From Skifter Kelliçi
The first part
Memorie.al/ On November 28, 1938, on the occasion of the Independence Day, in a ceremony attended by important authorities of the country, with a speech held on the microphone of Radio Tirana, King Zog the First inaugurated the establishment of this the institution, which over the years became so beloved and popular even for Albanians abroad. On this occasion, we are publishing the dossier ’85 years of Radio Tirana’, prepared by journalist and writer Skifter Këlliçi, who worked for 40 years at Radio Tirana (1959-1999), first as an editor and then as a sports commentator.
It happened one evening in the spring of 1943. When my father moved down to the left a beautiful brown box which he had just brought home, and when the sounds of a melody spread from it into the room, I I was stunned. “What is this”?!- I asked him. “Radio, where you will hear songs, voices in our language and foreign”, – he answered me.
I was even more surprised. How was it possible for that magic box, called radio, to spread such voices?! What was hidden inside it?! These I would learn later, for I was only five years old then. And the day would come when I too would work as a journalist in that building, called Radio-Tirana.
Relying on my book ‘Historia e Radiotelevizioni, (1938-1990), in this dossier cycle, I will describe some of the most important events of this institution, so popular for every Albanian, until 1990, that is, during the period of the dictatorship communist. Not in vain: on November 28 of this year, Radio Tirana turned 85 years old.
Desires and disappointments, for the new Radio-Tirana building
Even now that I write these lines, I think of memories related to this building, which will be the starting point of this cycle. It was Monday, December 5, 1965, when we, the employees of Radio-Tirana, started work in its surroundings, which were incomparably different from those of the previous Radio-Tirana.
It was the realization of a dream that had begun on a September evening in 1959, when a grand gathering was organized in the TOB hall (now the Academy of Fine Arts), on the occasion of the month of friendship with the Soviet Union. And there, among other things, one of the main leaders of the delegation that had come from Moscow on this occasion, among other things, announced that the Soviet government would give the Albanian people as a gift, a large cultural palace and the building new of Radio Tirana.
At that time, I had just started working as an editor in Radio. And, to be honest, I was extremely happy. Along with me, of course, other employees of this institution. The truth was that the recording studios of both Radio buildings were almost primitive. During the recording and even the transmission, since its walls did not have the right thickness, all kinds of noises entered, even the cackling of a chicken.
Then, the cow’s cow that was in the yard of the house, next to the building attached to the Radio, about which I wrote the incident “The cow that terrified Radio Tirana”, included in the book “Çelentano and the police”, published in 2014. There was a lack of air. Air-conditioned, the equipment was very used, the offices were equipped with old furniture, many other things were missing…!
However, the breakdown of relations with the Soviet Union, in December 1961, resulted in the termination of many agreements and projects, including the construction of the new Radio-Tirana building and the large Palace of Culture. Then both of these important facilities, by decision of the Central Committee of PPSh, were decided to be built with our forces. This was one of the challenges that the Labor Party made to the Soviet revisionists. And here’s how…!
How did the construction of the new Radio Tirana building begin?
In a report of the Directorate of Radio-diffusion dated 20.5.1960, regarding the investment of imported equipment for the third five-year plan, it was stated: “In 1962-’63, it will be moved to the new building. The equipment will come from the Soviet Union. Investments for the new Radio building, based on the decision of the Council of Ministers, will cost about 75 million ALL…”!
If the project for the construction of the new building had started to be realized in that period, then, very much, in 1964, Radio Tirana’s programs would have started to be broadcast from this building. But this, for the reasons mentioned above, did not happen. The funds for the construction of this building, with all the necessary equipment, did not come.
Two years passed, during which Radio-Tirana experienced the same difficulties…!
And here, on 27.9.1962, between the client, represented by Petro Kito, deputy director of Radio Tirana, and the “21 Dhjetori” Construction Company, represented by Nexho Konomi, a contract was signed for the construction of the new building of Radio Tirana , (File 9, RTVSH Fund, State Archive). According to this document, the total value was determined by the prices of the preventive measure, which included the amount of 100,000 million ALL.
It was decided that the new Radio-Tirana building would be erected in a quiet area, although somewhat far from the city. But, if we take into account that, in order to watch a football match, the citizens had to walk another 100 meters, it is clear that this distance did not pose any problem, not only for the employees, but also for her co-workers, who were a lot.
In 1964, the works for the construction of the new building, as evidenced in a letter dated April 15 of that year that the directorate of Radio Tirana sent to Kantieri no. 2 of N.SH.N. “December 21”, where it was noted that the import materials had already been provided, in which they were included; cables, plugs, panels, transformers, and other technical equipment, for studios and recording halls, continued at a high pace. (File 8, RTSH Fund, State Archive).
December 5, 1965- in the Radio building
It was Monday, somewhat cloudy, when the Radio broadcasts started from the new studios. It was actually a great job. It wasn’t about the physical relocation of Radio, because that almost didn’t happen. All the equipment was new, as were the studios themselves, with the exception of some East German tape recorders, which were taken from old studios, and some Soviet ones. But, nevertheless, there were difficulties not only in the installation of new equipment, mainly Chinese, but in their validation, so that the transmissions of the shows did not have even the slightest defect.
And this was achieved thanks to the work of the technical group, headed by the talented engineer, Emil Plumbi, with his closest collaborators, the technical chief, Spiro Qirko, the other engineers, Sali Mensori, Gaqo Konomi, Gjergj Shteto, etc., together with the Chinese specialists who worked alongside them. The broadcast signals from the studios, after continuous and intensive rehearsals, passed that day to the radio stations, from where they were transmitted perfectly throughout the territory of Albania and abroad.
Since 1961, after the breakdown of relations with the Soviet Union, Foreign Radio, which until then had only broadcast programs in six foreign languages; Greek, Serbo-Croatian, Italian, French, English and Arabic, had also started broadcasting in Russian, Bulgarian, German and then, would start broadcasts in Czech, Hungarian, to continue in other languages, such as Polish, Portuguese , Spanish…!
The new Radio-Tirana building provided them, although, over the years, as we will see in other parts of this cycle, even these studios became insufficient, because by the decision of the Central Committee of PPSh added other languages, such as Indonesian, Turkish, Swedish, Persian, Chinese, and even Swedish, so that the voice of the Party and the dictator, Enver Hoxha, would spread throughout the globe and “inspire all the peoples of the world to fight against imperialist – revisionist exploitation”(!?).
Historical overview – Efforts to establish Radio Tirana, (1937-’38)
On July 7, 1938, with a decree-law proposed by the prime minister, number 45/89, King Zog approved the establishment of a Radio-Tirana station, which stated: “The royal government is authorized, in agreement with a house specialized, to build here in Tirana, a radio station for radiotelegraphy, radiotelephony and radio broadcasting, with a power of 3 kw…! The total amount of expenses will be 122 thousand and 500 gold francs”. (“Official Gazette” no. 15, July 21, 1938).
Thus, finally, a great desire and great need was realized that had been expressed time and time again in our press during that period. For this, it is enough to extract fragments from many newspapers of the time: “Radio, a window that looks into the whole world”, (“Diana”, April, 1937), “The importance of radio – the establishment of such a station in Albania”, (“Drita”, May 16, 1937), “Notes and comments about a radio station”, “What happened to Radio Tirana”, (“Stypi”, March 19, 1938) and a series of articles published during this period by Gjergj Bubani, a well-known publicist of those years, mainly in “Drita”, who would later become the first director of Radio Tirana.
It must be said that; in order to give more solemnity to the 25th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, on November 28, 1937, it was achieved that all the activities developed on that day were also transmitted through the Radio. For this purpose, technicians from the well-known firm “Philips”, which was known all over the world, came to Albania. But that’s all.
Therefore, with the passage of time, this great demand began to be laid even more. This is why in the newspaper “Stypi” dated May 22, 1938 it was written: “Those who have a radio and now wait every evening for the appointed time, to open the Radio Bari station, which with the news it gives in the Albanian language and in some cases also music, has brought a valuable service to the Albanian people, after that, they will receive from the Tirana station, various broadcasts, news, songs, national music…”!
(We add on this occasion, that on the basis of an agreement with the Italian government, it was then reached that Radio Bari broadcast a half-hour program in the Albanian language every day, which included news from Albania, from the world and music programs).
And here, after so many efforts, we come to the time when, after the approval of the decree-law by King Zog, Radio-Tirana starts regular programs, which were decided to start on November 28, on the occasion of Independence Day. But before that, it took several months of rehearsals and experimental broadcasts to get to regular broadcasts.
For this purpose, on August 29, 30 and 31, Radio-Tirana broadcast the celebrations on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the proclamation of the Kingdom, which included the Prime Minister’s message to the Albanian people on this occasion, concerts and cultural activities.
These programs even included the broadcast of a football match, held at the “Shallvares” field in Tirana, between Sport-Klub Tirana and “Iraklis” of Kavalla, (Greece), which was won 7-0 by the people of Tirana, a match commented for the first time by the well-known commentator, Anton Mazreku. These programs resonated throughout Albania and were a great basis of security already for the inauguration of Radio Tirana.
Where was Radio Tirana located?
It was very difficult to build a special building in a short time to house Radio-Tirana. It was even difficult to find a suitable building. Thus, the first headquarters of the Radio became… the City Hall. It was one of the most modern buildings in Tirana of those years, erected in “Skënderbej” Square, which was demolished in the early 80s, to make way for the National Historical Museum.
Exactly in two of the large rooms on the second floor of the City Hall, Radio Tirana was established. In one, the few devices and the work table of the first editors were installed, and in the other room, the speaker’s studio, which also served as a hall for the broadcasts of music programs, which were live, since it is understood that until that time the tape recorder had not yet been invented.
Thus, on November 28, 1938, with a greeting held by King Zog, accompanied by the Queen and the first director of Radio-Tirana, Gjergj Bubani, at 12.00, Radio-Tirana started its first show, presented by the well-known speaker Kaliopi Nushi, (Plasari). On November 29, the newspaper “Drita” announced, among other things: “Naltmadhnia, the King and the Queen, solemnly inaugurated the Radio Station. In the center of the radio station located in Laprakë, the high civil and military authorities of the country were concentrated.”
A similar announcement was made by “Gazet e Korça” on the same date: “With the opening of this station, an obvious lack was successfully filled. It is true that the news service in the Albanian language was kindly carried out by the Bari Radio Station, with his daily service, also with rare concert broadcasts, but these were not enough”!
Regarding the operation of Radio-Tirana, the above article is helpful again, where it is written: “The broadcast of the radio shows will be given in the City Hall, where the receiver of the Rome station is installed in a special room and the main transmitting station is installed, as is known, in Laprakë… The whole station contains a magnificent apparatus, which occupies a hall of nearly eight meters in length.
It summarizes all the tools and installations that will work to broadcast the shows at every hour. As previously announced, the radio station has an antenna power of 3 kV…! The shows will be broadcast on 40m shortwave. The station was built by the “Radio Markoni” office of Genoa… world famous… the last word in technology”. The inauguration and broadcast of the first programs of Radio-Tirana, on November 28, 1938, was again widely covered by the press.
In another article dated November 30, the newspaper “Drita” writes: “The first day of the radio show in Tirana was a great success that was expected. All of Albania, but also those who follow the life of our homeland from afar, will have passed a few hours of inner joy, derived from the satisfaction that a national work gives. The audience was moved by the local songs, sung by the sopranos Marie Paluca and Tefta Tashko. This was the first day of the radio station of Albania”.
I had the opportunity in November of 1993 to prepare a television show dedicated to the 55th anniversary of the creation of Radio-Tirana and to interview our great singer, Marije Paluca, (Kraja), who then expressed this to me on the microphone of RTSH: “The emotions I felt those moments when I was singing on November 28, 1938, will remain indelible.
I had sung many times in front of the Albanian public, together with the singer and my friend Tefta Tashko, accompanied on the piano by Lola Aleksi, (Gjoka), and Tonin Guraziu. But in small halls, where no more than 300-400 art lovers listened to us. While singing from the small Radio-Tirana studio, I guessed that there were thousands of listeners, who were standing next to the radio equipment.
I did not see these spectators, but I imagined them. And this excited me even more; when I thought that they were all over Albania and, even, outside its borders. I had felt pleasure when I sang a year ago, on the Albanian show of Radio Bar, but this could not be compared to the pleasure I felt when I sang on Radio Tirana, because I was singing for the Albanian listeners from Albania, who rewarded me with the gratitude of their deep”.
The first programs of Radio Tirana did not last more than three hours a day, but, however, they were followed. Here, for example, is the program of the first day: “13.00, the exact time – talk with the listeners; 13.10 – radio notebook; 13.25 – light music; 14.00 closing of the show.
In the evening: 7:00 p.m. – exact time and program: 7:02 p.m. – Mr. Rrok Gera, Minister of National Economy, opens the series of radio conferences; 19.15 – concert music; 20.00- radio-notebook; 20-15 dance music; 20.45 – closing of shows.
We must bear in mind that Radio-Tirana started and continued its activity in very difficult conditions. This is also confirmed by an article published in the newspaper “Bashkimi i Kombit” on April 9, 1944, where, among other things, it is emphasized: “A clerk, several associates and a servant. Budget, 4,000 francs for five months.
From November 28, 1938 – April 1, 1939, when the new budget of the Ministry of Popular Culture would come out, these 4,000 francs were surplus from the predetermined fund for the attack on the radio station of Laprak, by engineer Ndoc Saraçi, who put them in availability of the radio station. With 4,000 francs for an employee, borrowed furniture and 140 gramophone records, Radio Tirana has started its activity…”!
The first director of Radio-Tirana, as we mentioned above, was appointed Gjergj Bubani (1894-1954). He had come in the mid-30s from Romania, where he had been noted for his patriotic activity, especially in the field of journalism. Equipped with a wide culture and familiar with four foreign languages (Romanian, Greek, Italian, French), he played an important role in raising the quality of Radio Tirana’s broadcasts, which was taking its first and second steps. Difficult, so that it acquired the characteristics of a national radio. Memorie.al
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