Luciano, a life among the Roma in Albania: change is possible

“Change is possible, even for the Roma in Albania, if we give them a dream and if we don’t leave them alone”. This is how Brother Luciano Levri, Marianist missionary, opens “Reportage of a dream”. Life in a Roma camp is unimaginable, and only by reconstructing the dream can we see a way out.

Luciano, a life among the Roma in Albania: change is possible

Brother Luciano was a great Trentino man. Born in Fiavè in 1944 and died in 2020, he interpreted the Gospel in its entirety. He joined the Marianists and graduated in Philosophy in Milan. At first he was a professor in Calabria and clashed with organised crime. With great pain he had to leave the field and moved to Albania, where he lived from 2004 until 2020.

Fr Luciano and his roses

He is a man of few words, radical, deep, determined. It is impossible not to be fascinated by his culture, his deep knowledge of the Gospel and his sensitivity.

The mission among the Roma of Lezhë

As soon as he arrived in Albania, he was given a very difficult and delicate task. More than 2,000 Roma, who had fled the various conflicts, had taken refuge in shacks and abandoned buildings in Lezhë, living in desperate conditions. Luciano began by distributing meals, and then realised that the only real help could be in training. He set up a youth centre and started an after-school club. He organised buses to pick up the children, found help with snacks and homework.

“Reportage of a dream”

We went to shoot the reportage on Brother Luciano with the Aurora Vision crew and Don Beppino Caldera, from the Missionary Centre in Trento. The direction was by Alberto Beltrami, the filming was by Raffaele Merler and Andrea Morghen. Luciano opens the doors to us and, overcoming the difficulty of the microphone, chooses to talk about everything. Listening to him is a great privilege.

Aurora Vision troupe in Albania, here with fr. Federico Lombardi

The most difficult part is going into the fields to do the filming. The climate is very heavy. People chase the car and keep shouting: “Luci, Luci”. They ask him for help with the doctor, the dentist, food, a lawyer to get a relative released. The misery in the camps is all too much, even for me who have seen many of them. Luciano organises the help with great intelligence, but the questions are too many. Every evening, when he goes home alone, he prays to regain strength and not give in.

First degrees, change is possible for Roma in Albania

In such a difficult social fabric, Luciano was able to see a light. In the midst of many struggles, three girls from the camp have graduated. It’s an epoch-making change, like an Olympic victory. These degrees are the realisation of a dream.

Luciano receives honorary citizenship of Lezhë, and his message is for the whole world.

The important thing is the relationship: “God does not mana in groups, the Roma, the people. God loves Mary, he loves Illir… And for each one he has a caress, a tear”. So Luciano reaches people’s faces and welcomes them by offering a rose, the beauty of creation that floods the soul. And he fills the word “solidarity” with meaning, that gift that asks for nothing in return.

Aurora Vision’s work with the Roma

In addition to “Reportage di un sogno”, we have made two documentaries with Roma. The most recent work is “Portami a vedere la notte”, under the patronage of the Vatican’s  Dicastery for Integral Human Development  and AIZO. “Take me to see the night” so I can immerse myself in nature, discover its secrets, experience the thrill of free and nomadic life. From the concentration camps of Nazi extermination to the evicted camps of Roma and Sinti in today’s Europe. The story of a daily life made up of discrimination and prejudice and of a woman, Carla Osella, who for 50 years has shared its life and burden. Tales of Roma and Sinti in the camps – nomads, caravans and settlers – between forgotten discrimination, nature, music and art.  

A few years ago we made “Leonora”, in the Roma camps in Kosovo, with the Italian Red Cross of Trentino and Associazione Trentina in Aiuto ai Balcani. Telling Leonora’s story is a way of bringing attention to the difficult situation of ethnic minorities, the Roma, women and people with disabilities. It is also a way to highlight prejudice, which will be overcome by the tenacity and openness of people dedicated to the most fragile. Society desperately needs positive examples centred on the dignity and value of all human life.

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