“Most of the Roman Catholics in Macedonia are Albanians, who have moved from Prizren in Kosovo to the Macedonian capital (Poulton, 1993:82). The majority of Albanians in Macedonia are Muslims, and there are only a few Orthodox Albanians living close to Lake Ohrid in southwestern Macedonia. All in all, there are 484,228 (22.9 percent) Albanians in Macedonia, out of a total population of 1,937,000 (World Directory of Minorities, 1997:233). The unifying factor for the Albanians is “ethnicity,” rather than “religion.” Opinion polls conducted in 1993 and 1994 showed that Albanians in Macedonia felt discriminated against because of their ethnicity, and not because of their being Muslim, Orthodox or Catholic (Gaber, 1997:113-114). The Albanians are very different in ethnic terms from the majority of the population. They speak a non-Slavic language and their culture is very different from that of the Macedonians.”
This quotation was taken form a document on the internet entitled:Center for Documentation and Information on Minorities in Europe– Southeast Europe (CEDIME-SE): MINORITIES IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE.
The Vincentian church in Bitola where we met one of the priests who led us to Sr Zena
It is with this background that Ana Stakaj, the manager of the Mary Ward Women’s project, travelled with Imelda Poole, the President of Mary Ward Loreto and Peter Tanushaj, the Logistics manager for MWL, in response to an invitation from the Vincentian sisters resident in Bitola, Macedonia. They had been challenged by many, many Albanian women some of whom had been sold for 500 euro to be the bride of Macedonian men and who were finding life increasingly difficult as they tried to live at in poverty and threatened by domestic violence. They had heard of the work of this project when one of the sisters had been in Albania. This project has gained its reputation through the expert management of Ana Stakaj. The sisters were looking for help with these 800 women abandoned by state and family. We had an excellent meeting with the sisters and in particular Sr Zena, who was originally from Kosovo. We felt we understood the situation much better after our visit. The next step will be for Sr Zena to come to Albania and experience the work of MWW throughout Albania. We will then go back to Macedonia in late September when we will visit three groups of women in three areas of the south of Macedonia. After this we will review everything together and discern the next steps for this work.