Albania began settling into unrest at the beginning of the year. Isolated reports of violence dotted the countryside as Albanians saw their investments fail and lives crumble one after another. The downslide only continued.
At the beginning of March, riots frequented the beachside town of Vlore, Fieri and the capital, Tirana. Gangs ransacked armories, civilians drove tanks and children played with assault rifles. In Tirana, guards deserted the prison, letting escape all 600 prisoners, then returned to loot the prison. Chaos was violent and widespread, evacuation of Americans was imminent.(4)
On March 13, 1997, the first 50 of an estimated 2,000 U.S. citizens were evacuated from a country in the midst of a civil war.(4)The arrival of U.S. marines was a relief to those who had spent the last week ducking gunfire and avoiding violent riots, however, the relief was mixed with sadness.
The volunteers in the Peace Corps had spent between one and two years applying for the chance to make a difference in Albania. Once there, they spent an intensive three months in language instruction and technical training in their assigned field. Outside they class they perfected the language, learned the local customs and made friends with the Albanians. As each volunteer stepped on a U.S. Chinook helicopter, they left behind unfulfilled accomplishments, uncompleted training and for some, friends.
Look at one volunteer's log of the day the riots broke out, or see the thoughts and feelings of leaving Albania behind.