Every time we ask our dear master Spiro Bezhani to tell us how CHwB Regional Restoration Camps participants performed, he always says, “They were all excellent. They are all so talented and smart.” Because his words also carve stone, just as the master’s hands do. Spiro usually concludes that teaching younger ones and transferring his knowledge and skills is not work for him. It’s something he takes pride in, and it makes him so happy to see how many young professionals are interested to learn about carving stone, masonry and mixing mortar.
At the end of a tiring day, he takes the cigarette out of his mouth and says, “I really did nothing” all the while unaware of what a massive contribution he is making.
Defying his age, Spiro Bezhani continues to work passionately with stone. People like him are the ones who possess the necessary knowledge and skills to pass down the tangible and intangible cultural heritage to new generations. Thank you, Master!
This is Lan Bajrami. He leaves Gjakova, where his wife and two children live, and comes to Gjirokastra, which he considers a second home. Lan’s hands have carved in detail doors, windows, carts, looms for weaving rugs, household furniture, and many other things.
After working 13 years as a carpenter, in 2008 Lan became part of the Regional Restoration Camps, and since then they have never been separated. One of the works he takes pride in is the restoration of Babameto House, a first category monument. All the doors and the windows of this house were made by our master’s hand.
“I really appreciate what Cultural Heritage without Borders – Albania does. As for me, the work with wood is hard; it requires sacrifice. But I have a passion for saving what is old,” he says.
Lan is a perfectionist. When we ask him if he is unsatisfied, even in a small way, during his work, he replies, “The loss of time is our only problem.”
Bledar Lika is silent as a stone, because he works with it. But, Bledi has worked with wood, as well, because he believes that to be a completed master you have to know all the crafts.
“Nowadays, I prefer to work with roofs,” he tells us. When we ask him if he likes this job because it is better paid he immediately replies, “I have a good name, and I am very pleased with the reward of my work.”
Bledi is one of the masters of Cultural Heritage without Borders – Albania. He works with students and for students. As they themselves say: Bledi can work wonders with a hammer and an adze.
When you meet Fadil Krasniqi you see the love for his profession stamped in his face. Fadil has worked with Cultural Heritage without Borders – Albania since 2004. When we ask him about his capabilities, he doesn’t need to be modest. “I have worked on the restoration of churches and mosques in Kosovo,” says Fadil. “I have a full bag (professionally).”
When we invite him to tell us an interesting story from his works, he describes communicating with an Italian restoration architect in postwar Kosovo.
“The architect asked me, ‘What do you do here?’ ‘Wood, plaster, all,’ I replied,” he says, imitating the surprised expression of the Italian friend.
For people like Fadil, the payment for his work is small, but his passion is very big.
Bashkim Loloçi is a stone master. He tells us that he has “stolen” the mastery and the wisdom from his father. Full of pride, he describes him as one of the best stone masters of Gjirokastra. In fact, this is asserted by everyone, since the Loloçi family is well known in the city, having lived in Gjirokastra for centuries.
Like many other Albanians, after proving his craftsmanship in different areas of Greece, Bashkim decided to return to his birthplace.
“I worked since my early childhood in Greece. At first, that was the desire. Now the time has come to build in my country,” he says.
Bashkim Loloçi is one of the masters that Cultural Heritage without Borders – Albania is proud to have on its team.
Besfort Axhanela from Kosova is one of the most engaged craftsmen in Cultural Heritage without Border’s Regional Restoration Camps.
Although young – Besfort is only 32 years old – he has a rich experience in conservation work, both in the field of tangible and in the field of intangible heritage.
Besfort is passionate about Gjirokastra, which he considers his second home.
Budiša Sekulić and Mile Bojović are among the last Serbian craftsmen that still know how to restore wood-shingled roofs.
They are both from Zlatibor, a mountainous region in Western Serbia.
Budiša worked for more than 20 years in the Sirogojno open-air museum. He wears his 78 years very well and is still actively involved in different restoration projects.
Mile, also known as “Budiša’s right-hand master” has in the past worked at the Monastery of Deçan. He is now 65 years old but as strong and precise as ever before.
Budiša and Mile are special. We feel lucky to work with them during the Regional Restoration Camps organized in Serbia.
Zoran Krstić and Slavoljub Nikolić from the village Rajac are among the few active craftsmen in the Negotin region who were willing to learn traditional building crafts along with general conservation principles.
We started the collaboration with these two local craftsmen in 2011 during the restoration of a roof in the Rajac wine cellar complex (Rajačke pivnice). We hope that we will continue this collaboration on all future projects in the wine cellar complexes of Negotin.
Zoran Krstić is now 60. He used to work as a carpenter for a construction company, mainly on the construction of contemporary buildings. However, when the construction market collapsed in Serbia during the 1990s, he lost his job—as did many qualified and hardworking craftsmen who used to work for state-owned companies. Zoran soon started working independently or with former colleagues, and we met him as he worked on one of these projects.
Zoran is cheerful, optimistic and a very good team worker. His skill and his light, confident way of moving around when working on roofs are commendable.
Slavoljub Nikolić is 55, and it could be said that he is Zoran’s “right hand.” They worked together on many structures in Rajac, and they have a clear division of duties when they work together. However, when they join other craftsmen, they also easily adjust, and Slavoljub often takes on the most difficult tasks in order to protect the other members of the team.