Ervis Chano: FRom outsider to insider

Story by Caitlin Bletscher

Sometimes the most enlightened perspective comes from an outsider.

Ervis Chano first started his challenging, cross-border move from Albania to Cagli, Italy, in 2005. A well-established member of his Albanian community, Ervis could not find sustainable work in his homeland.

 “They had incredible jobs and a great location, but there is no money in Albania…” says Ervis, whose parents held prominent positions in higher education. “There’s just no future.”

Originally studying fine arts at an Albanian university, Ervis decided to abandon his academic pursuits to move to Cagli, where he reunited with extended family that had moved to find work. “You’ve got to go where your family is,” he says. After two years of transitional struggles with the Italian government, he finally obtained a worker’s permit and temporary residence visa.

Ervis now works as a butcher at Coal, Cagli’s largest grocery story, where lively activity and chatter echo down the aisles. Ervis can be found near the back of the building, past the cartons of produce, bottles of local wine, and an entire row dedicated solely to pasta. Ervis stands behind the counter, warmly greeting each customer by name and order. His smile is contagious.

Ervis’ first move to Cagli was anything but fluid. “I knew the language. I studied Italian in school. But the language wasn’t the problem,” he says, blaming his troubled transition on strained relations between Italy and Albania. The two countries are still recovering from scars left after World War II, Ervis says, adding that the tensions linger in the minds of many Italian people.

Although his uncle lived close by, Ervis felt quite alone after the move, he says. The young butcher also found it challenging to make friends because many citizens did not know him. “All many people know is the war in Albania,” he says. “We used to be communist, and that’s all people know.”

It took time, Ervis says, but he has thoroughly adjusted to the city he now embraces, adding that the Albanian culture is a warm, welcoming community. This learned openness allowed him to break little barriers as he adapted to his new home.

After getting a new job, creating new friendships with the people of Cagli, and reuniting with his family, Ervis developed a passion for his new home. “It was hard at first, and I didn’t really like it,” he says. “But now my family is here. I love my job, and I make more money. I like it.” His parents and younger brother joined him in 2009.

Though he owns an apartment in Cagli and Albania, Ervis would much rather remain in Italy. He plans to stay, he says. “Oh God, I hope so!”


Ervis Chano stands behind the butcher counter at the local grocery store, Coal.

A portrait of Ervis Chano at work at Cagli's local grocery store.

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