Albania is the central source of female cargo for Europe's brutal prostitution tradeby Daniel Renton / June 20, 2001 / Leave a comment
at the beginning of March an elderly man shuffled into my office at Save the Children in Tirana, Albania. He was tall, gaunt, shabbily dressed, and smelled of goat. He pressed his calloused hands around mine, then laid his palm flat on his chest-a warm gesture accompanied by a litany of humble Albanian greetings. I helped him into a chair. He was frail and plainly exhausted, having travelled for most of the day to tell me how he lost his daughters.
I had heard about Eduardo Leka from a teacher in Fushe Arrez, a pitiful huddle of communist tower blocks built on the side of a muddy hill in the mountains of northern Albania. Haystacks, goats, chickens and pigs crowd the once proud entrance halls-evidence that the population barely scratches together a living. When the local copper mine closed five years ago, unemployment rose to 90 per cent. I had wanted to meet the old man in his apartment, but the teacher said my presence in the remote town would attract too much attention and that could be dangerous for Eduardo. Instead he had taken a battered bus down the pot-holed mountain roads to visit me in Tirana.
Eduardo, who’s in his late 60s, started the interview in tears. I had never seen an Albanian man cry. It was short, dignified and punctuated by profuse apologies. Dabbing his hollow cheeks he began by telling me how it used to be, about the tiny family apartment where they had all lived; his wife, three daughters and a disabled son. They were poor, but made do. Eduardo used to work in the copper mine, but since the closure he eked out a living selling cigarettes and sunflower seeds on the street corner. He refused to let his children do the same. He had hopes they would go to university. Then, three years ago, some local men started paying his daughters a lot of attention. Eduardo sensed danger. But the men were clever and his daughters were easy targets.
His youngest daughter, 14-year-old Anduena, fell in love with one of them, and although Eduardo tried to reason with her, the two ran off to the nearby town of Shkodra. Her boyfriend then announced that he wanted her to travel to Italy with some friends and he would join her later and they’d get married. They met the friends for coffee and Anduena…