REBUILDING THE SARAJET (PALACE) OF KAPIDAN GJON MARKA GJONI!
The time to rebuild the Sarajet e Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjonit is here and now. It has sat in somber silence, an eerie reminder of its glorious past from the day it was burned to the ground in September 1944. Restoring the majestic Sarajet will be a private initiative which will benefit all of Mirdita, creating a hub of culture, education and history in Orosh. It will be a Welcome Center for all Albanians and foreigners alike, to enjoy its museum, cultural activities and the surrounding gardens. It will provide an avenue to facilitate learning, growth and well-being.
During the communist regime Mirdita was in upheavel. The Gjomarkaj Household palaces in Orosh, along with all their contents, were burned down to the ground by the communists. The family was dispersed in jail, camps and around the world. The people of Mirdita fell into a black hole for the next 45 years. Their leaders lay dead, jailed or in exile. Their hopes shattered. Their dreams spent.
I was raised in Rome and New York but in 2012, my husband and I made the decision to leave our life in the USA behind and make our new life here, in Shkoder, in my family’s home. It was an extraordinary decision and a turning point in my life. We moved into my family home and made Shkoder our new home.
During this period of reflection I began envisioning the rebuilding of the Sarajet (Palace) and transforming it into a museum, in honor of my family and our heritage, and as a cultural center for Mirdita, to let the people know that they were not forgotten.
Not one single day passed by that my grandfather, Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjoni or father Kapidan Ndue Gjon Marku, did not speak about Orosh. It was their home, always. Even though torn away from it, even after all the despicable things that occurred there, even though they had lost their sons and brothers at the hands of the communists, they never once forgot about Orosh, nor did they love another place as much.
It is with this in mind my heart is full of hope and my vision for a resurgence of the Sarajet is to mark a new cultural beginning for the people of Orosh, Mirdita and all of Albania. It will be a welcoming center for all Albanians and tourists, where they can learn about the great history of the Gjomarkaj Door, the “Dera e Gjomarkut”, their cultural importance and contribution to Mirdita and Albania.
The Sarajet will be a place to reflect on Mirdita’s unique history and the family of Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjoni, who has never forgotten the sacrifices, the losses, the contributions and above all the loyalty the people of Mirdita showed to their Kapidan.
As an Albanian-American, daughter of a noble family who relocated to her father’s homeland, making it hers, I want to thank all those who accepted me with open arms and made me feel welcome. To them and to the people of Mirdita I want to say “let’s make this dream a reality, let’s build the Sarajet together and let’s rejoice in the proud history of Mirdita and Albania.”
With your support this endeavor will help me to help Orosh and Mirdita be known to all!
Bianca M. Gjomarkaj
Who We Are
The Sarajet e Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjonit is an Albanian historical site dating to the Ottoman Empire. The Sarajet, as it is called in Albanian, means Palaces. It was the residence of the Kapidan of Mirdita, a Northern region in Albania which followed the customs of the Kanun of Lek Dukagjini.
A Legacy of Honor and Tradition
Since 1833, the Sarjet e Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjoni has been a symbol and fortress of strength for all Mirdita. The combined natural beauty of the mountains and the majestic palace not only beguiled and inspired but it also allowed guests to escape from the everyday.
Lady Hodgson, Anne Bridge, Rosamond Oakley Hill and Edith Durham were among many notables who visited the Sarajet in the early 20th c.
“Kapetan Marko Ghoanni, Prenk Pasha’s cousin, had kindly told me to come to his house if I went to Oroshi, and thither, finding it was no house of mourning, we went. He was absent, but his brother Kapetan Nue and his cousin received us with the greatest hospitality.The great stone house, high on a shelf on the mountain-side, it’s big, airy, white-washed rooms, the great hooded hearth, the solid native-made furniture, chip-carved in old Albanian style (alas, that it should ever be replaced by commonplace machine-made European stuff!) is the fitting home of a mountain chief, and harmonises with the simple dignity of its owners.” (High Albania. By M.E. (Mary Edith) Durham, 1863-1944: Edward Arnold, 1909)
Rev. Henry Fanshawe Tozer, (1829 – 1916) was an English writer, teacher, traveler, and geographer. He traveled extensively in Greece and in European and Asiatic Turkey. He visited the Sarajet in 1865.
Edith Durham (1863-1944) was a British artist, anthropologist, noted Albanophile and writer who became famous for her anthropological accounts of life in Albania in the early 20th century. She visited the Sarajet in 1908.