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Marinela Lika
Marinela Lika

Marinela (Ina) Lika was one of four young Albanians who set up MJAFT.:

"It started as a discussion, like every discussion among any other group of young people: about how bad things are in Albania; about how irresponsible the politicians are; about how democracy is not functioning and how much of a pity it is that people are apathetic; and so on. But unlike other discussions of this type it was not a simple catharsis that was left where it started, but it was part of a plan – our plan to influence change, at whatever level. It was our small contribution, to make Albania the country in which we could invest our future."

Ina describes how MJAFT took on a life of its own outliving the initial plans for a four month campaign. .

"Administratively the campaign was a project of two organizations 'Albanian National Debate Association' and 'Balkans YouthLink', but at the end of the campaign, thousands were attending the events and our 'MJAFT' had grown bigger than the 'small gig' we had envisioned initially, and definitely bigger than ANDA and BYL combined. MJAFT had grown into a life of its own, but there was no institution, organization, entity or any such thing in the books called MJAFT."

Like her fellow founders, Marinela was shaped by the turbulent events in the Albania she grew up in. When the pyramid schemes collapsed, wiping away many Albanian's fortunes, violent protests erupted:

"It was complete madness! I was in Shkodra, staying at my aunt's. One night, I was sleeping when the door opened and I saw three men (relatives that I couldn't distinguish) coming in and placing tens of Kalashnikovs under my bed. My aunt started to yell at them, but they explained that everyone was doing it and we would be in danger if we did not do the same. A few days later, my mother came to take me home (even today I can't explain her courage to do that alone). We were near Tirana when a group of men, armed with several guns stopped our minibus. She was hiding me on her knees under her coat. The men were drunk. The driver started talking with them, trying to convince them to let us continue along the road. One of them, very angry, started shooting at the bus. Nobody was hurt. He was happy to make us fear death and then to let us continue. For six months this madness continued…"

Then, in 1999, more than 400,000 refugees from Kosovo descended on Albania.

"This was the year that changed my life. The drama happening in Kosovo was so biting that it immediately provoked you to take action. I volunteered through UNICEF in several camps, in Tirana and Kukes. It is in those camps that my activist nature was born. Most of the people that are now a very important part of my life, as colleagues or close friends; I knew them in those difficult circumstances …"

Marinela studied social sciences at the University of Tirana. As MJAFT took shape in 2003 she became the leading administrator. Needing a central location, the small team rented an apartment in Tirana's downtown Bllok neighbourhood – leased at very low cost from a Tirana BBC editor. Here they registered members and recruited volunteers committed to support the three MJAFT principles; to tackle apathy, rehabilitate protest and help improve the image of Albania.. Volunteers were given concrete tasks in direct action roles, ranging from spraying graffiti to putting up posters, collecting petition signatures, delivering protest notices, organizing campaigns, conducting research and public speaking duties. In 2007 Ina and her fellow members decided to step down:

"We knew that we couldn't stay at Mjaft forever – we had to be the first ones to change that type of culture in Albania. Mjaft was at its highest momentum, financially sound, with no major foreseeable political events in the short future – a good situation for the new leadership to take over and continue with new accomplishments."

May 2008

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