Greenpoint, October, 2015

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Serious Ladies of Staten Island - Part VII

Surely one of the saddest Staten Island stories between September 11, 2001, and October 29, 2013, when Sandy demolished its southern shore, was the death, in October 2004, of Anita Bitri, her 7-year old daughter, Sibora, and her mother, Azbije, from carbon monoxide poisoning. Bitri had immigrated from Albania in 1996, and was a rising star in the Albanian and Albanian diaspora pop music scene. The boiler ventilators of her house had been stuffed with plastic bags by workers building a porch in order to prevent concrete debris from getting in.

In the photo (left), Anita,  her daughter (on right) and a friend visit the Monument of Independence in Valona, Albania (from The album cover (below) for Gjithmonë med jush (Always with you) is more in keeping with the profile of a glamorous chanteuse.

Anita Bitri's music is not really to my taste. It reminds me of music I heard a lot in Poland, over-the-top pop productions that would be at home on the Eurovision Song Contest. But you can't deny her talent or the sincerity of her efforts. The video for "Bijës Sime" (My Daughter) begins with the singer on the Staten Island Ferry, then wandering melancholy through lower Manhattan and on the Brooklyn Bridge, presumably thinking about her daughter (who also appears and sings in the video). I'm not sure whether it was released before or after the accident. Either way, it is very poignant.

Bitri lived with her husband, Luan Prapaniku, who died shortly before own death, mother, and daughter in a quiet street that runs between the Arrorchar Market to South Beach, just at the point the boardwalk begins. The accident occurred just two weeks before a City regulation requiring all residences to have carbon monoxide detectors came into effect. The single-family home was demolished and replaced with a duplex (below) in 2007. Bitri's house was also pink.

Anita Bitri's home town, Sarande, is sometimes called the "Albanian Riviera." Just a few miles off its coast is the island of Corfu. Here it is in a photograph by Claudio Viezzoli from 1996, the year she came to New York.

Sarande, Albania (Photo: Claudio Viezzoli)
Would the view along South Beach, just two blocks from her house on Ocean Avenue, have reminder her of home?

South Beach, Staten Island (Jan. 2014)

1 comment:

  1. How awful! So terribly sad. I had to stop watching the video after her daughter's part. I hope the workers were convicted of manslaughter.