Who is Elton Debreshi
Elton Debreshi was born and raised in the village Kodra e Danit, in the town of Bulqiza. Since the age of fourteen, economic hardships forced him to quit school in order to migrate. After two difficult years away from his family, Elton returned to Bulqiza and started work in the mine pit, at first as a simple worker and later as explosive’s handler and miner. To this day Elton enters the mine at 6 a.m. and leaves at 2 p.m.
The livelihood of the entire community of Bulqiza is closely connected to the chromium mines. Elton’s grandfather too has worked for many years in the mine. For his father, Lahim, 37 years of hard work in the mine are not enough to obtain a dignified pension, therefore, although a pensioner, he continues work in the mine. Elton lives with his parents, wife and four children under the same roof.
The bravery that Elton has shown at work raising his voice to the supervisors, his dedication and readiness to come to the rescue of his co-workers each time they endured severe accidents inside the mine, prompted his unanimous election as leader of the new and independent trade union, The United Miners of Bulqiza Trade Union. He was the first to suffer the consequences of their organizing attempt by being illegally dismissed from work, followed later by the dismissal of three other members of the Union’s Council.
But Elton did not back down – not from losing his job or receiving numerous threats – he did not cease to struggle for the rights of his fellow miners. Together with others, he undertook the initiative to travel to every city in the country in order to collect signatures for the petition directed to the Albanian Parliament for the legal recognition of the Miners’ Status, the decades-long demand of the miners that would ensure special healthcare check-ups for the miners, higher wages and pensions, as well as life insurance against fatal accidents or amputations.
As expected, the governmental institutions ignored 10,700 collected signatures, avoiding responsibility. This was the moment when his co-workers incited Elton to carry the weight of the arduous task of taking their voice into the Parliament, so as not to wait for the “representatives of the people” – those who get richer through the labour and hard effort of the workers – but to make sure that the voice of the people will resound loud and clear in the heart of the capital city.
Elton will be the only MP who will demand accountability from the podium of the Parliament as to why Bulqiza, Klos, Peshkopi and Burrel – all of the cities that nature has endowed with countless chromium resources underground and fertile lands, forests and rivers above ground – still remain the poorest in Albania. Why there is plenty of chromium, but there are no roads, schools and hospitals? Why there are many rivers and streams, but there is no drinking water in homes and no irrigation water in the fields? Why the produce of farmers and stockbreeders rots in the trees and goes to waste in the villages.
Elton will undertake legal initiatives for the recognition of the Miners’ Status that has remained an unfulfilled promise for 30 years; for the recognition and protection of trade union rights in the workplace for all the workers all over the country; for the increase of the living wage that is the only means of subsistence in the most remote and deserted parts of Dibra.
Elton lives daily with the drudgeries of the people. Elton is the people. This is a common struggle.