In 1990-91 cracks appeared in Europe's last Stalinist state, Albania. The first independent-travelling Western visitors were allowed in and for the first time ordinary Albanians were approaching them without the fear of the omnipresent secret police, the Sigurimi. Monica Whitlock, then of the BBC, witnessed it first hand and remembers her journey:

These snapshots show one day in the port of Saranda in Vlore County, southern Albania. It was the summer of 1991. I caught the ferry from Greece, so close that you can see from shore to shore. As the boat approached, crowds of boys leapt off the docks and swam out, shouting to the passengers to throw them pens or coins. The excited town threw a lunch in welcome; grandees gave speeches. We took the bus to the classical ruins at Butrin, delivering bread along the way.

The photos unwittingly catch a moment of change in Albania. Enver Hoxha was dead - you can see his faded photograph above the ochre building. The man he designated his successor, Ramiz Alia, was - briefly - in power. Alia was a militant Marxist-Leninist, leading a country where none of that made sense any more. Signs of economic crisis were everywhere, from the lack of electricity to the worn clothes of the boys who kept us company all day.

© Monica Whitlock

Published in Photo Gallery Balkans
Published in Bulgaria

Prespa Lake - an area of stunning nature and relentless politics.

After several campaigns of ethnic purges and other of the 20th Century's upheavals: the Balkan wars, the 1920s, the Greek Civil war of 1947-49, the Slav speakers – Bulgarians and Macedonians - largely disappeared from Northern Greece. Their houses are sill there in ghost villages, the stories of survivors in remote pockets still untold, their identity still intact. We spoke to some of them on camera.

Published in Balkans

The burning of a library

The targetting and burning of a library.

The Sarajevo Library, the Vijećnica, was destroyed by incendiary bombs thrown from Serb positions on the hills above the city.

Completed in 1896, the library held 1.5 million volumes and over 155,000 rare books and manuscripts.

On August 25 and 26 1992, Serbian shelling caused the complete destruction of the library. Among the losses were about 700 manuscripts and a unique collection of Bosnian 19th century publications. Librarians and volunteers from the city tried to save some books while they were under sniper fire.  

The building was restored and reopened in May 2014. It is now a national monument.

Published in Balkans

Prespa Lake - an area of stunning nature and human sadness.

After several campaigns of ethnic purges: the aftermath of the Balkan wars, the 1920s, the Greek Civil war of 1947-49 the Slav speakers - Bulgarians and Macedonians - largely disappeared from Northern Greece. Their houses are sill there in ghost villages, the stories of survivors in remote pockets still untold.

The last wave of refugees from the area came in 1947-49. About 30.000 children in territories controlled by the Communist guerrillas in the north were forcibly removed across the Eastern Block. Others were sent to foster homes in the US, all victims of one the first conflicts of the Cold War. The return of Slav-speaking refugees to Greece has been extremely slow and painful, the return of confiscated property virtually non-existent.

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© Velislav Radev

Published in Photo Gallery Balkans

Natalya Grebenyuk is a Moscow-based photographer. She is a fan of motor-rallies and daunting car journeys. Natalya crossed the Balkans from East to West at the height of the winter 2010: from Kosovo via Montenegro to Albania and Bosnia.

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Curious killed the cat but sometime one can find such the monuments behind the curtain National Art Gallery Tirana
First albanian word I've learnt in Pristine saying thank you to the waiter Read it on the building Faleminderit

© Natalya Grebenyuk

Published in Photo Gallery Balkans

Natalya Grebenyuk is a Moscow-based photographer. She is a fan of motor-rallies and daunting car journeys. Natalya crossed the Balkans from East to West at the height of the winter 2010: from Kosovo via Montenegro to Albania and Bosnia.

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© Natalya Grebenyuk

Published in Photo Gallery Balkans

Natalya Grebenyuk is a Moscow-based photographer. She is a fan of motor-rallies and daunting car journeys.

Natalya crossed the Balkans from East to West at the height of the winter 2010: from Kosovo via Montenegro to Albania and Bosnia.

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© Natalya Grebenyuk

Published in Photo Gallery Balkans

 

Natalya Grebenyuk is a Moscow-based photographer and photo editor. She is a fan of motor-rallies and daunting car journeys. Natalya crossed the Balkans from East to West at the height of the Winter 2010 - from Kosovo via Montenegro to Albania and Bosnia.

 

© Natalya Grebenyuk

Published in Photo Gallery Balkans

Prizren. Second largest city of Kosovo. The only trilingual city in the Balkans, with Albanian, Turkish and Serbian/Bosnian spoken. Capital of the medieval Serbian Empire in the 14th Century. Preserved its Ottoman character better than any other city in the Balkans. Natalya Grebenyuk is a Moscow-based photographer. She is a fan of motor-rallies and daunting car journeys. Natalya crossed the Balkans from East to West at the height of the winter 2010: from Kosovo via Montenegro to Albania and Bosnia.

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© Natalya Grebenyuk

© Velislav Radev

Published in Photo Gallery Balkans