On the road

I do remember well the journey towards Operazione Colomba’s Home when I first arrived in Albania. Few hours before I was greeting my parents at the airport, and soon after I found myself along roads never seen, trying to fill my eyes with the hundreds of images I could see from the car window. I felt like a baby child looking at the sea for the first time: scared and fascinated at the same time.
During this period, several times I have seen myself in faces different than mine. In one of these days in Albania, we were escorting E., a 23 year-old man out of prison just few days before, to visit his brother who – unlike E. – was still in prison. We were driving on a road that I had come to know well, because it’s the same road of my first day as well as of many other occasions. Nevertheless, I was feeling very excited that day with E., a boy younger than me, with his nose stuck to the car window, busy in filling his eyes and his heart with those images he couldn’t have seen for a long time. I thought of the many things done in the last six years and then I said myself “Now delete everything”.

I deleted the trips with my friends (and the solitary ones), the birthdays, the days at the university, the degree, the job. I deleted the many people I met and who filled my life with love without even realizing it. I deleted all the time with my family spent with no obligations, schedules, bars, or control. I deleted all the choices I had the opportunity and the freedom to take. I deleted my first day in Albania and all the others, and the countless times I felt surprised like it was still my first day.
This really made me think. Even if I didn’t know much E. – and even less his brother – I was thrilled that after six years they could meet again. I thought about my sister and the love that binds us; I thought about how lucky we are to have the freedom to meet any time we want; I thought about a week without talking to her it could be very hard to sustain. So, I thought that we were allowing two brothers to see each other again after a very long time. To be an Operazione Colomba’s volunteer means escorting those who can’t move alone too. Because E. is out of jail now, but he is not free yet. When you are in gjakmarrja (i.e. ‘blood feud’), you are hardly free. Hatred and fear, as we know, make you a prisoner. In these months in Albania emotions were many, and strong. I met people with a past full of violence and dreariness, but in a present where they have chosen to forgive and to grow their children in peace. I met people who stopped to believe too, especially in themselves, and who love their children so much to ask us to take them far away. I felt how big can be the love of children for their mother or the grief for the loss of a loved one. I felt so much love in places lost and lonely, in the poorest houses I’ve ever seen. Love is what we really need, any time and anywhere. I can’t help but get emotional again, with my nose stuck to the car window, everyday like the first day.