There are Albanians in Ukraine who keep their traditions to this day! Albanians are known to be scattered throughout the world, and today we will discuss Albanians in Ukraine. The latter have preserved their customs, manners, traditions and even the Albanian language after many years.
The Albanians of Ukraine proudly proclaim themselves to be ga tantë which translates to “from ours”, and converse using the language si neve or “like us”. They have also learned the Ukrainian language but speak mostly in their own native language.
During the Turkish occupation, this community settled in Ukraine from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 19th century for religious reasons. Because the Ottoman Empire’s conqueror wanted to convert people from Christianity to Muslimism at the time, many of these tribes fled and settled in Ukraine, where they still remain today.
From Ukraine total population the percentage of Albanians living there is quite small, with only around 5.000 ethnic Albanians. The Albanian community of Ukraine is mostly settled in southern Ukraine and they’re usually Orthodox Albanians. The Albanian immigrants have created what is called an Albanian Cultural Center where the most notable Albanians gather to celebrate Albanian traditions or even drink Albanian beers. This is the first Albanian organization that dedicates itself to the ethnic minority group of Albanians.
The Feast of St. George and Gjergj Kastriot Skënderbeu
Every year, on May 6, the Albanian ethnic groups of Ukraine, in Bessarabia, commemorate the birthday of the national hero of Albania, Gjergj Kastriot Skënderbeu. The interesting fact is that on the same day, the Gagauzians celebrate St. George.
That’s why both Albanians and Gagauzians make sacrifices. Gjergj Kastriot Skënderbeu, or as his name states, Gjergj, is precisely named this way because he was born on Saint George’s Day. The Albanians of Ukraine commemorate this day as one of the most important traditions of their Albanian culture.
The Albanian language-speaking community
The village of Karakurt is located near Bolhrad in Bessarabia. The word “Karakurt” comes from Turkish and means black earth. Karakurt is also called one of the most poisonous spiders. Perhaps the mystery of why the Albanian and Gagauzian colonists named that way the village, which was founded in 1811, will never be solved.
Albanians moved there to leave the oppression of the Ottoman Empire and preserve their Albanian tradition before it disappeared from the Turkish Invasion. Nowadays, five languages are spoken in Karakurt: Albanian, Bulgarian, Gagauz, Ukrainian, and Russian.
Local people say that when three people of different nationalities (usually of Albanian descent) meet and discuss with each other, and one of them speaks Albanian, then all three speak Albanian. That’s because, for this ethnic minority group located in Karakut, Albanian is the main language there.
In 2001, Albanians settled in Karakurt. About 3,000 people lived in Karakurt (an Albanian village), of whom 1,725 were or are of Albanian descent. Karakurt is famous for its unique culture, friendly people and its wonderful views of the Black Sea. There are many traditional Albanian dishes served at local restaurants.
Visitors can enjoy exploring the old village where many Albanians have settled. Visiting orthodox churches, and taking part in cultural activities like folk dancing or horseback riding. If you have any particular interest for the village, it also offers beautiful natural scenery with breathtaking views.
Albanians in Ukraine
Many resources claim the community of Albanians in Ukraine has about 5,000 or 10,000 people, while less than half of them speak the Albanian language. In addition to villages in Bessarabia and Priazovia (which are called Albanian village communities), they also live in such large cities as Odesa, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kyiv, Izmail, etc.
Gjuham, the tradition of the little boy who is the heir of the house, the costumes, the docks, and even the holidays, are still meticulously preserved. This certainly shows how Albanians, wherever they are in the diaspora, do not separate their Albanian cultural spirit from the roots and the cradle of their homeland.
The Albanian community in Ukraine is one of the oldest, established in the late 18th century. It has given much to Ukrainian culture and history, starting with its role in Bessarabia and Priazovia during the Russo-Turkish wars.
Today, members of this community are still active in various sectors, from the economy to public life. Education is important to them and they proudly support each other in their work and studies. They are proud of their culture, roots and achievements, and it shows how actively they are preserving it.
The Albanian community in Ukraine is a vibrant and proud group of people who are deeply connected to their cultural roots. They have preserved the traditions of Gjuham, docks, costumes, and holidays that still exist today despite centuries of political turmoil and change. Not only do they actively preserve their culture through language usage but also by supporting each other’s work and studies.
It is clear that this ethnic minority has made an incredible contribution to Ukrainian history and culture over time, one which will not be forgotten anytime soon. Together with the Gagauzians, Albanians can celebrate St George’s Day as another example of how cultures unite us all around the world.