Dear Albania is Eliza Dushku’s love letter to the country. It is also a way for fans of the actress to join her on a personal journey of discovery, and serves as a guide for world travelers to see and learn about many of the sights in “the jewel of the Balkans.”
“Albania is not just a place. It is a people.” — Eliza Dushku
American actress Eliza Dushka (Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., Dollhouse, Tru Calling, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is of mixed-Danish ancestry on her mother’s side and Albanian on her father’s, and considered a “hometown hero” in Albania along with fellow actor Jim Belushi and Mother Teresa.
For Eliza, touring Albania stemmed from her fascination with the country, as well as her desires to know where she came from and to connect with the country and its warm, welcoming people, including relatives she didn’t know she had.
Over the course of the hour-long program, she, her brother Nate, and Albanian actor/producer Blerim Destani and photographer Fadil Berisha travel to fifteen cities in four countries, both within the borders of Albania and beyond them to the Ethnic Albanian regions in Montenegro, Macedonia, and Kosovo.
Their first stop is Tirana, the capital of Albania, where Eliza learns about Albania’s history as a pre-Roman, Illyrian civilization; goes shopping at the Italian department store Coin in the tony section of the city known as “The Block”; and has a bit of football (soccer) fun with members of the KF Tirana Football Club.
Korça is the birthplace of Eliza’s ancestors, “where the heart and soul of the Dushku family live,” and where Eliza has a brewski at the annual Beerfest, takes in a dramatic stage performance, and chats with Albanian singer Eli Fara.
Other places that Eliza, Nate, and their friends travel to in Albania include the coastal city of Durrës; Krujë, home of Krujë Castle; the “vacationer’s paradise” of Vlora, along the Albanian Riviera; the Llogara Pass in the Ceraunian Mountains; the seaside village of Dhërmi; Gramata Bay on the Ionian Sea; Tropojë, near the Kosovo border; Lake Komani; Shkodra, one of the oldest cities in Albania, and the nearby Rozafa Castle, which has quite the legend; the ancient Illyrian city of Apollonia, a favorite destination for wedding photos; and the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Butrint, where they visit ancient Greek ruins, and Berat, where some apartments are more than 1500 years old.
Eliza also visits cities outside of Albania proper, where there are significant Ethnic Albanian populations, including Tetova in Macedonia; Ulcinj, “the center of the Albanian community” in Montenegro; and Prishtina in Kosovo, where Dancing with the Stars‘ Tony Dovolani, the two-time World Ballroom Dancing Champion, surprises her.
Throughout her journey, Eliza chats with new-found family members, other locals, and Albanian opera singers Ermonela Jaho and Inva Mula, as well as multi-genre singer Aurela Gaçe, Albania’s entrant in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest. Lastly, Eliza meets with now-former Albanian President and Prime Minister Sali Berisha, who presented her with a special gift.
The inspiring and quite touching Dear Albania begins premiering Thursday, 1 October 2015, on the public TV stations listed below. (Check your local listings for air dates and times.) If you would like to watch Dear Albania but the station that serves your area isn’t listed, contact them or American Public Television about getting the program.