that during the ages all these regions and nations had been subjected to divers sometimes opposing influences and had all undergone different developments. Further they were separated by religion and sometimes language. All but Serbia and Montenegro had always been subjected to foreign rule. Slovenia had been Austrian, Croatia had been connected with Hungary, Bosnia had been Turkish first and later had come under Austrian influence. Montenegro (= Crna Gora = the Black Mountains) had always remained independent and after the Battle of the Field of te Black Birds in 1389 had also been able to always keep the Turks out (4). Apparently the initiators of Yugoslavia had never investigated whether such a combination of nations with such various backgrounds would really work and would ever be successful. But Serbia, dreaming of a Great Serbia, embraced the idea with enthusiasm and so the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was constructed, with Serbia's capital Belgrade to be the capital of the new country and the Serbian Royal Family to also be Yugoslavia's Royalty. Others suffered too. Vovodina, being the south eastern province of Hungary with its Hungarian majority was cut off from Hungary and added to Yugoslavia. Kosovo or Kosova with its Albanian majority was given to Serbia and thus included into the new Yugoslavia. There was talk of also including Albania into Yugoslavia and the Albanians protested. Their Illyrian blood, though, during the ages - no doubt - diluted and not as pure anymore, was still there and the Albanians did not consider themselves as belonging to the Slaves. After a lot of bickering the Albanian independence was made official (1921) and the country's borders, as they are now, were fixed and guaranteed. But conseqently a large number of Albanians were living outside Albania, in the Yugoslavian provinces of Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo/Kosova as well as in Greece.

SCOUTING and GUIDING, 1918 - 1939.

World War One over (1918) and the Albanians free again but their country was in a terrible state of underdevelopment. The war had done a lot of damage and the population was very poor indeed. Everything had to be rebuilt, including administration, education and health care. Outside aid was necessary. The British Red Cross undertook to organize a health service. It sent some special units to Albania. According to a magazine article - dated 1922 - found in the Archives of the British Scout Association - one of the team members was Nurse Marquerite Moseley Williams. In the WAGGGS report on the 9th European Guide Conference, (Luxembourg 02-07/05/1998) she is mentioned as " Marguerite Windram, a Guide from the UK, working for the Red Cross ". (Perhaps in later years she got married to a Mr Windram.) Anyway she found that Scouting and Guiding were totally unknown in Albania and - blood being thicker than water - in her leisure time - she gathered around her girls and boys and founded a Guide Company as well as a Scout Troop. In the former she acted as the Guider, in the latter as the Scoutmaster, doubtlessly one of the first female ones. She reported to the British Guide Association as well as to the Scout Association and her appeals were not in vain and support was given. British Scout HQ was talked into inviting a number of promising Albanian young adults, selected by Marguerite, to come to Britain - all expenses paid - for a leaders' training. Though no evidence of the kind has been found until yet, it so seems that the Guides Association acted similarly. After their return these new leaders took charge of Albanian Scouting and Guiding and the movement grew in numbers and popularity, and continued doing so even after Marquerite's return to Britain. In the Scouting Magazine GURMUSIA (= Tracking) of March 25, 1927, the districtcommisioner M. Milova paid tribute to Marguerite and to the important work she had done for Albanian Scouting and Guiding. Even now - in revived Albanian Scouting and Guiding - she is still remembered and held in high esteem by all. The Albanian government recognized the importance of both movements and - as well as the local authorities - supported their growth and development. The Scouts were united in the GJURMUSIS SHQYPTARE - ALBANIAN BOY-SCOUTS.

During the 2nd International Conference in Paris World Scouting was founded (vide Chapter
One - "THE UNDAUNTED I") and all countries represented were accepted as members of the new World Movement of which they were considered to be the "Founder Members" and Albania was one of them. In the period 1924 - 1927, Baden-Powell, who always took a great interest in all foreign movements, sent to Albania Sir Arthur Godum and some British leaders to assist the Albanians. The General Director of the Ministry of Education, Mr Sotir Papakristo (1925) translated SCOUTING FOR BOYS and two editions of SKAUTIZMA PAS GJENERALIT ENGLES BADEN-POWELL were soon sold. In 1926 Mr Papakristo moved to the city of Korca, was employed as the director of the local French Lycee and took over as editor of the Scouting magazine GJURMUESI. Prime Minister at first, President later and finally King Zogoe took a great interest in both movements, as did his four glamourous sisters, who, apart from being recognized international beauties, also were leaders in the movements.

After 1918 Albania was initially led by the very competent and popular Prime Minister Achmed Zogoe Bey (08/10/1895 - 09/04/1961). In June 1924 a successful communist coup d' etat, led by Bishop Fannoli, forced Zogoe to leave the country. But during winter 1924-1925 he returned and with Yugoslavian assistance removed the communists again. He was elected to be President but in 1928 was elevated to be King. Still grateful for the Yugoslavian assistance but afraid that Yugoslavian (Serbian) influence might grow, Zoegoe made overtures to Italy and gradually Albanian got very dependent on this country which was led by the Fascist Dictator Mussolini. The latter had its own plans and in spring 1939 Italian armed forces landed in the Albanian ports and occupied the country which was turned into an Italian province. King Zoegoe and his family had to leave the country.
As in Italy, the Fascist banned and disbanded Scouting and Guiding.

It was not in the Albanians' nature to accept another foreign oppressor without resistance and
anti-Italians took to the mountains and began a guerilla war. It must be admitted that there were also opportunists and fascists that gladly collaborated with the Italians as was the case in almost all occupied countries. In summer 1940 - Fascist Italy had just chosen Nazi Germany's side in World War Two (1939-1945) - the Duce decided to attack, overrun, defeat and occupy Greece from his basis in Albania. He came away with a flee in his ear. The Greek army not only resisted and stopped the Italians, it also counter attacked and succeeded in conquering 2/5 of the Albanian territory. The Albanians guerillas played their part in the fighting. A total eviction of the Italians might well have been possible had not Adolf Hitler, the Fhrer of Nazi Germany, come to the Duce's resque. The German armies moved through Yugoslavia and Bulgaria and attacked Greece as well. This was too much and Greece was beaten and occupied by the Germans and Italians. In order to increase his popularity in Albania Mussoline, whose forces were also in occupation of parts of Yugoslavia, decided to enlarge Albania by annexing surrounding territories, such as Kosova/Kosovo and parts of Macedonia, inhabited by Albanians. There was bloodshed and murder and the Serbs were either killed or driven away.
Meanwhile under the influence of the Yugoslavian communists an Albanian communist party
under Envor Hoxha was founded including a communist guerilla force which fought not only
the Italians and Germans but regretfully also the other Albanians patriots resisting and attacking the foreign occupation. Hoxha was also the one who received the Allied arms droppings.

When first the Italians and later (1944) the Germans were obliged to retreat from Albania, the
Hoxha partisans filled the vacuum and took over. Some Albanians called it The Liberation but
others considered it to be a new occupation. The Hoxha partisans dealt with those who had collaborated with the enemy, but also with those who had not but had fought the occupation in the non-communist partisans who now opposed the communist take-over. Some opponents were liquidated immediately, others were locked up. In 1946 there were a large number of court cases dealing with those who desired democracy and were accused of being reactionaries or traitors and condemned as such.


Some scoutleaders made an effort to revive scouting but the endeavour was nipped in the bud. In the Albanian communist encyclopedias the word Scouting was explained as "a reactionary bourgeois organization" Albanian youth was never to know anything about Scouting and was organized in a political youth organization divided in three age groups : Fatosa (7-10 yers old), Pioneers (10-14) and a section for the 18-25 years old. As a uniform they wore the usual white shirt, a red scarf en short trousers, as in most of the communist countries. One had to be a member if one wanted to study and to achieve something. But even then the threat, warning and fear of being expelled hung over their heads like the Sword of Democlues.

Mihal Dhima, later to play a leading role in Scouting, studied English at university. Having passed the final exams his fellow students were appointed in ministeries in the capital Tirana, and some were sent abroad to be employed at the embassies in foreign countries. To his surprise and disappointment he was allotted a position as a teacher in a small town only. It was not until much later that he found that this was because his wife Dolores came from an ancient aristocratic family and consequently was suspect in the party's eyes. Outcasts they were with hardly a future at all. .

The Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha was one of Stalin's very loyal disciples. Yet in
1944 - 1948 Albania was more or less a Yugoslavian satellite which even Enver Hoxha did not like. When the Tito-Stalin conflict (vide THE UNDAUNTED I, Yugoslavian Chapter) caused a rift between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and Tito went his own way, Hoxha seized the opportunity to eliminate Yugoslavia's influence and he remained loyal to Stalin. But Stalin died in 1953. In Moscow Nikita Khrushchev took over as the new Party's Secretary General in 1953 and in 1958 was also appointed Prime Minister. In 1960 he set in the destalinisation. But Hoxha remained loyal to the memory of Stalin and he severed all contacts with Moscow. Whereafter he bolted and secured hermeticly the borders of his destitute country, totally isolating it. He created his own sort of communism, a Workers' Paradise not to be contaminated by other ideas, not those of the pernicious, decadent capitalist West, not those of the revisionist Tito-Yugoslavia and not those of the Soviet Union's which had so ungratefully, ruthlessly and pitilessly stabbed the Great Father Stalin in the back. Albania was a large prison and escaping from it was almost impossible. Italian TV was a window to the world but the Albanians were not allowed to watch and had to be very careful when doing so as betrayal was always lurking round the corner and the Siqurimi (the secret police) was always active and ready to strike. But even then, what they saw on the screen was in such a stark contrast to the drap, rough Albanian reality that many Albanians considered what was shown as to be an utopian movie with a low percentage of reality.

When a conflict arose between the Peoples' Republic of China and the Soviet Union Hoxa sided with China and the isolation of Albania was complete. It became a very lonely Stalinist Island in the world with no foreign connections at all.

Whereas Yugoslavia had opened its borders and attracted thousands of Western tourists each summer, Albania kept its borders closed to all foreigners and consequently foreign tourists were unknown. In 1985 the government realised that tourists were spending money and would bring the much needed foreign currency. So small parties of western tourists were allowed in. But conducted coach tours only and led by government selected, reliable guides and interpeters only and to selected places only so that the harsh reality could be hidden. Yet even then the visitors were deeply impressed by the general state of the country, the neglect and the population's poverty. On the other hand the Albanians watched these visitors as if they were aliens from Outer Space.


To most of the small number of speakers of foreign languages selected to act as guides these conducted tours were total eye-openers. A new world presented itself to them and they learned things they had never heard of before. Sometimes there were not enough trusted party members available to tackle the job and others had to be used. Mihal and Dolores Dhima weresuch substitutes. In summer 1989, during one of his trips, Mihal met Kristo Goga, a Greek scoutleader. He was the fist person to ever talk to Mihal about World Scouting, its principles and methods. This new knowledge was quite different from what he was used to and - considering the system - it even frightened him to learn all this. But his world was about to change.


In the mid-eighties Corbatchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, introduced his Glasnost and
Perestrojka and the world changed thereafter. In 1989 very unexpectedly the communist system collapsed. The Iron Curtain which for so long had divided Europe, in fact the World, into two hostile blocks, got holes and the impressive climax was the Tumbling Down of the Berlin Wall on November 9th, 1989. Some Albanians - secretly watching Italian TV - saw it all but the events such as the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia and the execution of the Ceausescus during the Romanian revolution did not sink in and the reality of it all did not seem to seep through. The more so as the Albanian regime, though weakened by Enver Hoxha's death, kept all this from its people, isolated as it was. But Enver Hoxha's successors could not prevent that the news of what was happening in the outside world seeped through and it could no longer be hidden from the the population. In autumn 1990 the students held protest meetings demanding the government's abdication and the disbanding of the communist party, freedom and democracy. Such despite the Soqurimi's rough counter actions. At long last in early 1991 the communist regime fell. To be replaced by an other system but the poor Albanians had no idea what democracy was. Chaos in the country, chaos in the people's minds. The country itself one of the poorest and most underdevelloped in Europe. Those of the opposition that had survived the long years of communism all spoke with different tongues, There was intolerance, as usual fed and caused by religion, and nationalism was at large.


The collapse of the communist regime in many countries was unexpected and came as a surprise to the world. The revival of Scouting and Guiding in the former communists countries also came as a surprise to most - but a few - in the Scouting and Guiding worlds. The World Bureaux WOSM and WAGGGS where not prepared either. But they did not hesitatewhen letters began arriving from the East and Central Europe and it soon dawned upon them that something was really happening. Information on the World Movements was provided. Missions to investigate the situation were sent to many countries.

In November, 1989, January 1990, April 1990 and September 1990 WOSM Geneva issued
its "Situation Reports" # 1, 2, 3 and 4. Many former communist countries were being mentioned but regarding Albania in each report , quote: "no news re revival of Scouting in Albania". Not until in the October 1990's "Report on Scouting and Guiding in Central and Eastern Europe" when it said : "We understand that the Albanian Authorities have collected information on Scouting. However we have no information on groups in existence." In WOSM's Situation Report # 5 of January 1991 : "The European Scout Office is looking for ways to establish contact with Scouts in Albania. Please inform the European Scout Office of any contact you might have."

Not that there was nothing happening in Albania. All during the communist years there hadbeen the pre-1939 publications section of the National Library which had been closed to the general public. It contained books etc. that the regime deemed dangerous to the system and that might give readers ideas different from the ones imposed on them. Mihal and Dolores Dhima had a relative working in the secret section of the government's archives and she was able to provide them with a copy of "SCOUTING FOR BOYS" and other pre-1939 scouting publications. During March and April 1991 they read and absorbed the information and they decided to create a Scout Movement.
Their ideas were greatly welcomed and supported by their fellow teachers as well as someformer, pre 1939 scouts, though the latter could do little more than supply encouragement and tell them how it once used to be and what they used to do before 1939. The new authorities in charge also got interested and Mihal and Dolores and their fellow workers were told : "This is what Albania needs. Only Scouting can bring together the Albanians. Only Scouting can help our youth to grow up as the future citizens."

But it was still chaotic in the country. Thousands, afraid that the new situation might not last
long, tried to leave the country and to escape to Italy.

Early May 1991 Mihal and Dolores managed - one wonders how - to leave their country for the very first time in their lives. Which in itself must have been quite a flabbergasting experience as they suddenly stood in a world they had never seen before. They went to Greece, intending to visit Kristo Goga of Ioanina, the man Mihal had met three years before. And they did so on May 6th and had long conversations with him. The next day they were taken to Athens. Their first time in a big city of a free, western country,. They were totally browbeaten and overwhelmed by all they saw and heard. It was so different from what they had been used to all their lives. "We were impressed by the large buildings, the scout office, the
scout shop, the scout uniforms" "There I got to know many scoutleaders" "Back in Ioanina we were entertained by three other scoutmasters that I feel happy to write about. They were Mr Haxis, Mr Sasacos and Mr Bazas. I feel greatly indebted for all their help in training our
scoutleaders in different camps in Ioanina, ofcourse with the help of the master of training Mr
Veruxis. It was in the evening of May 7th, 1991 that Mr Costas Candili called the World Bureau and in our presence he announced that two teachers from Albania intended to start scouting in Albania." "Since that moment the Scout Fire was burning within us."

The experienced Greek leaders gave the advice to tread carefully and to just start with one scout troop only and to later, after one or two years, found troops in other areas. But Mihal and Dolores were very enthusiast and predicted that they intended "the Scout Flame to be burning all over Albania in six months time." No doubt the experienced Greek scoutleaders shook their heads. And however they right they were, this time they were wrong underestimating the enthusiasm, the willpower and the energy the Albanians were going to display.


Back in their hometown of Sarande - on May 16th - the day Albania knew its first free elections - Dolores and Mihal called a meeting of fellow teachers and other adults such as representatives of the local government, the various religious institutions, parents and many others. A dedicated team was formed to set up Scouting. On May 18th the first scout troop was founded in Sarande ! The leadership managed to have a first national radio broadcast and published an article in one of the leading newspapers explaining the principles and methods of Scouting. And on June 19th the Albanian Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, assessing the value of Scouting and showing great trust in the initiators, approved and registered the still embryonic movement officially as BESA SCOUTS ALBANIA. But it lacked many basic necessities without which its progress would be greatly hindered.

From May to mid-August 1991 the initiators despite the difficulties, lack of transport etc. traveled from one town to the other. They met hundreds of people and propagated scouting.
On June 20th they wrote to the World Bureau in Geneva, asking assistance. They received a prompt and encouraging answer and material from the Secretary General, Jacques Moreillon

Quote from the Situation Report WOSM no 67, September 1991.
" Scouts-to-be have spontaneously addressed the World Scout Bureau by correspondence to inform that they have started Scouting activities in Albania. These letters have been duly answered by the European office. A fact finding mission to Albania is planned for this autumn.
The Greek Scout Association (Soma Hellinon Proskopon) is organizing scouting actvities for children of Albanian origin who have moved with their families to certain areas in Greece.
Through these activities the Greek have establisded contact with people in Albania who have started Scouting there. The Greeks are also providing training for Albanian leaders."

Meanwhile the general situation in the country was still chaotic. But WAGGGS was also paying attention to Albania. In its Central and East European Report of July 1991, covering the period October 1990 -May 1991 it stated : "As soon as the political situation improves we will be able to make contact with a view to establishing Girl Guides/Girl Scouts in Albania."
In the report covering June/October 1991 : "Through involvement in humanitarian aid projects, e.g. distribution of food and clothing, the Greek G.G.A. are developing contact here. They will distribute the WAGGGS promotional leaflet in Albania."
Regretfully further WAGGGS reports were not available but a certain impression is given by the following quote from the : Report on The 9th European Guide Conference, Luxembourg 02-07/05/1998.
"Renewed contact with Guiding was in summer 1991 when some Italian rangers and rover groups went to Albania for humanitarian camps. Young people gathered around those "strange foreigners dressed in a very funny way ". That was the beginning. "The co-operation with the Italians continued year after year until 1995 when the young people gathered together and decided to create their own Association. AGESCI (Associazione Guide e Scouts Cattolici Italiani) and GCB (Federation des Guides Catholique de Belgique) (Belgium) assisted WAGGGS in their project to support the development of Guiding in Albania. " With you we will do great things " is the title of the project, a title chosen by the Albanians themselves. The official start of the project was the celebration of Thinking Day in 1996 followed by the first training camp for leaders in July 1996. An unfortunate break of 10 months took place due to the internal conflict in 1997".
The way chosen was to strengthen the existing groups before moving to the creation of new groups. To have a slow but stable development was seen as the best way to promote the movement. Today the Association is present in several cities from the north to the south of the country with more than 150 people involved and a network of potential leaders has been established, thanks to the good reputation that the young people involved have. The next step will be the founding of a General Assembly, the adoption of the constitution and the election of the national board, which will take place next July. An important step is to achieve status with the governmental authorities while the relgious authorities have already supported and sponsered the project."

Meanwhile Albania was is still in a fragile situation but those involved in the rebirth of Scouting and Guiding were showing enthusiasm and great commitment and willingness to promote their work and to enable young people to enjoy Scouting and Guiding and take on their responsibilities. Various training courses were organized with the assistance of the Greek movement.

In October 1991 the European Regional Scout Office received two invitations to come and visit Albania. One from Mihal and Dolores Dhima and one from a person in Korce, not named, who had also been in correspondence with the European Regional Scout Office.

Despite the country's fragile situation the European Regional Office's Yrjo Gorski accepted and visited Albania from November 11th until 18th, 1991. His findings were laid down in his Mission Report dated 25/11/1991. A quote from it : "Besa Scout Albania. Memberhip of the association is open to both sexes. It has its HQ, , as well as some 300 members in Sarande. It is also established in the following cities : Tirane, Elbasan, Koce, Shkodr, Berat, Fier, Gjirokaster, Kruje, Lezhe, Pogradec, Permet, Peshkopi, Erseke, Himar and Tepelen, each with some 30 to 100 members."

He had meetings with not only the Republic's President but also burgomasters of the various towns he visited, other high ranking civil servants, the highest Muslim Leader, the Archbishop of the Orthodox Church and the representative of the Roman Catholic Church.
"All the spiritual leaders I met during my visit to Albania welcomed the establishment of the Besa Scout Association as an organization whose aim is to help its members in their search for ,spiritual values, and they were willing to support the development of Scouting in Albania under a single Scout Association, open to different religious denominations. They were also prepared to help the association with the limited means they have at their disposal."
The government leader also explained that he was very much in favour of Scouting and would assist in its development, realizing "that Scouting has a specific purpose in the education of young people and a method that separates it from other youth organizations, such as the pioneers. It was clear to him - and the regional leaders - that Scouting in Albania needs to grow as an independent grassroots movement, with a democratic and non-political structure"
But there were also meetings at the grass-root level with the "Scouts-to-be" aged between 13 and 25." These meetings confirmed that the members of the association, both young people and adults, have some knowledge and understanding of the Scout Movement's purposes and principles, including the "adherence to spiritual principles" and the Scouting method. This is due to the fact that most of the WOSM documentation mailed to Albania has been translated and copied by the leaders of the association. (No not to be underrated, a difficult and time consuming feat !) However there seems to be much room for improvement in the field of youthactivities. Basic necessities, such as programme documentation and scarves and shoes and many other things need to be provided for the young people before Scouting can really take off in Albania."

The European Regional Scout Office stated that it would assist BESA SCOUT's development in every possible way.
Albanian Scouting was back on the World Map. From the 2nd - 5th of May, 1992 BESA's Chief Scout Mihal Dhima and the National Secretary, on the World Bureau's invitation, visited Geneva. Amongst other things they discussed the BESA's constitution.

"Euro Focus" WAGGGS Magazine of Augustus 1992 and WOSM's "World Scout News" of June 1992 reported that Albanian's International Commissioner Dolores Dhima attended the 14th European Scout Conference at Helsinki.
All summer 1992 the focus was on summer and training camps and from August 1st until 15th Mihal and Dolores Dhima were invited to attend the Gilwell Training provided at the International Scout Centre of Les Scouts Catholique de France at Jambeville near Paris and they received their Wood Badges. At the invitation of the British Scout Association they were present at a conference in London from September 20th - 26th, all expenses paid.
WAGGGS' Central and Eastern Europe Report, covering November 1991 -March 1992
mentions Albania saying : "The Greek G.C.A. is continuing its involvement in humanitarian aid projects. They plan to make a study visit to Tirana to promote the development of Girl Guiding/Girl Scouting." Rosie Dunn, the then Travelling Executive for Central and Eastern Europe reports on Fabruary 28th, 1992 : "Work continues by the Greek Girl Guides in providing humanitarian aid and making contacts which will be followed up as the siatuation allows. There is a contact with a university teacher in the capital. "

Guides and scouts from several countries were involved in the humanitarian work done in Albania, a country not used to seeing foreigners and hence their activities attracted the people's and - in particular - the youngsters' attention. In the C & E Europe Report of January 1993, WAGGGS hits the nail on the head stating : "The situation in Albania is unique within the Central and Eastern European countries due to the almost total separation from the rest of the world that it experienced. A volatile political situation, harsh economic conditions and the attitudes of the people create immense difficulties for the development of voluntary organization."

And indeed it also led to misunderstandings. The goodwilling people from the West, sent to advise, assist and train the Albanians did not always grasp the fact that they were dealing with people which - for many decades - had been held in total isolation by a regime that sought to prevent - and succeeded in so doing - its people to get any information regarding the outside world. The Albanians had been kept ignorant, knew nothing and were suddenly put into a world that was totally new to them and, in several respects, frightening too. Such in a time of splendid means of communication such as telepone, fax, e-mail, radio and TV to name but a few. It was unbelievable indeed. The Albanians had to adjust to everything and in Scouting and Guiding it was often forgotten that they were brand new, empty, unwritten pages that had to learn everything. Sometimes the approach was such that the Albanian leadership, doing its upmost and a wonderful job, got the impression that the other party did not come to train and advise but to dictate. An impression which was also wrong but nevertheless sometimes led to unpleasant situations. embarrashing both sides.

There were some problems regarding the BESA's Constitution. The BSA leadership, doing its very best to be well prepared, read the Constitutions of the Movements of Germany, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Hong Kong and the model sent by the World Bureau. Yrjo Gorki had promised to come and help them, but when mentioning their work during above mentioned September Conference in London, they were attacked on being too premature. Which they felt as an unwarrented, undeserved and uncalled for rebuke. One of the difficulties they struggled with was the fact that they found that in most Republics the Head of State, the President mostly, was also the "Honorary President of the Scout Organization". But at that time the Head of State was still a left over from communist times and a representative of the party, that had done so much harm to the country. So they did not want to involve him in Scouting. So, unaware of the fact that the problem could have been postponed to a later date, also unaware of the fact that many an other scout movement in a lot of other countries do not have such an "Honorary President" they decided to bestow the title on the Minister of Culture. In the interim coalition government he represented the Democratic Party, one of the founders of which he was. This too was not understood by some Westeners lacking general knowledge of the country's political and historical backgrounds.
The BSA's First Constitutional Congress was held from October 22nd - 25th, 1992. More than 400 delegates from all over the country were present as were representatives of the World Bureau WOSM, the European Scout Office, the Italian, Greece, English, and Macedonian Scout Movements.

During 1993 and 1994 in the WOSM or WAGGGS bulletins, magazines and reports there was hardly any news at all re Albania. But plenty of activity in the BSA. There was another National Camp with 300 participants. Leaders attended training camps at home but also in Greece. Italian AGESCI sent 2000 square metres of cloth for the manufacturing of shirts. The Badgers Challenge, in which most of the West European Scout and Guide items collectors associations were represented, had several badges - free of charge - made for the BSA amongst which a very nice membership badge with Eagle for the BSA as well as for the Guides. 1994 began with a visit of members of the US Eagle Scouts Association. There were discussions with the Italians again and the Youth Progam Commissioner went to a Seminar in Sweden concerning the opening of the European Campaign against xenophbia (the resentment of foreigners), nationalism, racism, intolerance and antisemitism. The World Bureau and the European Office invited a BSA delegation to come to a meeting in Athens in June. Local camps as well as a National Camp were held. To the latter, attended by 268 scouts from 23 districts, the national TV dedicated an half hour program. Two patrols of senior scouts -over seventeen - participated in an International Camp in Greece. In October a first attempt was made to found a BSA "Baden-Powell Centre" in Tirana, the capital.

In 1995 BSA is getting more and more international. Representatives participate in the
European Scout Conference at Salzburg, Austria. In June Dominque Bnard and Ray Saunders of the European Regional Office accompagnied by Nil Wiliams of the UK Scout Association were paying a visit and again had discussion with government officials and the leaders of the various religions. It was decided that the European Region would finance the rent of the Tirana "Baden-Powell Centre" . During the annual National Camp a General Conference was convened and changes were made in the Executive Committee and the National Board. Mihal Dhima was re-elected as Chief Scout, his wife Dolores appointed as the top leader for the Girls in themovement. She had also written the book "Join Us In Scouting" which was highly praised by Jacques Moreillon, the Secretary General WOSM. Further it was decided that she would be appointed as the Executive Director of the new "Baden-Powell Centre" in Tirana. In September WOSM's Secretary General Dr Jacques Moreillon visited Albania again. He had two meetings with the country's President, discussions with the BSA leadership and he opened the "Baden- Powell Centre" in Tirana.

BSA - with regards to the various ethnic religious groups in the country - decided to start the project "All Different - All Equal" to last from October 1995 until June 1996.

The Deputy Chief Commissioner of Greece paid a visit in May 1996 and a third National Camp was held that summer. It was attended by 30 French Scouts who before had been working for a project in Pogradec.

From the start BESA SCOUT ALBANIA was coeducational so mixed, a real SAGNO or a Scouts and Guides National Organization. Yet - under the influence of the Guides Catholiques de Belgique (Belgium) and the ladies of AGESCI (Italian) - it was deemed necessary to create an additional separate Guide movement. At Bize, in 1996, the two "link" movements organised a training camp, coordinated by WAGGGS. 30 potential Guide leaders-to-be participated.

In 1997 disaster hit the still vulnerable and unstable country. In all the countries that shook off the shackles of communism there were those who thought that in the Western Capitalist World the streets were paved with gold and that progress and richess would be coming automaticly. They did not know better but when it did not happen they got discontent with the country's development and progress. In Albania some crooks began a series of "pyramide games" in which a lot of Albanians invested the little money they had, hoping it would multiply. Maybe it was unknown to them that these games tend to collapse. In early spring 1997 there was a financial crisis. The people desperate, took to the streets and - in its desperation - caused terrible riots and upheavels. Strange though it may seem to many, some men, particularly so in the Balkans do have, the tendency of thinking that they are not being a complete man unless they have a firearm to brandish or - worse still - to fire. So police stations and army depots were attacked and robbed by some who armed themselves and formed gangs. Thereafter banks, shops, stores and warehouses were robbed. It was complete anarchy. What could not be taken was destroyed and it so seemed that some were totally out of their minds not knowing what they were doing and not realizing how much damage and harm they were doing to their poverty stricken country, their fellow citizens and last but not least to themselves. Scouting suffered too.

Hard Times for Scouting in Albania. The civil unrest in Albania has badly affected the country's fledgling Scout organization, Besa Scouts Albania. Dolores Dhima, International Comissioner of Albania's Scouts, reports : " As all over Albania, where all institutions, banks, schools, foundations and others have been destroyed and their contents stolen, the same thing has happened to offices, office equipment, tents, blankets, camping equipment, uniforms, books etc. of our Scout Organization. Based on the information received by our district commissioners the losses are great. Our national campsite was completely devastated. The association's office in Sarand" was burned down. Books and office equipment, collected over a six-year period, were stolen."
" Scouts tried their best to give their contribution for the establishment of tolerance and well- wishing in Albania. It was Besa Scouts Albania's initiative to organize many activities in Tirana Square with the slogan " flowers instead of guns ". The Baden-Powell Scout Centre in Tirana is a focal-point for the leaders of many non-governmental organizations who come to discuss how to handle the sitation..."
" We have declared on radio and television that it is now, more than ever before, that the children need Scouting. It is now that they need a little fun and entertainment. It is now that they need to sing, to make them forget for a while the fireshots and the bullets. Two more Scout troops have just been formed in Tirana."
" Especially in these tense times, courage must be exhibited and fear overcome. For all our losses and for the future of Scouting in Albania, we very much rely on your help and that of other national Scout organizations."

Despite the fact that suddenly all communication inland as well as with the outside world was impossible during the riots, on April 26th-27th, 1997 the BSA National Board managed to meet and to discuss the unexpected, disastrous situation. The "B-P. Centre" in Tirana acted as a co-ordinator in the organization of activities for Peace and Tolerance and in co-operation with The Women of Albania BSA even organized mobile schools.

When the offenders came back to their senses and the riots died down much damage had been done and the country was back to nill. Scouting too had suffered a lot and had to start from scratch again. The faxes, computers, office and other equipment presented by WOSM, WAGGGS and other friends had either been stolen or destroyed. Communicating with WOSM, WAGGGS and the National Scout and Guide Movements was almost impossible. Yet the Albanians appeal to the other organizations was not in vain and help came. Slowly the Albanans regained their foothold.
From OUR WORLD NEWS - WAGGGS, March 1998 :.

The name Albania means the " country of eagles ". Albania, a country in south-eastern Europe with a mixture of cultures, has chosen a motto for the development of its Guiding which aims, like eagles, to fly very high. " With You We Will Do Great Things ". But who are " you " in the motto ?
First of all the 1,5 million young Albanians who comprise over half the population. Secondly, their friends the AGESCI (Association of Catholic Guides and Scouts of Italy) and Guides Catholiques de Belgique (Belgium Catholic Guides) who are co-operating in this development project. Thirdly, WAGGGS acting as project co-ordinator."

Another quote from WAGGGS' MAGAZINE EUROFOCUS, April 1999 no 32. :
"On July 20th 1998 the Association of Guides and Scouts of Albania - Shoqata e Guidave dhe Scouteve ne Shqiperi - was officially created. The Association actually believes in and practices co-education and has requested to become member of WAGGGS only."

Shoqata e Guidave dhe Scouteve ne Shqiperi's founding assembly was held in Gjinar (El Basan) on the day as mentioned above. At that time 5 groups were operational.

And indeed it so seemed as if Albanian Guiding and Scouting were on the verge of attaining membership of the World Movements.

From November 22nd - 25th, 1998 Mihal and Dolores were again at WOSM's World Bureau in Geneva discussing with the Secretary General Jacques Moreillon, his Deputy Malec Gabr and the European Regional Director Dominique Benard the possibilities and the prospects of BSA's recognition and admission to the World Organization.

And just as it so seems that all is going well disaster is hitting the country and its people once again.

It has been explained previously that the Albanians claimed to be the descendants and the heirs of the ancient Illyrians, a people that in Roman times inhabited the areas to the north of the ancient Greeks and the ancient Macedonians. When the Slavonic tribes moved in from the north, the Illyrians resisted but were gradually pushed to the south east until the sea made further retreat impossible and they made a stand in the regions presently known as Albania, Kosovo/Kosova, parts of Montenegro and today's Macedonia. Kosovo or Kosova mostly had an Albanian speaking majority also when it was allotted to Serbia. When in 1989/1990 the communist regimes and systems collapsed, in some countries they were replaced, regretfully, by nationalist leaders and governments. Some of these leaders were the one day still convinced communists, the next day fanatic nationalist. In order to maintain their precious power they made promises they had never made before and some turned to nationalism, which the system had always condemned and surpressed as being " an enemy of the working classe". After some of the Federal Yugoslavian Republics had declared their independence, Yugoslavia shrunk andthe name Yugoslavia was maintained only by Federated Serbia and Montenegro. Kosovo had been an autonom province in the Yugoslav federation, but Serbia's leader Milosevic, turned nationalist, promised that he would make Kosovo-Metohija (the official Serbian name, the Albanians are using Kosova) once again an undissoluble part of Serbia. The area was declared to have been the cradle of Serbian civilization. Here the Serbs, and they alone - no others involved - had tried to stop the Turks on the Field of the Black Birds, here too the eldest monasteries and churches of the Orthodox religion were build. Seldom it was stated or admitted that all the time Albanians had been living there as well, well before the Serbs ever came.
When their autonomy and rights were taken away, the Kosova Albanians resisted. At first civil disobedience and peaceful protests, but when this did not work, around 1994-1995 also armedresistance and Albanian youngsters formed the UCK - Ushtrija Clirimtare e Kosoves or the Kosova Liberation Army. On behalf of the Serbs (but not with the approval of all of them) plans were made and executed to "ethnicly clean" Kosovo of all Albanians and in 1998/1999 terrible things were happening in the province. Thousands of Albanian speaking were trying to escape and were filling the refugee camps in Macedonia and Albania. The UCK emerged from its hide outs and tried to protect the people and a war began. The situation escalated, in spring 1999 NATO stepped in and bombed not only the Serbian forces in Kosovo but also Serbia proper. In the end Serbia had to give in and withdrew its armed forces from Kosovo. A new drama began, thousands of Serbs, living in Kosova, fled to Serbia. Urged by the returning Albanians and the UCK. As in these conflicts there are " Neither Good Guys nor Bad Guys " once again terrible things happened. But one thing was certain, the Mr Milosevic's planned ethnic cleansing had worked. Be it that, contrary to his intention, the area had now been cleansed of Serbs.

Albania was very much effected though it could not permit itself to get involved. But blood being thicker than water it could not just stand aside and simply watch. Albania became the UCK's feedpipe and the safe place for the Kosova refugees. It was too heavy a burden for a country that had not yet recovered from its own recent riots. But with the assistance of other countries it did all it could to help the thousands of refugees that crossed its borders, often chased by the Serb forces.
The Albanian Guides and Scouts also faced the new challenge. Their meagre possessions, such as their tents, were pitched to house the refugees. Until assistance came from elsewhere they in co-operation with the Red Cross/Red Crescent did everything in their power to soften the refugees suffering. Later Guides and Scouts helped the international humanitarian forces improving refugee conditions, serving as translators, setting up refugee lists etc. etc. and later entertaining the kids. When the NATO forces had intervened and the fighting in Kosova was over the refugees left Albania to return to their destroyed villages and towns and once again the scouts and guides assisted them. Ofcourse all these events distracted both movements from their normal activities and plans and yet it so seems that the development did not come to a standstill. The Guide movement, in autumn 1999, claimed 9 operational groups.

The 35th World Conference WOSM was held at Durban in South Africa from July 26th - 30th
1999. The Organizata Skautiste Shqiptare Besa Skauts Albania's leadership was requested to attend. It was during this Conference that Organizata Skautiste Shqiptare Besa Skauts
Albania was - by unanimous vote - admitted to and recognized by WOSM as The National
Scout Organization of Albania. To the leaders, who had been working hard to achieve this,
standing there and receiving their certificate it must have been a very proud and - maybe -
emotional moment. They well deserved it. From scratch, knowing nothing, having nothing,
they - with great enthusiasm and a tremendous quantity of willpower - had worked hard, had
overcome many difficulties and setbacks and yet created a fine movement to the benefit of
Albanian Youth. Not forgetting those who assisted them, they can be very proud indeed of
their hard work and achievements and their names will go down in Guiding's and Scouting's
varied, interesting and never boring history.


1) Constantin the Great, Emperor of the Eastern Roman or Byzantium Empire (306 -337 ACE) , above all wanted peace and order in his realm. The Mithras religion, which had replaced the ancient Roman and Greek religions, clashed with the new Christian one. The disputes causing an unrest which Constantin did not like. He wanted to end the strives between the two competing religions and desired one official state religion excluding and banning all others. Weighing all the pros and cons this proven opportunist opted for the Christian Church. The Mithras religion was banned and disbanded. It did not bother the Mithras priests and their followers much. They simply changed religion and brought with them many traditions, ceremonies and ceremonial dresses which can still be admired in many of today's Christian Churches. One wonders what today's world and society would have been like if Constantin had Mithras and had banned the Christian religion.

In 1054, long before the Fall of the East Roman or Byzantine Empire, the original Christian Church, accepted by Constantin, split into the western Roman Catholic Church and the eastern Orthodox Church. The latter maintained its influence in Byzantium and so the state line between Byzantium and the rest of Europe also became a religious border which divided Europe and in particular the Balkans. In later years the intollerance was the cause of many wars and and a lot of hatred between the various Balkan inhabitants.

2) The Turkish or rather the Ottoman armies carried red banners displaying the white Waxing Moon or Crescent, (in French Le Croissant) and a five pointed white Star. In 1683, during the second Turkish siege, the Viennese bakers, probably the only ones working at night, heard strange, underground noises, raised the alarm and further investigations brought to light that the Turks were digging a tunnel to undermine the city wall. The Turks were chased off and the bakers had saved the day. When the siege was over the Viennese bakers, to add to the celebrations, baked crescent shaped rolls which later went all over the world as the tasteful Croissants and are - wrongly - supposed to be of French origin.

3) Johan Kastriota, Prince of Emathia in Albania, was head of a prominent family that - in order to regain some of its lost power - converted to Islam. He was indeed appointed governor of Emathia. He had three sons. To increase his sense of loyalty Sultan Moerad II took them hostage. But one of them - George Kastriota (1406 - 17/01/1467) - in 1422, was also appointed governor of a province. After his Father's death he demanded the leadership of Emathia. This incurred the Turks' displeasure and George had to save his life by fleeing to the city and fortress of Kroja (1443). He made an appeal to the Albanians to fight for their freedom and raised an army. Favoured by the nature of the mountainous terrain he managed to inflict the attacking Turks many defeats and in 1461 the Turks had to give in to his demands. Yet in 1463 George made war on the Turks again until he died on the battle field on 17/01/1467. The inspired leader gone the resistance died down and soon the Turks were once again in overall control of Albania. The Albanians named their hero Iskander Beg (Prince Alexander) or Skanderbeg. He was always held in high esteem by the people as a national hero, a symbol and an inspiration to all Albanian Guerillas or Partisans that, throughout the ages, fought for their country's liberty.
Skanderbeg was the first one hoisting the Red Flag with the Double-headed Black Eagle, which has since remained the symbol of Albania and the Albanians. Each time during their long history when the Albanian revolted against an oppressor, this flag was raised. During the course of the years many additional symbols have accompagnied the Eagle on the flag - a Star of Independence, a Crown of Royalty, the Fasces of the Italian Fascist domination and the Gold-bordered Red Star of Communism. The UCK - Ushtrija During the conflict between the Serbs and the Albanians in Kosova (1998-1999) the UCK - Ushtrija Climtare e Kosoves, the Kosova Liberation Army used that banner and badge as well.

4) Crna-Gora = Montenegro or Black Mountains was an inaccessible mountainous region easy to defend. The Turks - during their conquest of the Balkans - time and again tried to penetrate but never really succeeded in subjecting the people to its rule. In 1799 the Turkish government officially and publicly made it known that the people of Crna Gora had never been Turkish subjects. During the above mentioned Berlin Congress (1878) the Big European Powers officially recognized Montenegro as being an independent state. In 1910 Prince Nikita (1860-1918) as King Nikita I mounted the throne. During the Balkan War (1912-1913) the country participated and during World War One (1914-1918) the country was occupied by the Austrians but its partisans managed to be a nuisance to them and to push them out again. Thereafter the parliament chose to become part of the newly created Kingdom of Yugoslavia and King Nikita was dethroned and sent packing.

5) Revived Albanian Scouting did not re-introduce the pre-1939 name - Gjurmusis
Shqyptare - but chose : Organizata Skautiste Shqiptare Besa Skauts Albania = Land of Eagles Scouting Organization Besa Scouts of Albania. A complicated name. Mihal Dhima explained : "In Albanian as in Greek BESA means Word of Honour. But BESA was much more during the long Turkish occupation, it was also the civil and penal code that ruled Albania and the Albanians. If someone gave BESA to someone else death was easier than to break BESA. BESA was so strong that if someone knocked at the door. even in the middle of the night, saying : "I am your BESA" and you answered saying :"BESA BESA" and thereafter opened your gate to find that there stood your enemy, you nevertheless had no right to harm him but had to welcome him too and shelter him in your home. Many ballads, legends and stories relating to BESA are making the Albanian myths and mythology one of the richest in Europe."


Both movements lacked everything and were not very strong financially. So they were very pleased when they were approached by the Badgers' Challence.
For as long as there have been Scouting and Guiding there have been Collectors of Scouting and Guiding items, Badges in particular. These Collectors are also known as " Badgers " and in almost every scout or guide movement they are united in Badgers' Clubs. When Scouting and Guiding revived in East and Central Europe and in some Asian and African countries - which had been under communist influence - they received support from the movements all over the world. Some West European Badgers' Clubs decided to unite their efforts and formed a special committee operating under the title of " The Badgers' Challence ". Money was collected from the members and other supporters but it was decided not to transfer the money but to invite the revived movements to design their own badges and to send these to the Committee. It had the badges manufactured and sent them, free of charge, to the revived movements. A quantity of each badge was held back and sold to the Badgers' Clubs members, enabling them to enlarge their collections. The proceeds were reserved and used to have more badges manufactured for other new movements interested.
The BESA Scouts did not re-introduce the pre-1939 badges and emblems but made a new design based upon the WOSM's World Emblem. On a White Field the Arrowhead and the Rope in Orange, the Albanian Coat of Arms the Black Two Headed Eagle on the Red Shield - superimposed on the Arrowhead and the association's name in Black. The Guide Movement designed and obtained a badge with the Black Eagle on a Red Trefoil on a Blue
Field, surroundedby a black yellow circle.

Piet J. Kroonenberg, Amsterdam, November 1999.