In the 2021 election campaign, it was promised that Lavdari, a village between Korca and Voskopoja, would be turned into a tourist area. A verification in March 2023 showed a total lack of interest from the institutions for the transformation of the area, starting with the lack of signage informing about the existence of the village and the lack of vital services. In Lavdar, the incident when the municipality brought a water pipe during the campaign and took it back after the end of the elections two years ago has now become an anecdote.
“Lavdar is very close to Korça, which has started another bright era, that of tourism. It is time for you to become part of this pole. If we connect Voskopoja with Lavdar well, then both will turn into an important tourist place” – declared Niko Peleshi, MP of Korça district before the residents of the village of Lavdar on April 9, 2021.
When two years have passed since this promise to turn the village of Lavdar into a tourist destination, we decided to do a verification.
We initially requested a comment from Mr. Peleshi via WhatsApp, but by the time this article was published we had not received a response.
The WhatsApp message sent to Korça MP Niko Peleshi, February 21, 2023
At the beginning of March, 2023 we traveled to Lavdar to see closely what happens in this village and what are the possibilities it offers as a tourist destination.
The village is about 14 kilometers from Korça and 6 kilometers from the village of Voskopojë, but for a tourist or an individual who is not from this area, there is no information or signs about where Lavdar is located.
In Korça, on Desaret street that leads to Lavdar, this name does not appear at all. There are only signs for Voskopojë and Voskop.
Signage in Korça, where the name of the village Lavdar is missing
The name of the village appears only at its entrance, after you have left Voskop behind. Gjonomadhi and Lavdari appear in two road signs. The first, according to what the residents say, is the new village, while the second, Lavdari, is the old village from where the residents moved years ago.
House in the village of Old Lavdar
During the trip, it can be seen that, apart from the gravel, there are no signs or lights. The closer you get to the village, the more you realize that apart from nature and fresh air, the area offers no public services, let alone tourism.
Most of the population of Lavdar has emigrated abroad, the rest has moved to the surrounding villages or to the city of Korça. Others have moved to the area between Voskopoja and the village of Gjonomadh, (New Lavdar), where about 30 families live.
Old Lavdar once had about 460 families, today there are only three where two of them live with people with mental health problems and in the other a couple of pensioners. It is enough to cross this area to understand that in Lavdar, the village that was promised to be turned into a tourist place, there are no roads, water supply, sewers, health centers, markets, let alone shops.
In an article published 5 years ago by Porta Vendore, the same situation is presented with the only difference that the Old Lavdar of 2018 had about 40 families, while today there are only 3.
Panoramic photo of Old Lavdar
In New Lavdar, there are no more than 30 families. Although inclined to a better life, even here the residents face a number of difficulties. In the absence of a local school, they travel every day to Voskopoja. Residents also receive other services, food supply (except agricultural products) or health services from Korça or Voskopoja. The only things the residents have are their houses and a cafe somehow arranged in a house.
Sinan Potka, lives in the village of New Lavdar, has two daughters, 3 and 5 years old. Both of them travel by van every day to go to the nearest kindergarten which is located 6 kilometers from their village.
“I moved from Old Lavdar here in 2003. We left because there was no road in the first place. We had to go by horse to Voskop and then go by car to Korça.”
New Lavda village road, March 2023
But even today, residents still take Gjonomadh buses, as they do not have their own line to take them to the city or other villages.
The inhabitants make a living by doing agriculture and animal husbandry on their own.
“I am engaged in agriculture, but even agriculture is fragmented. The sewers do not work for us to irrigate and work. If you manage to survive, lucky you! If not, that’s your problem!” – says Sinani, 31 years old.
When we ask him what was the last investment in this village, he tells us an episode that is as funny as it is infuriating.
“There are 3 water tanks in the village, but only one of them is functional. Before the elections, they brought a truck to lay the water line, but after the elections, the municipal workers came and took it back again!” he says.
Photo of the moment when the workers of Korça Municipality take back the water pipeline, in June 2021. (Two months after the local elections).
Korça municipality, from the response to our request for information, confirms the lack of water in the village and that the water in Lavdar is not administered by Korça Regional Water and Sewerage Company.
Residents in Lavdar have drinking water 24 hours a day thanks to their efforts. They have enabled the water supply for their homes by themselves, also dealing with its monitoring.
Villagers point to yet another disappointment in the plethora of promises made in the April 2021 election campaign.
“Before the voting, he said I will make this road, as well as the legalizations. He did the legalization for us, but it cost us. The smallest house paid about 600-700 thousand lek (old). I, who had the two-story house, paid 1.3 million (old) lek,” Sinan Potka concludes.
Kujtim Çezmellari, an elderly resident from Lavdar, earns his living by selling fruits and vegetables at a stall on the side of the road that leads to Voskopoja. We met him while he was working the land where he plants what he wants to sell, and during the conversation we asked him what he expected after the promise of returning the village to a tourist area.
“Oh, I have heard as many promises from these politicians as I have lost teeth. We hear a lot, but we see very little,” says Kujtim.
Kujtim Çezmellari, resident of Lavdar, March 2023
Old Lavdar (left) and New Lavdar (right)
Regarding the promise to turn the village of Lavdar into a tourist area, we also sent a request for information to the Korça Municipality and the Ministry of Tourism.
In the response of the Ministry of Tourism, it is clarified that the village of Lavdar is not part of the “100 villages” list and that it is not part of any current project to turn it into a tourist destination.
Even Korça Municipality confirms that so far there is no project to turn Lavdar into a tourist village. However, some interventions are listed in the response, such as: the construction of an reinforment wall in Old Lavdar, the excavation and upgrading of Voskop-Old Lavdar road, the repair of the road and the repair of the village square.
Based on the verification carried out and the information gathered, we decided to consider the promise of the Minister of Defense Niko Peleshi, on April 9, 2021, to turn the village of Lavdar into a tourist destination and a series of other subsequent promises, as a promise not kept.
* This article is published as part of the call for 10 articles with a fact checking profile, part of the “Strengthening Fact Checking Journalism in Albania” Project, which is being implemented by the organization Faktoje, supported by the Dutch Embassy. These articles are part of the national competition for “Fatos Baxhaku” award.