When Edwin and Dorothy Jacques left Albania at the beginning of World War II, they thought they would be back in a short time. But nearly half a century passed before they were allowed to return to the small Eastern European country.

The retired missionaries’ 10-day visit last year was nothing short of a miracle. For some three decades, no American without Albanian relatives had been permitted to visit the country nestled between Greece and Yugoslavia on the Adriatic Sea. And since the Communist regime—in power for 43 years—proudly identifies Albania as the world’s only atheist state, Christians don’t expect a warm welcome.

Still, for 40 years the Jacqueses filed one visa application after another. Finally, they wrote directly to the country’s top leader, Ramiz Alia, and two years later a tourist visa was granted.

First-Class Tour

When they arrived in Albania, the Jacqueses were met by representatives of the Committee on Cultural and Friendly Relations with Foreigners. They were provided with a chauffeur and a guide, and housed in the country’s best hotels—all at government expense. They asked their hosts a question to which they never got a clear answer: “Why are you doing this?”

“You asked to come here, and we invited you,” the retired missionaries were told. “Tourists come here on their own, but you are our guests.”

Since they left Albania in 1940, the Jacqueses say, the country has become much more industrialized. “No longer did we see the familiar tinsmiths sitting cross-legged on the floor of their little shops tapping out and soldering rather crude metal utensils,” said Edwin Jacques. “But we saw a vast, sprawling metallurgical ...

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