The Soul of Milk


Two brothers, their wives, and children, along with their elderly parents - this is the patriarchal home of a typical farmer family in Albania. They share one roof, but above all - one life. The whole family takes part in the workings of the family farm which is located in the mountain village of Blerim, in North Albania. The road up to here is so rough that, especially during the winter, it takes months before the family has any contact with the outside world. Suzana, the wife of the elder brother, has studied nursing and she’s often delivered babies out on the wintry roads. My eyes well up when she explains how she puts the newborn right on top of the snow and the snow quickly melts away by the steaming blood. Hot is the blood of men around here. It melts away all toil and hardship and their faces only give away the truth about the cold harsh wind of the mountain.

Alketa, wife of the younger brother. The process of milking early in the morning resembles a quiet prayer.
Shkelzen, taking a breath before he continues to milk the goats, one by one.

Agron is the elder brother. After milking the goats, he sets up a fire in a niche fitted in the outer wall of the dairy to heat up the pot full of fresh milk.

A bit later, Alketa is already making cheese. Her niece Orkidea follows her every step and tries to memorize the secrets of the family recipe.
Vebije is the mother of the Syla brothers. Her chore in the family farm is to take care of the poultry.
Shkelzen tends to the bees with the same loving approach that he has to all living creatures around him.
Later in the afternoon, he sets off with his loyal dog to take the goats out to graze.
Meanwhile, his brother and sister-in-law gather oak branches from the nearby forest to feed the goats during the bad-weather days, when they can’t get them out to graze. Their elder daughter, Orkidea, follows them everywhere, while Alketa takes care of the younger children.