SHEN NAUM, Albania (AP) _ Tens of thousands of Albanians flooded into neighboring Macedonia on Saturday after the border was opened for 32 hours in a goodwill gesture for Orthodox Easter.

''This should have been done years ago,'' said Bashkim Isa, commander of this border post. It was open for the first time since Communists closed it in 1948. ''Many people have been killed'' trying to cross before, he said.

Albanian television announced Friday that Macedonia, a Yugoslav republic with an ethnic Albanian minority, had agreed to open four border posts from 10 a.m. Saturday until 6 p.m. Sunday.

Crossings were limited to residents of Pogradec, a center of Christian Orthodoxy 80 miles southeast of the capital Tirana, or others whose names were on special lists. It was not clear how the lists were compiled.

The move was intended for Orthodox believers, about 12 percent of Albania's 3.2 million people, but Muslims could cross if they could prove they lived in Pogradec. Easter for Orthodox Christians falls on Sunday.

''Nearly the whole town is going,'' said Gentiana Tarelli, a 17-year-old Muslim student who planned to visit relatives she had never met. ''It's my first time to go abroad,'' beamed Nesti Cabani, a 43-year-old peasant decked out in his best suit.

He carried only a Coca-Cola bottle filled with raki, a local Balkan brew, and a wad of Albanian leks he hoped to change for Yugoslav dinars to buy shoes.

The opening was a rare chance for Albanians to go abroad, however briefly, after more than four decades of Stalinist isolation.

It also is something of a risk for Macedonia, which has kept its border with Albania closed for fear of being swamped with impoverished Albanian refugees.

Since the Communist regime started to crumble at the end of 1990, Albania's economy has collapsed. Food riots were frequent last winter, and the country now survives mostly on foreign aid.

Thousands of Albanians wandered aimlessly on Saturday through Struga, the biggest Macedonian town in the area, stunned as they gawked at consumer goods and foods most could never afford.

Others thronged the 11th-century Orthodox church of Shen Naum, or Saint Naum, overlooking Lake Ohrid less than a mile from the border.

''It is incredible to see such a beautiful church,'' said Pandor Troci, 56, dressed head-to-foot in black as she lit candles. ''In our country, the churches look like inns. They are not spiritual at all.''