The Photo Collection of
Albania in 1939
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The photo collection of Vandeleur Robinson consists of two parts: (1) the photos taken during his
visit to Albania in 1939 and published in his book Albania's Road to Freedom (London 1941),
probably not all taken by Robinson himself, and (2) the photos from late 1944 and mid 1945 -
unknown to the public until now - that he took in Tirana and on his trip to southern Albania before
he was expelled from the country.
Albania 1939 — Photo Captions
The second part of the collection, given by the Mellet family to the Centre for Albanian Studies, is
now preserved in the archives of the Royal Geographical Society in London.
Albanien 1944-1945 — Photo Captions
British writer and military figure Vandeleur Robinson (1902-1990), born as Vivian Dering
Vandeleur Robinson, was the son of an army colonel. As a young man, he attended Cheltenham
College, was briefly a military cadet at Woolwich Military Academy, and studied history at
Emmanuel College in Cambridge. He seems to have spent some time in Czechoslovakia since he
was initially married to a Czech woman. In the 1930s, Robinson was active for the League of
Nations as a regional organizer for southeastern Europe. It was there that he met his second wife,
the British war correspondent and journalist Clare Hollingworth (1911- ), to whom he was married
from 1936 to 1951. The couple spent their honeymoon in the Balkans and were also in the south-
eastern Europe for several months before the Second World War, when they first visited Albania. It
was this visit that gave rise to Robinson's book, Albania's Road to Freedom (London 1941).
Later during the Second World War, Robinson was an army captain and seems to have been
involved in intelligence activities. He arrived in Albania in October 1944 and met the new
communist leadership. In March 1945 he was press attaché at the British military mission in Tirana
and had the rare opportunity, as a foreign diplomatic observer, of attending the proceedings of the
Treason Trial conducted by the Special Court (Gjyqi Special), at which sixty members of the pre-
communist establishment were sentenced to death and long prison sentences as war criminals and
enemies of the people. In May and June 1945, Robinson had occasion to go on an extensive tour of
southern Albania in an army jeep.
It was during his stay in Albania that Robinson met Sara Blloshmi (1900-1974), daughter of the
Ottoman general Abdul Karim Pasha. As the granddaughter of Ismail Qemal bey Vlora who had
declared Albanian independence in 1912, Sara was born in Constantinople and studied in Cairo.
Her first husband, Selahedin Blloshmi had been Albanian ambassador to Romania under Zog. She
was known as an emancipated socialite in the Zogist period and was admired (and disapproved of)
for her dancing. Sara realized what was going on in Albania after the communist takeover and
begged Robinson to marry her and get her and her daughter, the painter Vera Blloshmi (1923-
1998), out of the country. Robinson agreed, and arranged for a British military colleague, Jimmy
Mellet, to marry her daughter. In this manner, both women managed to leave communist Albania
and got to England, and both marriages lasted.
Relations between the Western powers and the new communist regime in Albania deteriorated
rapidly and the British military mission - and Robinson - were soon withdrawn from Tirana. For
decades little news and few pictures got out of Albania. It is for this reason that the Robinson photo
collection of 1944-1945 is particularly interesting. Vandeleur Robinson subsequently lived in
northern Italy and was the author of some plays. His archives are preserved at the School of
Slavonic and East European Studies in London.