Adem Shala: Preserving Albanian Language and Culture in the Diaspora
By: Kosovo Diaspora August 26, 2013
Adem Shala says that “now, I have been living in Germany for 19 years, and as soon as I arrived, I started working to live off of my own efforts. No matter where I go, and even if I lived a thousand years in another place, I will always be a hundred percent Albanian! However, I am and I feel as an equal in Germany, and in fact, I am an equal before the law and I obey the law strictly. I develop activities with German people and other communities. We try to keep kids out of the streets and put them under a positive influence, in order to develop a healthy society”.
Adem Shala, born in Kosovo, is a 53 year old man who teaches Albanian in eight different cities in Germany. Before we talk about his students and the project that he runs, he tells me about his life in Kosovo. As I pull the notebook out, Adem sits behind his desk and patiently waits to tell me his story.
Shala studied chemistry at the University of Prishtina. His first teaching assignment was at a High School Sllatina, Kosovo. After that, he became the principal of the school. He also served as an adviser to the fire protection unit for civilians in the town. In 1990/91 Shala had to forcibly leave his profession due to the escalation of the situation in Kosovo. He was among the first few people in Prishtina to organize political activities for Kosovo’s Civil Resistance movement under the leadership of the late president, Ibrahim Rugova.
Shortly after he settled in Germany as an asylum seeker, Shala became involved with the Kosovo Albanian community in the country. In 1999, he started teaching Albanian lessons in order to promote and preserve the language and identity of Albanians in Germany. The children that he has taught are from the fifth to tenth grade. Adem Shala adds that “Besides teaching, I have run many other projects as well. For instance, I have organized many cultural activities such as dancing and singing groups. With those groups we took part in festivals in Berlin, Munich and other major cities in Germany.” Shala continues to explain, that he and his groups also took part in cultural events together with groups from Turkey, Greece and Russia. They also traveled to Kosovo and visited different schools there. Students from Kosovo visited the Diaspora and schools in Germany. “My students also have been very successful in quiz competitions. Last year and this year, the Ministry of Diaspora organized a quiz at the national television RTK. Our group represented Germany and won the first prize!,” Shala reports proudly.
The most recent project that he realized is the Greek-Albanian project. They met with the Greek Diaspora members in Germany and presented each others’ ancestries. “The Greek Diaspora presented their country to the Kosovo-Albanian Diaspora. We presented the geographical location, traditional costumes, traditional dishes, popular personalities, favorite songs, the school system, art, touristic places and many other things”. Shala continues to say that, ”this project was a real success. We plan to do it again with other countries: with Italy, Spain and Portugal for instance.”
The next question I posed was about what motivates him to teach. Shala explains that, “the goal of [his] job is to help the kids preserve their language, culture and national traditions. But it is equally important to teach them about the importance of integrating into the places they live”. The next thing I am interested in knowing is his opinion about the role of the Kosovo diaspora in the national issues. Adem Shala replies that the role of the Diaspora is very important for Kosovo and Albania. When the government stopped providing funding in the 90s, it was the Diaspora that enabled Kosovo to continue teaching its students and education the many generations. It was the Diaspora that supported the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which fought for liberating our country. Shala thinks that Kosovo is need of new cohorts that get educated abroad: “Kosovo needs experts that contribute to Kosovo’s economic development, as well as in all other areas.”
Regarding his identity, Adem Shala says that “now, I have been living in Germany for 19 years, and as soon as I arrived, I started working to live off of my own efforts. No matter where I go, and even if I lived a thousand years in another place, I will always be a hundred percent Albanian! However, I am and I feel as an equal in Germany, and in fact, I am an equal before the law and I obey the law strictly. I develop activities with German people and other communities. We try to keep kids out of the streets and put them under a positive influence, in order to develop a healthy society”.
We ended the interview with a last question about his future plans. Shala says that he will continue with the activities that he has been involved until now to promote and preserve the Albanian language and culture. “This year is going to be special because Albania celebrates its 100th Independence day. We will also continue to take part in quizzes on a German and European level.”