If you are from the north of the Albanian lands and have one of the surnames below, your family probably originates from the tribe of Gruda. Read more to find out why the Gruda tribe has played an important role in Albanian history.
Family names such as Beqja, Berishaj, Bojaj, Gjokaj, Gjolaj, Hakaj, Haxhaj, Ivezaj, Kajoshaj, Kalaj, Lulanaj, Lulgjuraj, Neziraj, Nikaj, Pepaj, Sinishtaj, Stanaj, Vuçinaj, and Vulaj belong to the Gruda tribe. The term Gruda was found for the first time written in a church report in 1648. In the Albanian language, the word Gruda means a plot of land and a field with grass.
According to Robert Elsie, the oldest church in the region (the Priest's church), otherwise known as Gruda's Church, was originally built in 1528.
The tribes of Gruda and Hoti have been two of the tribes that made the greatest efforts to oppose the decisions of the Congress of Berlin in 1878 for leaving a large part of the Albanian territory outside the Albanian state.
"The Great Powers in 1913 rewarded Montenegro with war trophies despite the prayers of the mountaineers. This was a disaster, so many of them fled to Shkoder. Again, after the First World War, the highlanders were treated very badly by the Serbian invaders, who took measures against both the Muslim and Catholic populations. To take the ring, they grab the fingers of a lonely old woman. Her only fault was that she was Catholic. In 1921, I saw many miserable refugees in Shkoder, but I did not have the power and opportunity to help them. As during the Turkish rule, the new enemy was carrying out the ethnic cleansing." - wrote Edith Durham.
The mountaineers of Gruda were often seen as exceptional people for surviving the harsh nature of the mountains.
"As I had planned, on August 8, 1907, when I left Podgorica to visit the isolated regions of Montenegro and Albania, the temperature was minus 37 degrees celsius. This area was Shangri-La or the "Cursed Mountains", the peaks of which no one has been able to climb" - wrote Baron Nopsca.
He also added some of his impressions, referring to the Gruda mountain people: "These rare acts of generosity are one of the common characteristics of the inhabitants of the mountains of northern Albania, gestures which unfortunately are often missing in Europe ".
Prominent figures of the Gruda tribe are Baca Kurti Gjokaj and Tringa Smajli.