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Villagers See No Future at Home, Want to Leave With AM-Albania-Elections

March 22, 1992

SHKALLE, Albania (AP) _ Bujar Bardhi and his family of five live in a converted two-room shed with no toilet, no running water, almost no furniture - and no desire to remain in the misery and privation of Albania.

On Sunday, Bardhi and 2 million other voters in this desperately poor country went to the polls to elect a new parliament. The Democratic Party said it was confident it could seize control of the country from the Socialists, the former Communists.

But even if they do, there is no expectation of a better life in Shkalle.

″The only thing people want from a Democratic Party government is the right to emigrate,″ said Bardhi, a 31-year-old farmhand whose dark, wrinkled skin and gaunt face make him look much older.

″No one has any hope for the future here,″ he said.

The village of Shkalle, the center of a state vineyard, is only nine miles east of the capital, Tirana. Yet living conditions are marked by utmost poverty.

″I’ve worked a nine-hour shift in the fields beginning at 7 a.m. for the past 16 years, and this is all I have to show for it,″ Bardhi said, pointing to his shanty-like abode.

Two homemade rag rugs do not quite cover the uneven concrete floor. A primitive wood burner, with a funnel disappearing into a crude hole in the otherwise bare walls, provides the family with its only source of heating.

Nobody in the village of 2,000 has running water, a washing machine, a telephone, a camera or a car, said villagers assembled in the main square.

″One person has a color television, but that is virtually destroyed because the voltage here is so irregular that it blows things up,″ Bardhi said.

The average wage of the state farm that employs most of the villagers is 700 leks, or $9, a month. ″We can only just get by on this,″ Bardhi said.

Bread rations arrives every day. In the village’s only food shop, the shelves were bare except for cooking oil and flour, which is strictly rationed.

Land has been turned over from the government to most families, but they get only about 200 square yards per household. Some have chosen to grow fodder for their animals, others grow vegetables on which they hope to survive.

″We all live on bread and beans,″ Bardhi said. ″Yes, we see oranges in Tirana, but 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) costs four days’ wages. Nobody can afford them.″

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