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UNIVERSITY OF

FACULTY OF
DEPARTMENT

THE PUBLICISTS OF ALBANIANS IN AMERICA


DURING THE “AWAKENING” AND AFTER

MASTER THESIS

Student: Professor:

June, 2015

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ABSTRACT

During the late 80’s, many immigrants from all over Albania fled to the United States in order to
escape the oppressive government. Art, publicist and cultural life was dependent on the existing
regime. Mostly publishing was prohibited and civilians were unable to write against existing
regime. Due to this limitation, many believed that there was a better life that awaited them in the
United States and another reason was the idea to contribute through freely publicist in national
case for freedom. However, when they arrived to the States, some of them had finished the
school for literacy or other king outside the country.

Against this background, the present thesis aims to offer some insights into the socio-history of
the Albanians in America, their location, community life and ethnic organizations, with a
particular focus on journalism of Albanian’s in America, during some particular periods of time,
since 19th century.

From the beginning of XIX century, we can find a lot of documents and different publicist works
of Albanian people in America. Noli, Konica, Grameno, etc; are some of Albanian publicists in
America, which were trying through their publications to help to bring the case of Albania in all
the word.

This study, try to give a full review of this authors and publicist of Albanians in America,
starting from the XIX century to today. This will be divided in two major periods, 1900-1990
and 1990 till today. But this is not the only objective of this thesis. In this work we will show
also the impact of these publicists in perception of Albanian country, mostly our culture and our
national case for freedom.

Keywords: Albania, Albanian’s, Publicists, America, Journalism, etc.

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THANKS AND DEDICATIONS

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TABLE OF CONTENT:

ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................................2
THANKS AND DEDICATIONS..................................................................................................3

CHAPTER I - INTRODUCTION
I.1. Background of Study.................................................................................................................7
I.2. Scope of study...........................................................................................................................9
I.3. Structure of study......................................................................................................................9

CHAPTER TWO - ALBANIAN’S IN AMERICA


II.1. Albanian geography...............................................................................................................10
II.2. History....................................................................................................................................10
II.3. Albanian relationship with the United States.........................................................................11
II.4. First Albanians in America....................................................................................................13
II.5. Traditional costumes..............................................................................................................19
II.6. Dances and songs...................................................................................................................20
II.7. Language................................................................................................................................21
II.8. Role of women.......................................................................................................................22
II.9. Weddings................................................................................................................................23
II.10. Religion................................................................................................................................24
II.11. Employment and Economic Traditions................................................................................25
II.12. Politics and Government......................................................................................................26
II.13. Academia..............................................................................................................................27
II.14. Community leaders..............................................................................................................28
II.15. Writing.................................................................................................................................29

CHAPTER THREE - ALBANIAN AWAKENING THROUGHT PRESS AND


ORGANIZATIONS IN AMERICA
III.1. Albanian’s work for the “Awakening”.................................................................................30
III.2. First Albanian organizations in America..............................................................................37

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III.2.1. Albanian – American Civic Langue, AACL (Liga Qytetare Shqiptaro -
Amerikane) (1989) ............................................................................................................37
III.2.2. Albanian – American national organization (AANO) (1946) ..............................37
III.2.3. Albanian Council (Kuvendi i Arbërit) (1703) ......................................................38
III.2.4. Albanian Literary Commission (Komisija Letrare Shqype) (1916) .....................38
III.2.5. National Albanian American Council, NAAC (Këshilli Kombëtar Shqiptaro-
Amerikan) (1996) ..............................................................................................................39
III.2.6. “Vatra” Federation – Shoqata “Vatra” (1912) ......................................................39

CHAPTER FOUR - A FULL BIBLIOFRAPHY OF ALBANIANS IN AMERICA AND


AMERICANS FOR ALBANIAN WRITTERS (SCHOOLARS, JOURNALISTS,
WRITTERS, ETC)
IV.1. ALBANIAN PERSONALITIES IN AMERICA.................................................................40
IV.1.1. Arshi Pipa (1920 – 1997) .....................................................................................40
IV.1.2. Bilal Xhaferi (1935 – 1986) ..................................................................................41
IV.1.3. Christo Anastas Dako (1878 – 1941).....................................................................42
IV.1.4. Costandine Chekrezi (1892 – 1959) .....................................................................42
IV.1.5. Elez Biberaj (1952 - ) ...........................................................................................43
IV.1.6. Fan Noli (1882 – 1965) .........................................................................................44
IV.1.7. Foqion Postoli (1889 - 1927).................................................................................47
IV.1.8. Kristo Kirka (1883-1955) .....................................................................................48
IV.1.9. Mihal Grameno (1871 – 1931)..............................................................................50
IV.1.10. Milto Sotir Gurra (1884 - 1972) .........................................................................51
IV.1.11. Nexhmie Zaimi (1917 - 2003) ............................................................................52
IV.1.12. Petro Nini Luarasi (1864 - 1911) ........................................................................54
IV.1.13. Peter Prifti (1924 – ) ...........................................................................................55
IV.1.14. Sami Repishti (1925 – ) ......................................................................................56
IV.1.15. Sotir Peci (1873 - 1932) ......................................................................................57
IV.1.16. Stavro Skendi (1905 - 1989) .............................................................................58
IV.2. AMERICANS FOR ALBANIA...........................................................................................59
IV.2.1 Edwin Jacques (1908 – 1996) ................................................................................59

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IV.2.2. Frances Trix (1948 – ) ..........................................................................................60
IV.2.3. John Kolsti (1935 – ) ............................................................................................60
IV.2.4. Leonard Newmark (1919– ) ..................................................................................60
IV.2.5. Nicholas Pano (1934– ) ........................................................................................61
IV.2.6. Rose Wilder Lane (1886 – 1968) ..........................................................................61

IV. CONCLUSION......................................................................................................................63
V. BIBLIOGRAPHY...................................................................................................................64

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CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

I.1. Background of Study

Generally there is evidence that Albanians came to the United States in three stages:

1. Before World War One or at the end of second part of 19th century,
2. Before World War Two, and

3. After the fall of communist dictatorship in Albania.


Emigration of new generation of Albanians to the United States started at 60’s and ended with
conclusion of 20th century. Even at present time there are random individual migration but not at
the rate of 60-ties when whole Albanian villages were totally emptied. As a result of all these
processes there is belief that in the United States live around 200, 000 Albanians1.

Albanians, except Boston area, by a considerable number live in New York City and the
surrounding areas and in Detroit as well. In these cities they have established their religious
institutions, real
shrines dedicated to God and to the Nation. These accomplishments are the
full merit of the first generation of new Albanian emigrants; the merit of the generation which
had to provide first of all for their family existence2. The second generation of new Albanian
emigrants in the United States is a new one, a part of which is involved in the best possible way,
into university education. This young generation of Albanians is torn between preserving the
Albanian identity and gradual assimilation into large multinational American family.

Beginnings of Albanian tradition in the U.S. belong to Fan Stilian Noli generation of emigrants.
Albanians in Boston already have had established their Albanian Church, their associations and

1
http://www.situata.com/aacc/pjesa1.e.htm

2
Ibid.

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written press3. These first Albanians not only were preserving their national identity but their
intention and their aim was that one foreseeable day to return to their homeland. Few of them
have returned and gave their great contribution for their new fledged country, but unfavorable
political currents and continuous foreign oppressions have had an enormous negative impact to
the Albania that every decade the country had to start over. Also the new generation of
Albanians had experienced and lived through the above turmoil. Many of them came to the
United States with the intention that one day to return to their lands, but this aspiration waned
very fast. This fact was difficult to accept but reality was such that our country was governed by
alien rules and not at least favorable to the development and preserving of comprehensive
Albanian identity. This generation of emigrants did not lose much time dreaming. A little more
time was lost in different quarrels that not only cost us physical loss of life, but most of all have
deteriorated our image in front of others. On the other hand, Albanians can be very proud for
establishing few sound and functional religious shrines. We can be proud on creating of many
political organizations, social, cultural, humanitarian, sport, etc. We can be proud of being too
active on all dramatic changes that the end of 20th century brought to the Albanians. In this
regard they are very active even nova days.

Demands for better organization are on the continuous rise. It is pathetic to state that Albanians
of New York don’t have a cultural center or a common public library; they do not have those
things that other communities have a long time ago. The time is now that we head in this
direction4. Time is nova days, not to brood or be enslaved of the past time. We have to march
alongside other communities and nations in this regard or to become the ridicule of the world.

I.2. Scope of study

The scope of this study is to give a full overview of the Albanians in America, highlighting the
importance and role of the Albanian writers, scholars and also publicists in America, for

3
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 4.

4
Ibid.

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Albanian “awakening”. In this thesis I’ve mentioned the most popular figures, trying to give a
full history of their contribute.

I.3. Structure of study

This study is structured in four chapters. The first is Introduction, which include the background
of the study, the scope and the structure.

The second chapter, which is a generally overview of Albanians in America, starting first with
geography, history, and then going on with the history of Albanians in America, the relationship
with United States, our culture, religion and customs.

The third chapter, is also a generally overview of the Albanians work for the “Awakening” and
I’ve mentioned some of Albanian organizations in America.

The fourth chapter, which is the main chapter of this thesis, includes all Albanian – American
writers, scholars, publicists, etc. Also in this chapter I’ve mentioned some of American authors,
whom have write about Albania, in the period of “Awakening”.

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CHAPTER TWO

ALBANIAN’S IN AMERICA

II.1. Albanian geography

Albania is a mountainous country, 28,748 square miles in size, slightly larger than the state of
Maryland. It is located in southeastern Europe and borders Montenegro, Serbia, and Macedonia
on the north and east, Greece in the south and southeast, and the Adriatic Sea on the west. The
name Albania was given by the Romans in ancient times (after a port called Albanopolis); but
the Albanians themselves call their country Shiqiptare (“Sons of the Eagle”)5. The majority of
the country’s population of 3,360,000 consists of Albanians (more than 95 percent) in addition to
assorted minorities: Greeks, Bulgarians, Gypsies, Macedonians, Serbs, Jews, and Vlachs6.

Followers of organized religions include Muslims, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics.
More than two million Albanians live in neighboring Balkan countries (e.g., Kosovo Region in
Serbia and Montenegro, Macedonia, and Turkey) as well as in other countries. The country’s
capital is Tirana; the Albanian flag is red with a black double-edged eagle, the symbol of
freedom. The national language is Albanian.

II.2. History

Albanians descend from the ancient Illyrians. Conquered by the Romans in the third century
A.D., they were later incorporated into the Byzantine Empire (395 A.D.) and were subjected to
foreign invasions by Ghots, Huns, Avars, Serbs, Croats, and Bulgarians7. In 1468 Albania

5
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 6.

6
Ibid.

7
Ibid. Pp. 8.

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became part of the Ottoman Empire despite strong resistance by Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu
(George Castrioti Skanderbeg, 1403–1468), who is the most outstanding hero of Albania’s fight
against foreign subjugation. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Albania’s fight for
independence intensified under the leadership of Naim Frasheri (1846–1900), Sami Frasheri
(1850–1904), and Andon Zako Cajupi (1866–1930). During World War I, Albania became a
protectorate of the Great Powers after a short period of independence in 1912. It once again
gained full independence in 1920, first as a republic and since 1928 as a monarchy under King
Ahmet Zogu (1895–1961). In 1939, Albania was invaded and occupied by Italy; it regained
independence after World War II, but under a Communist regime (led by Enver Hoxha, 1908–
1985), which outlawed religion and suppressed the people8. After the collapse of communism in
1991, Albania became a free and democratic country with a multi-party parliamentary system
under President Sali Berisha.

In 1997, investment pyramid schemes damaged the savings of more than 30 percent of the
population. Armed rebellion against the government followed. After United Nations military
intervention, order was restored, new elections were held, and a new Socialist alliance
government came to power, led by President Rexhep Mejdani. In 1998 and 1999, especially
during NATO’s involvement in the Kosovo region of Yugoslavia, more than 300,000 Kosovars
(ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo) gained asylum in Albania.

II.3. Albanian relationship with the United States

Albanian relations with the United States developed soon after Albanian independence. It was
due in good part to the resolve and personal intervention of President Woodrow Wilson and the
principle of self-determination, which he managed to uphold in Europe, in particular at the Paris
Peace Conference of 1919, that Albania was not dismembered by Greece and Italy in accordance
with the Tittoni–Venezelos Agreement9.

8
Demo, Constantine. “The Albanians in America: The First Arrivals”. Boston: Society of Fatbardhesia of Katundi,
1960. Pp. 13.

9
Ibid. Pp. 14.

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The large Albanian community that had settled in the United States by this time lobbied
successfully on behalf of its homeland. The United States provided assistance to the Albanian
government after 1920, in particular in promoting schools, such as the American Vocational
School in Tirana under the direction of Harry T. Fultz and the American – Albanian School of
Agriculture and Domestic Science in Kavaja.

In April 1937, King Zog married the Hungarian–American countess Geraldine Apponyi. The
new queen of Albania was the daughter of an American, Gladys Stewart Girault, of an old family
from Virginia.

After World War II, the communist regime resumed diplomatic relations with the United States,
on 10 November 194510. Soon thereafter, however, on 15 November 1946, the United States
withdrew its mission from Albania because the new government refused to recognize prewar
agreements. The American embassy building in Tirana was left to the Italian government for the
next 45 years.

On 10 July 1947, in the early years of the Cold War, Albania refused an invitation to take part in
the Marshall Plan, and on 7 March 1955, it rejected President Dwight Eisenhower’s offer of US$
850,000 worth of food to ease the chronic food shortage in the country. There were few contacts
between the two countries until the end of the communist dictatorship. After 1961, the party
leadership in Albania had branded the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union,
as the enemies of the working class around the world, and only the citizens of these two
countries were not allowed to visit Albania as a matter of principle11. Albanian Americans
wanting to visit their homeland had to demonstrate that their families had arrived in the United
States before World War II.

American politicians Tom Lantosh and Joseph Dioguardi, both of Albanian descent, visited
Tirana on 28–31 May 1990 and were received by President Ramiz Alia. Alia then paid a visit to

10
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 461.

11
Ibid. PP. 462.

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the United States on 24 September to 4 October 1990 as part of an Albanian delegation to the
United Nations12.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries were resumed on 15 March 1991, and 22 June of
that year, Secretary of State James Baker visited Tirana and was given an enthusiastic welcome
by 400,000 people. On 21 December 1991, the first American ambassador, William E. Ryerson,
presented his credentials. Ryerson was to become a close friend and promoter of Sali Berisha,
who visited the United States as Albanian president on 15–20 June 1992. Prime Minister
Aleksandër Meksi visited Washington on 21 April 1993 and held talks with President Bill
Clinton. Former President George Bush visited Tirana on 12 November 1994. President Sali
Berisha also visited Washington, on 12 September 1995, to promote economic assistance and
military cooperation, and visited New York on 20–24 October of that year to attend the fiftieth
anniversary celebrations of the United Nations and meet with representatives of the Albanian–
American community. President George W. Bush visited Albania on 10 June 2007 and was
received enthusiastically.

II.4. First Albanians in America

Albanian emigration to the United States started in the late 19th Century, albeit at a very slow
pace. The first wave of Albanian immigrants came from Korça and other areas of southern
Albania. They were predominantly orthodox young males who hoped to return home after they
made money on the new continent13. Their main center was Boston and the Greater Boston area.
By 1907, several hundred Albanians worked in the mills of New England, in newfound factories
(shoe, wood, leather, etc.) or in restaurants and hotels. At that time, an unofficial census
suggested the following breakdown: Boston, seven hundred, Worcester and Southbridge four

12
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 462.

13
Nagi, Dennis L. The Albania-American Odyssey. A Pilot Study of the Albanian Community of Boston,
Massachusetts, New York: AMS Press, 1988. Pp. 32-33.

13
hundred, and Natick two hundred14. Until the late seventies, Boston was to remain the major
center of Albanian immigration in the United States.

As was the case with other European immigrant communities who came from stateless nations at
the turn of the Century – such as the Poles, Lithuanians, Slovaks, Croatians or Slovenians, the
experience abroad was to play an important role in the nurturing of a national movement and
distinctive collective identity among the Albanians15. At that time, indeed, the lands that were to
make up the state of Albania were still under Ottoman dominion “independence was not to be
achieved until 1912 and recognized at the London Conference in November 1913”16, and the
emergence of a national feeling among the local population had been hampered by the weakness
of the urban and educated elite. Most of the early Albanian immigrants who reached the United
States had a rural background and little knowledge of literary Albanian. A minority of the
émigrés, however, had received education and was to agitate for independence at home.

It is in Boston, for instance, that the first Albanian weekly newspaper, “Kombi” (The Nation),
began publication in 1906. Its founder, Sotir Peci, a graduate of the University of Athens was
instrumental in instilling a sense of Albanian hood among his fellow nationals and in
encouraging the spread of literacy in Albanian. Beside him, several major figures of the Albanian
national movement were active in the United States Diasporas. The most prominent is
undoubtedly Fan Noli, an Albanian immigrant from Qytezë in Eastern Thrace (and future
Harvard graduate) who settled in Boston in 1906, was to be ordained priest two years later, and
set up the first autocephalous Albanian Orthodox Church in 1908. At that time, no such Church
existed in the Ottoman Empire17. In 1907, Fan Noli founded “Besa-Besën” (Word of Honor), the

14
Nagi, Dennis L. The Albania-American Odyssey. A Pilot Study of the Albanian Community of Boston,
Massachusetts, New York: AMS Press, 1988. Pp. 35.

15
Ibid. Pp. 6.

16
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 462.

17
Nadege Ragaru & Amilda Dymi, “The Albanian-American Community in the United States”, 2010. Pp. 4.

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second Albanian-American organization18, whose support was key to the creation of “Dielli”
(The Sun), a weekly newspaper launched on February 15, 1909 and committed to the
popularization of the cause of Albanian independence. Eventually Fan Noli returned to Albania
in 1921, and headed the government set up after the ephemeral June Democratic Revolution
(June 10, 1924)19. Unrecognized by West European powers and the UN, Noli’s government was
forced out by Ahmed Zogu on December 24, 1924, when his armed forces entered Tirana. Fan
Noli then settled in the United States definitely and devoted most of his energy to the
development of the Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese whose metropolitan he was to remain until
his death in 1965. One of his most active friends and supporters was Faik Konica, the descendant
of a wealthy Albanian Moslem family (educated in the Ottoman Empire and in France) who
immigrated to Boston in 1909 to become Dielli’s editor in- chief. In the 1930s, Konica was to
become King Zog’s minister to America20.

The nineteen twenties saw a first major shift in the nature of Albanian immigration to the United
States. Access to independence had led some émigrés back to Albania. Yet to most of them, the
first years of sovereign state brought bitter frustrations. Economic difficulties and the hope for a
better future convinced entire families and even at times entire villages to look for a permanent
settlement in the United States. Although Albanian immigration increased during the ‘20s and
‘30s, it continued to come essentially from southern Albania, with only very few known cases of
immigrants from the north of the country.

The shift from a predominantly male-dominated emigration to a family pattern was accompanied
by attempts at better integration within United States society: While before 1920, only 6% of the
immigrants had sworn the Oath of Citizenship in America, by 1930, they were 28%21.

18
Nadege Ragaru & Amilda Dymi, “The Albanian-American Community in the United States”, 2010. Pp. 4.

19
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 463.

20
Skendi, Stavro, The Albanian National Awakening, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967. Pp.156-159.

21
Nagi, Dennis L. The Albania-American Odyssey. A Pilot Study of the Albanian Community of Boston,
Massachusetts, New York: AMS Press, 1988. Pp. 52.

15
In parallel, Albanian-American organizations, which had been exerted a leadership role in the
political struggle for an independent Albania, started refocusing on American local issues once
this goal was achieved. Charitable, cultural and educational activities came to the foreground,
reflecting the wish of now permanent Albanian settlers to prosper in America. This evolution is
evidenced in the case of the Pan - Albanian Federation of America – “Vatra” (Federata Pan-
Shqiptare “Vatra”), which was started in April 1912 in Boston by Fan Noli and Faik Konica and
was politically active during World War I. Following the creation of an Albanian Nation-State, it
shifted its attention to helping young generations of Albanians get educated in the United States
and become successfully integrated in America. A students’ scholarship fund was thus set up in
1921 (Constitution and By-Laws of the Pan-Albanian Federation of America, Vatra, 1954).
Several other community organizations shared a similar profile, such as the Albanian Ladies
Union created in 1923 – which contributed to the reconstruction of Korça, in southern Albania,
after the 1928 earthquake - and the Daughters of Saint George.

This pattern of Albanian emigration - mostly from Albania - came to a halt by the end of World
War II, when the country’s borders were sealed by Enver Hoxha’s communist regime. Few are
those who managed to cross over after 1944. The rare successful defectors often chose to
establish themselves in Europe. Eventually, in the 1950s a small anti-communist group reached
the United States, typically after a first stop in a European country22. Among them were
representatives of the major anti-communist parties – “Partia e Legaliteti” (Legality Party) and
“Balli Kombëtar” (National Front) - who tried to denounce Albanian policies and to monopolize
opposition to the new Albanian leader. By and large, for over fifty-five years, the biggest waves
of Albanian immigrants were to come from Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia. As a rule, also,
the newcomers that arrived after World War II were more educated than the Boston forerunners
from the beginning of the century.

After 1960, Tito’s open border policies facilitated Yugoslav Albanians to settle down abroad.
Most of them, however, preferred to go and work in Europe rather than to leave for distant
United States of America. Yet this choice of destination was periodically reconsidered following
social upheavals in Kosovo (1948, 1968, 1981 and 1989). In 1948, after the break-up between

22
Nadege Ragaru & Amilda Dymi, “The Albanian-American Community in the United States”, 2010. Pp. 5.

16
Albania and Tito’s Yugoslavia, Kosovo was held in suspicion by Yugoslav authorities, which
feared that its Albanian population might be used as a fifth column by Hoxha’s communists23. As
a result, it was subjected to harsh control until the dismissal of head of Secret Police and minister
of the Interior, Aleksandar Rankovic, in 1966, thus favoring chronic flows of emigrants. Yet, the
pace of migration to the United States increased mostly after 1968. Several factors explain this
trend. First, while the political situation of the Kosovar’s improved after the mid-1960s, from an
economic standpoint their fate was not compelling. Industrialization (mostly under the form of
heavy mineral based industries) did not bring about the expected improvement in the average
standard of living of the population. In comparison with other regions in Yugoslavia, Kosovo
still lagged behind24. In addition, from the 1960s onwards, the Albanian community in Kosovo
underwent a demographic explosion that the resources of the province were not sufficient to
accommodate. Unemployment remained high and the setting up of a university in Prishtina /
Priština in 1970 ended up creating a new category of college educated students who did not find
room for professional realization in their place of origin. From the early 1970s onwards, a new
wave of Albanians from Kosovo left for America. They comprised Kosovar’s as well as some
Albanians from Albania who had earlier sought refuge in the Yugoslav province.

The student demonstrations of 1981 and the brutal repression that ensued initiated a new phase in
the history of Kosovo under Yugoslav rule. More Albanians decided to leave, some to Germany,
Switzerland and Belgium, others to the United States and Canada. To this day, however, it
remains difficult to assess how many Albanians arrived in America. Often they entered the
United States with Yugoslav or Turkish passports25. Others still were illegal and therefore not
recorded. Statistical information remains rare. According to some estimates, around 45,000
Kosovar’s left the province between 1971 and 1981.

23
Ramet, Sabrina. Nationalism and Federalism in Yugoslavia, 1962-1991. Bloomington & Indianapolis : Indiana
University Press, 1992, 2d ed. Pp. 188-189. & Reuter, Jens. Die Albaner in Jugoslawien. Munich : Oldenburg
Verlag, 1982. Pp.45.

24
Roux, Michel. Les Albanais en Yougoslavie. Minorité nationale, territoire et développement. Paris: Fondation de
la Maison des sciences de l’homme, 1992. Pp.235-338

25
Nadege Ragaru, Amilda Dymi, “The Albanian-American Community in the United States”, 2010. Pp. 6.

17
What percentage reached the United States cannot be ascertained. In 1981, the number of
Albanians in the United States was estimated at around 70.000 people26.

Events took on a more radical turn in 1989, after the autonomy of Kosovo was taken away by
Slobodan Miloševic, then head of the Serbian communist party. The 1990s saw a dramatic
worsening of the situation of Kosovar’s with mass job dismissals, increased police repression,
and curtailment of collective rights27. New flows of migrants from former Yugoslavia ensued.
Meanwhile, the demise of communism turned Albania into a country of high migratory potential.
The world public became aware of the horrendous situation that prevailed there after decades of
autarky in 1990, when thousands of Albanians besieged Western Embassies in Tirana to find a
path abroad. Aborted economic reforms, high inflation and soaring unemployment all
contributed to convince Albania’s relatively young population to search for alternatives beyond
the confine of their homeland28.

Consequently, emigration to America witnessed a new boost. From Albania alone, in 1999,
according to data provided by the Albanian Ministry of labor and social affairs, 12,000
Albanians left for the United States (12,000 for Germany and 5,000 for Canada)29. These
numbers cannot compare to the 200,000 Albanians who were estimated to be in Italy at the same
time, even less so with the 500,000 immigrants in Greece30. A representative survey conducted
in 1998 at the initiative of the European Union, however, showed that 1,9% of the 703
interviewees (out of 1,500 respondents) who declared they had emigrated at least once between

26
Nagi, Dennis L. The Albania-American Odyssey. A Pilot Study of the Albanian Community of Boston,
Massachusetts, New York: AMS Press, 1988. Pp. 25.

27
Roux, Michel. Les Albanais en Yougoslavie. Minorité nationale, territoire et développement. Paris: Fondation de
la Maison des sciences de l’homme, 1992. Pp.365 and follow.

28
Barjaba, Kosta, “Contemporary Patterns in Albanian Emigration”, South-East Europe Review, 2, 2000. Pp.57-64.
& Kule, Dhori, Mancellari, Ahmet et al. “The Causes and Consequences of Albanian Emigration During
Transition: Evidence from Microdata”, Tiranë, April 2000.

29
Barjaba, Kosta, “Contemporary Patterns in Albanian Emigration”, South-East Europe Review, 2, 2000. Pp.59.

30
Ibid.

18
1990 and 1998, chose the United States as their destination (vs. 56,0% Greece and 29,9%
Italy)31.

Early Albanian immigrants settled around Boston and then moved to other parts of
Massachusetts where unskilled factory labor was plentiful. Prior to 1920, most of the Albanians
who migrated to the United States were Orthodox Tosks from the city of Korçë in southern
Albania. Most were young males who either migrated for economic gain or were seeking
political asylum and did not intend to remain permanently in the United States. They lived in
community barracks or “konaks”, where they could live cheaply and send money home.

The “konak” gradually gave way to more permanent family dwellings as more women and
children joined Albanian men in the United States. Early Massachusetts settlements were
established in Worcester, Natick, Southbridge, Cambridge, and Lowell. The 1990 census reveals
that the largest number of Albanians live in New York City with a high concentration in the
Bronx, followed by Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Illinois, California, Ohio, and
Pennsylvania. Settlements of Albanians can be found in Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Detroit,
New Orleans, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C.

II.5. Traditional costumes

Albanian costumes have been influenced by Turkey, Greece, and Persian-Tartar designs.
Albanian traditional costumes vary depending on the region. In countries where Albanians have
established themselves, traditional costumes often distinguish the region in Albania from which
the Albanian originally came. A man’s costume from “Malësia” (Malcija Vogël area), for
example, consists of close-fitting woolen trousers with black cord trim, an apron of wool with a
leather belt buckled over it, and a silk jacket with long dull red sleeves with white stripes32. A
long sleeveless coat may be worn over the jacket along with an outer, short-sleeved jacket

31
Kule, Dhori, Mancellari, Ahmet et al. “The Causes and Consequences of Albanian Emigration During Transition:
Evidence from Microdata”, Tiranë, April 2000. Pp, 14.

32
Gjergji, Andromaqi. Albanian Costumes through the Centuries: Origin, Types, Evolution. Translated by Richard
Taylor. Tirana: Academy of Sciences of Albania, Institute of Folc Culture, 2004. Pp. 12.

19
“dzurdin”. The head and neck may be covered with a white cloth. A style of male dress most
often seen in the United States is the “fustanella”, a full, white pleated skirt; a black and gold
jacket; a red flat fez with a large tassel “puskel”; and shoes with black pompoms.

Women's clothing tends to be more colorful than the men's clothing. Northern Albanian
costumes tend to be more ornamental and include a distinctive metal belt33. Basic types of
costume include a wide skirt “xhublete”, long shirt or blouse “krahol”, and a short woolen
jacket “xhoke”. The traditional costume of Moslem women may include a tightly pleated skirt
“kanac” or large woolen trousers “brakeshë”34. Aprons are a pervasive feature in every type of
women’s costume and great variety is seen in their shape and embroidery. Many Albanian
Americans often wear traditional costumes during Independence Day celebrations and other
special occasions and social events.

II.6. Dances and songs

Although the Albanian musical tradition has been influenced by neighboring countries such as
Greece, much of the musical folklore remains distinct. Albania has had a rich tradition of
musical and theatrical activities35. In 1915, Albanian Americans organized the Boston Mandolin
Club and the Albanian String Orchestra. They also had amateur groups perform plays by
Albanian authors36. Because the heroic sense of life has always been part of Albanian life,
ballads are often recited and sung in an epic-recitative form that celebrates not only fantastic
heroes of the past but also more recent heroes and their deeds in modern history. Songs may be
accompanied by traditional instruments such as the two stringed çifteli, a lute instrument, and
a lahuta, a one-stringed violin.

33
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 112.

34
Ibid. Pp. 113.

35
Ibid. Pp. 97, 170.

36
Ibid. Pp. 187.

20
II.7. Language

Albanian is probably part of the Illyrian branch of eastern Indo-European languages. It is a


descendant of Dacian, one of the ancient languages that were among the Thraco - Phrygian group
once spoken in Anatolia and the Balkan Peninsula37. Its closest modern relative is Armenian.
Today, Albanian is spoken in two major dialects (with many sub dialects) in Albania and in
neighboring Kosova – “Toskë” (about two-thirds of the population) and “Gegë” (the remaining
one-third). A third dialect “Arbëresh” is spoken in Greece and southern Italy. Throughout the
centuries, Albania has endured numerous invasions and occupations of foreign armies, all of
whom have left their influence on the language. Despite outside influence, a distinct Albanian
language has survived. Albanians call their language “Shqip”.

Until the early twentieth century, Albanians used the Greek, Latin, and Turko - Arabic alphabets
and mixtures of these alphabets. In 1908, Albania adopted a standard Latin alphabet of 26 letters,
which was made official in 1924. During the 1920s and 1930s, the government tried to establish
a mixed “Gegë” and “Toskë” dialect from the Elbasan region as the official language. In 1952, a
standardized Albanian language was adopted, which is a mixture of “Gegë” and “Toskë” but
with a prevailing Tosk element. In addition to the letters of the Latin alphabet, the Albanian
language adds: “dh”, “gf”, “ll”, “nj”, “rr”, “sh”, “th”, “xh”, and “zh”38.

Albanian is taught at such universities as the University of California - San Diego, University of
Chicago, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, and Cleveland State University. Libraries
with Albanian language collections include the Library of Congress, Chicago Public Library,
Boston Public Library, New York Public Library (Donnelly Library Center), and Queens
Borough Public Library39.

37
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 37.

38
Çeliku, Mehmet, Mustafa Karapinjalli, and Ruzhdi Stringa. Gramatika praktike e gjuhës shqipe [Practical
Grammar of the Albanian Language]. Tirana: Toena, 1998. Pp. 17.

39
Ibid. 89.

21
II.8. Role of women

Although the “Kanun” considers a woman a superfluity in the household, many Albanian
American women in the United States would strongly disagree. Historically, Albanian American
women have borne the responsibility of preserving the memories, customs, and traditions of the
Albanian homeland. A woman’s first obligation is to marry and raise a family. Girls have not
been allowed as much freedom as boys and were not encouraged “to go out”40. Instead, girls
have been kept at home and taught domestic skills. Girls were sent through high school but not
encouraged to pursue higher education and a career. After graduation and before marriage,
women have often helped with the family business. Albanian women have usually married at an
early age.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Albanian men outnumbered Albanian women in the United States
by about three to one. Many Albanian men considered their stay in America temporary and
therefore left their wives in Albania with the intent of making enough money to return home.
During this period, when Albanian women were in short supply, Albanian men in the United
States began to “order” wives from Albania. The man usually supplied the dowry, which
compensated the girl's parents for her fare to the United States.

Today many Albanian American women feel caught between two worlds. They often feel
obligated to conform to the standards and mores of their community but, at the same time, are
pressured to “Americanize”. Although many Albanian American women have pursued higher
education and careers outside the home, many in the community still view these pursuits as
inappropriate.

Albanian American women have only recently begun to organize. The “Motrat Qirijazi” (Sisters
Qirjazi), the first Albanian - American women’s organization, was founded on March 27, 1993.
The principal founder and current president is Shqipe Baba41. This organization serves all

40
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 378.

41
Ibid. Pp. 377.

22
Albanian women in the United States, assisting and supporting them in the pursuit of unity,
education, and advancement.

II.9. Weddings

Traditionally, Albanian weddings are arranged by parents or by an intermediary or matchmaker.


The festivities may begin a week before the wedding (java e nuses - “marriage week”). Usually,
an engagement ceremony is held between the two families and the bride is given a gold coin as a
token of the engagement42. A celebration is held at the home of the bride’s parents and the future
bride is given gifts and sweets. Refreshments are usually served. A second celebration is given
by the family of the groom and the bride’s family attends. At these celebrations, small favors of
candy-coated almonds “kufeta” are exchanged. In Albania, a dowry is usually given but this
custom is not followed in the United States43.

A week before the ceremony, wedding preparations began. During this week, relatives and
friends visit the homes of the couple and food preparation begins. A chickpea bread “buke me
qiqra” is usually prepared. Gifts to the groom and the bride's trousseau and wedding clothes are
displayed. A party is given in which family and friends attend. Members of the groom’s family
come to the house of the bride and invite her to the festivities. They carry wine, flowers, and a
plate of rice, almond candy, and coins with a cake on top. The groom also invites
the “kumbare” (godfather) and “vellam” (best man)44. The bride gives similar gifts. The party is
a time of great rejoicing with food, drink, dancing, and singing. Around midnight, the bride and
groom, with family and friends, go in opposite directions to three different bodies of water to fill
two containers. Coins are thrown into the air at each stop for anyone to pick up.

42
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 388.

43
Ibid.

44
http://www.everyculture.com/A-Bo/Albania.html

23
On the day of the wedding, the bride is dressed, given a sip of wine by her parents along with
their good wishes. Other family members give her money. The “vellam” brings in the bride’s
shoes, filled with rice and almond candy, wrapped in a silk handkerchief. Accompanied by
singing women, the “vellam” puts the shoes on the bride and gives money to the person who
assisted the bride in dressing45. The “vellam” is encouraged to give everybody money. He
throws coins into the air three times and everyone tries to get one coin. The groom’s family
accompanies the bride to the ceremony. The ceremony is followed by a reception. On the
following day, the bride may be visited by her family, who bring sweets (me pemë). One week
after the ceremony, the couple is visited by friends and relatives. This is called “first visit” (të
parë)46. After a few weeks, the bride’s dowry may be displayed (in Albania) and the bride, in
turn, distributes gifts to the groom’s family. The couple is sent off with good wishes: “të
trashëgohen e të plaken; jetë të gjatë me dashuri” or “a long, happy, healthy life together”.47

II.10. Religion

Albanians in the United States are primarily Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, or Muslims.
Currently, the Albanian Orthodox Church in the United States is divided into two ecclesiastical
jurisdictions. The Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America (OCA) is an autocephalous
church established in 1908 by Fan Noli, a major religious and political figure in the Albanian
community48. With a membership of around 45,000, it currently has 16 parishes nationwide. The
current Primate is Metropolitan Theodosius. The headquarters of the Archdiocese, St. George
Albanian Orthodox Cathedral, is located in South Boston. One of the oldest chapters of the St.
George Cathedral was organized in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1911. This chapter became the
Church of Saint Mary’s Assumption in 1915. The Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese of America,

45
“Albanian Customs” Albanian Cookbook (Worcester, Massachusetts: Women’s Guild, St. Mary’s Albanian
Orthodox Church (1977))

46
Ibid.

47
Ibid.

48
Elsie, Robert. “A Dictionary of Albanian Religion, Mythology and Folk Culture”. London: C. Hurst, 2001.

24
established in 1950 by Bishop Mark Lipa, is under the jurisdiction of the ecumenical Patriarch of
Constantinople. This Archdiocese currently administers two churches, Saint Nicholas in Chicago
and Holy Trinity in South Boston.

Albanian Roman Catholics began coming to the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. At
present, three Albanian Catholic churches exist in the United States: Church of Our Lady of
Shkodra, located in the Bronx, New York City, founded in 1969 and has a membership of 1,350;
St. Paul Catholic Church, located in Warren, Michigan; and Our Lady of the Albanians, located
in Beverly Hills, Michigan49.

Albanian Muslims came to the United States around 1913. Currently, there are between 25,000
and 30,000 Albanian Muslims in the United States, primarily of the Sunni division within Islam.
The Presidency of Albanian Muslim Community Centers in the United States and Canada was
founded in 1992 by Imam Vehbi Ismail (1919) in an attempt to provide unity for Muslims of
Albanian heritage. The Presidency comprises 13 community centers or mosques located in
Connecticut, Philadelphia, Toronto, New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Michigan. Albanian
Americans of all faiths are welcome at these centers (for more information on Albanian
Muslims, contact Imam Vehbi Ismail, Albanian Islamic Center, 20426 Country Club Road,
Harper Woods, Michigan 48236)50.

A small sect of Muslims of the “Bektashi” Order, the First Albanian “Teqe Bektashiane” in
America, is located in Taylor, Michigan. The Order was founded in 1954. They have a small
library and publish “The Voice of Bektashism”.

II.11. Employment and Economic Traditions

The Albanians who came to the United States prior to 1920 were from rural backgrounds and
worked as farmers, while others from the urban areas worked as small shopkeepers and
tradesmen. The large population of Albanians who settled in Massachusetts found work with the

49
Elsie, Robert. “A Dictionary of Albanian Religion, Mythology and Folk Culture”. London: C. Hurst, 2001.

50
Ibid.

25
American Optical Company of Southbridge and the textile mills of New Bedford. Others worked
as cooks, waiters, and bellhops. Albanians soon began opening their own businesses. The most
successful Albanian businesses were fruit stores and restaurants. “By 1925...most Albanians of
Greater Boston could claim ownership of over three hundred grocery and fruit stores”51. Today
Albanians are employed in a variety of professional and enterprises. The “Gegët” and
“Kosovarët” have been especially successful in the Bronx area of New York City, selling and
managing real estate.

II.12. Politics and Government

Albanian Americans have always felt a strong attachment to Albania and have supported events
that occur in the homeland. Both the Orthodox Church and the Albanian press have played
important roles in the awakening of Albanian nationalism in the United States52. The early
political efforts of Albanian Americans centered upon furthering the cause of Albania’s
independence from the Ottoman Empire by instilling a sense of pride in Albanian heritage. Early
names in the nationalist movement were Petro Nini Luarasi, who founded the first Albanian
national organization in America, the “Mali i Memedheut” (“Longing for the Homeland”), and
Sotir Petsi, who founded “Kombi”, the first known Albanian weekly newspaper. “Kombi”
actively supported an independent Albania, run by Albanians, within the Turkish Empire53. The
circulation of this early newspaper was instrumental in reducing the rate of illiteracy among
Albanians in the United States.

Fan S. Noli was one of the most influential figures in the Albanian Nationalist movement in the
United States. On January 6, 1907, he founded “Besa-Besën” (“Loyalty”), the first Albanian

51
Dennis Lazar, “Ethnic Community as it Applies to a Less Visible National Group: The Albanian Community of
Boston”, Massachusetts, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, doctoral dissertation, 1982. Pp. 6.

52
Crosfield, Joseph, & Sons, eds. An Economic Survey of Albania. 2 vols. Warrington, England: Joseph Crosfield &
Sons, 1967. Pp. 59.

53
Ibid.

26
Nationalist organization in the United States54. The founding of the Albanian Orthodox Church
in America in 1908 was also a significant event in the life of Albanian Americans. To further
Albania’s freedom, Fan Noli began publication of “Dielli” (The Sun) in 190955. A successor
to “Kombi”, “Dielli” supported liberation for Albania. Faik Konitza became the first editor
of “Dielli”. To further strengthen the cause, a merger of many existing Albanian organizations
occurred in April 1912, becoming the Pan-Albanian Federation of America “Vatra”56. “Vatra”
became the principal organization to instill Albanians with a sense of national purpose.

Since the end of World War II, Albanian Americans have shown an increasing interest in
American politics, as the process relates to Albanian issues. The Albanian Congressional Caucus
has recently been formed with the support of congressional members Eliot Engle (NY-D), Susan
Molinare (NY), and others57. Its purpose is to promote Albanian causes with a focus on the plight
of Albanians in Kosova. With the defeat of communism in Albania, many new immigrants have
arrived in the United States. Several new immigrant aid societies, such as the New England
Albanian Relief Organization, Frosinia Organization, and the Albanian Humanitarian Aid Inc.,
have been organized to assist newly arrived Albanian immigrants. Such organizations have also
worked to assist Albanians in Albania.

II.13. Academia

Arshi Pipa (1920), born in Scutari, Albania, taught humanities, philosophy, and Italian at various
colleges and universities in Albania and in the United States. Nicholas Pano (1934) is a professor
of history and has served as the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Western Illinois University; he has
made contributions to scholarly journals on the subject of Albania and is the author of “The

54
Dennis Lazar, “Ethnic Community as it Applies to a Less Visible National Group: The Albanian Community of
Boston”, Massachusetts, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, doctoral dissertation, 1982. Pp. 7.

55
Ibid.

56
Crosfield, Joseph, & Sons, eds. An Economic Survey of Albania. 2 vols. Warrington, England: Joseph Crosfield &
Sons, 1967. Pp. 82.

57
Ibid. Pp. 83.

27
People’s Republic of Albania” (1968). Peter R. Prifti (1924), author and translator, has made
significant contributions to Albanian studies and has published widely on a variety of Albanian
topics; he is the author of “Socialist Albania Since 1944” (1978). Stavro Skendi (1906 - 1989),
born in Korçë, Albania, was Emeritus Professor of Balkan Languages and Culture at Columbia
University from 1972 until his death.

II.14. Community leaders

Constantine A. Chekrezi, an early supporter of the nationalist movement in Albania, briefly


served as editor of “Dielli” in 1914 and published Illyria from March to November 1916; he is
the author of Albania Past and Present (1919), which is considered to be the first work in English
on Albania written by an Albanian, “A History of Europe - Ancient, Medieval and Modern”
(1921), an early history of Europe written in Albanian, and an “English - Albanian Dictionary”
(1923).

Christo Dako, an educator and a key figure in the early nationalist movement, is the author of
“Albania, the Master Key to the Near East” (1919). Faik Konitza (1876–1942), was one of the
more influential leaders of the Albanian community in America in the early twentieth century; he
published the magazine Albania from 1897–1909 and was the editor of “Dielli” from 1909 -
1910, and 1921 - 1926; he also co-founded the Pan – American Federation of America in 1912,
serving as its president from 1921 - 1926; he served as Minister Plenipotentiary of Albania from
1926 - 1939. Fan S. Noli (1865 - 1964) was one of the most well-known and distinguished
historical personalities in the Albanian community; a major figure in the Albanian nationalist
movement, Noli founded the Albanian Orthodox Church in America in 190858. Eftalia Tsina
(1870–1953), the mother of physician Dimitra Elia, was an early promoter of Albanian social
and cultural issues; in the 1920s, she founded “Bashkimi”, the first Albanian women’s
organization in Boston.

58
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 178.

28
II.15. Writing

Shqipe Malushi, poet, essayist, media information specialist and an active community leader, has
published fiction, nonfiction, translations, essays, and newspapers articles; her works of poetry,
written in Albanian and in English, include: “Memories of 72’” (1972, in Kosova), “Exile”
(1981), “Solitude” (1985), “Crossing the Bridges” (1990), and “For You” (1993); she has
published “Beyond the Walls of the Forgotten Land” (1992), a collection of short stories,
and “Transformation” (1988), a book of essays59. She has also written and collaborated on
several plays and screenplays. Loretta Chase (1949–), born in Worcester, Massachusetts is a
popular writer of romance novels for Regency and Avon Presses; her novels include “Isabella”
(1987), “Viscount Vagabond” (1988), and “Knaves Wager” (1990)60. Nexhmie Zaimi is the
author of “Daughter of the Eagle: The Autobiography of an Albanian Girl” (1937), which
describes her immigrant experience, customs, and practices61.

59
Lubonja, Fatos, and John Hodgson. Përpjekja/Endeavour: Writing from Albania’s Critical Quarterly. Translated
by John Hodgson. Tirana: Përpjekja, 1997.

60
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 105.

61
Ibid.

29
CHAPTER THREE

ALBANIAN AWAKENING THROUGHT PRESS AND ORGANIZATIONS IN


AMERICA

III.1. Albanian’s work for the “Awakening”

During 1908 the promotion of Diaspora political activity was conducted by the club “Bashkimi”
(Union) of Manastir. The call for the alphabet Congress was greeted with joy by the Albanian
colonies of Cairo, of Alexandria in Egypt, of Bucharest in Romania, of Varna in Bulgaria, etc.
Albanian patriots of the above respective countries expressed their enthusiasm in calling this
Congress and showed their willingness to send their representatives in it.62 On 24 August 1908
there was founded the Albanian society in Thessaloniki whose leader was Mithat Frashëri. It was
known as a charitable society that had no political or religious aim.63 The leader of this
association would participate as a delegate in the Congress of Elbasan, as a representative of the
society of Thessaloniki.64

On 8 September 1909 a conference by Mr. Abdyl Ypi was held in Thessaloniki Club, who by
using a clear and sweet language pleased the listeners by telling what Albanians are. He
confessed about the meanness and mistake that the Turkish bring by encouraging division among
Albanian people. “During those 500 years Albanians helped the Ottoman Empire, they protected
it against the enemies. The Ottoman government made mistakes by sending in Albania officials
who did not recognize Albanian customs. Albanians should not sit and expect the world to do
things for them. People should try themselves to unify in order to open schools, and become

62
“Korca” Newspaper, Korcë, 1909.

63
“Liria” Newspaper, Sofje, 1909.

64
“Liria” Newspaper, Sofje, 1910.

30
aware of the fact that only with the help of its language can the nation make progress at the
same pace as the other ones.”65

More specifically let’s stop at the activity of the Albanian Diaspora in the U.S. With the arrival
of Hyriet there seemed to appear a green light for the Albanians, because now they seemed to
enjoy the freedom of their language. Such thing is expressed even by the Albanians living in
America, especially in the newspaper “Kombi” (Nation) which was published in Boston at that
period of time. This newspaper, on 21 August 1908, wrote that the proclamation of the
constitution was an act that pleased Albanians and made them happy because now they would be
able to open schools in their own language.66

On 15 February 1909 the association known as “Besa-Besën” (Faith) in Boston released its first
edition “Dielli” (The Sun), whose first editor was Fan Noli. In the lines of this press there was
said that: ““Dielli” (The Sun) was an organ of the national Albanians who were seeking self-
government for Albania”67, while the newspaper’s motto was “Albania for the Albanians”. This
association, along with its organ, became the centre of the Albanian national movement of the
Albanian Diaspora in America.

On 2 May 1909 the association of Korça people known as “Arsimi” (Education) was established
in Hudson Mass. It was lead by Nikolla Dishnica. Later on its center was settled in Boston. This
association aimed to have a particular influence on the educational and cultural development of
the town of Korçe, which would be finalized with the opening of a philological university in this
town. This association declared that it had nothing to do with politics. In the same month (on 6
May 1909 ) in Kenbridge Mass there was founded the association “Përparimi” (Progress). It
was a continuation of the association “Patriotic Brotherhood of Dardha” founded in 1906. Its
purpose, just like the purpose of many other associations founded in America at that period of
time was the transmission of knowledge among Albanians, through the publication and free
distribution of books in Albanian language. With the efforts of “Besa-Besën” association there

65
“Dielli” Newspaper, 1909.

66
“Dielli” Newspaper, 1910.

67
“Dielli” Newspaper, 1911.

31
were gathered many aids for the Normal school. In terms of aids, the association “Malli i
Mëmëdheut” (with its center in Jamestown in the United States) donated $50 to the “Përparimi”
association for the Normal school.68

During 1910, in terms of aids collection for the Normal school, Dervish Beu from Elbasan, asked
the director of “Dielli” (The Sun) newspaper to try to gather aids for him. Among many other
things in this newspaper, there was also written that the Director of the “Dielli” (The Sun)
newspaper agrees with “Besa-Besën” association, with Fan Noli and with all the other well-
known patriots living in America, who need to be honored for the opening of the Normal school
in Elbasan. Unfortunately the aids were rare, in one week there were gathered up to $100. The
director of “Dielli” newspaper was greatly surprised by this donation coldness of Albanians. He
even organized conferences so as to find out the real purpose of this indifference.

And this is what he learnt: “There were two things that the Albanians of America disliked in the
Congress of Elbasan. Firstly no American delegate was invited in the Congress, as if they had no
real importance, at a time when their aids were greatly welcomed. The second thing that the
Albanians of America disliked was the fact that this Congress elected as vice-chairman that
person who dared to call “a dirty thing” our 500-year-old flag, the flag of our grandparents, the
flag of our immortal Scanderbeg.

However, the director of “Dielli” (The Sun) newspaper went on saying that the Normal School
would not surrender and give up because of the mistakes of the Congress. “According to him the
Normal School should become and would become a national neutral institution.”69 However,
during 1910 the association “Malli i Mëmëdheut” would offer help for the Normal School.70

68
“Dielli” Newspaper, 1912.

69
“Liri e Shqipërisë” Newspaper, Sofje, 1911.

70
Edwin Jacques, “Shqiptarët”, Kartë e pendë, 1995, p.335.

32
Albanians of Planters Hotel Co., answered positively to the call of Dervish Beu from Elbasan.
They made a small list and provide donations (an amount of $132) for the Normal School.
Donations were also offered by the Albanians living in Worchester, an amount of $113.71

A major concern for many Albanian patriots wherever they were within the country or abroad,
was the policy being followed by John-Turks, which was completely different from their
expectations. This concern was particularly evident in the national rally held at the Phoenix Hall,
in America, with the participation of Albanians from different locations. The leader of this rally
was the chairman of “Besa-Besën” association who emphasized: “These rights are in danger
today, but they are in greater danger even tomorrow. We are in danger because the John-
Turkish by fiercely imposing Turkish language to the Albanians, by introducing waking their
fanaticism through Islam, by keeping the country in poverty, by forcing Albanians deny their
nation, by sending the strongest Albanians die as soldiers in Yemen etc, John-Turkish bit by bit
are weakening and destroying our nationality. Our rights are in danger tomorrow, because if
tomorrow brings the destruction of Turkey, it will find us unprepared. In order to be prepared
for this, we need to tell the truth to our co-patriots, they need not to be lied by the tales and
forget their nationality, but they should manlike do their duty.”72

During the year 1909 several important steps were taken by the associations operating in the
United States for the unification of theirs into a single one. The board of the association “Malli i
Mëmëdheut” showed its concern about the unification in “Dielli” (Sun) newspaper. Their
concern was immediately followed by the concern of “Besa-Besën” association which loudly
called for the organization and gathering of all the other Albanian associations of America
created up to that period of time such as: “Përparimi” (Progress), “Arsimi” (Education),
“Fatbardhësia” as well as the church association of Saint Gjergj.

In the wake of these efforts a series of rallies were organized in various urban centers where
Albanians lived. Therefore rallies were organized in Boston on 1 November 1909, in Hudson
Mass on 12 November 12 1909, in Biddeford on 18 November, in Natick on 25 November, in

71
Sh. Demiraj, K. Prifti, Kongresi i Manastirit, Tiranë, 1978.

72
V. Duka “Shqiptarët në rrjedhat e shek. XIX”, Panteon, 2001.

33
Worchester on 1 December, in Southbury on 14 December. Their goal was the expansion of the
Albanian patriots for the revival of the Albanian National Movement. These efforts showed their
first results with the merger of the two associations “Besa-Besën” and “Malli i Mëmëdheut” in
1910. This was an action that would make possible the further expansion of this union .The issue
of unification became more evident during 1911, when the national Albanian movements against
the Turkish which had already exploded in Albania needed to be supported more than ever.

In “Dielli” (The Sun) newspaper there was written: “Today we need unification, we need to live
with honour, and we need to join for our country! People need to search unification; they need to
call in a single voice “viva union””.73

For this purpose Kristo Floqi was appointed to plan the unification program of the Albanian
associations operating in America which would be checked and approved by all the associations.
Therefore a joint meeting was arranged on 24 December 1911 in Boston. All associations were
required to send their representatives in it. There was also arranged that in this meeting there
would be discussed Kanunorja of Central Committee, the first article of which emphasized that
its primary goal was the protection of the Albanian nation’s interests, among which the liberation
of the nation. In this first meeting Fan Noli was elected as the chairman who rejected that
position. Instead of him there was elected Kristo Floqi. The meeting decided to elect a
commission of four members, who would represent the leaders of the Central committee. The
meeting also decided that each village where Albanians lived, would send one representative in
Boston, and together these 10 or 12 members from Boston would form the Central Committee.74

The initiative of “Besa-Besë” association would be followed by the initiatives of the other
associations too. In this initiative there were joined the associations “Besa-Besën”, “Malli i
Mëmëdheut”, and “Përlindja”. The latter one, whose chairman was Denis Kamburi, was in
Jamestown.

In 1911 the rally which was organized in Boston ended up with a meeting being organized in
Boston on 17 March at 3 o’clock. The speeches in this meeting were held by many patriots,

73
Eqërem bej Vlora, “Kujtime II”, Shtëpia e librit dhe e komunikimit, 2001.

74
Stavro Skëndo “Zgjimi kombëtar shqiptar”, Toena.

34
among them we could mention Fan Noli, who spoke about the atrocities of the Turkish army.
While the patriot Orazio Iriani (professor) by introducing facts managed to declare worldwide
the efforts of Albanian Diaspora in America, showing that it does exist and work for Albania.
Among many other things he showed that “Turks are Turks, and Albania should never expect
any good things from them. Ahmet Rizaj called in the middle of the parliament that there were no
Albanians, but Myfit Beu responded: efendëm var var”. Some time ago a Turkish newspaper
wrote that there were no Albanians in America, but what about these people here, what are they
gathered for?75

In the years 1910 and 1911, Noli held important fiery speeches before the association “Besa-
Besën”, in support of the Albanian rebels in Kosovo, by raising up their fights and their bravery
led by Isa Boletini and Idriz Seferi in the battles of Çernaleva and Kaçanik.

The associations “Besa-Besën”, “Arsimi”, “Dallëndyshja”, “Malli i Mëmëdheut”, “Shoqëria


Kombëtare” and “Mirëbërësi” were pro the unification until the beginning of March 1912.
While on 28 April 1912 American Diaspora reached the final outcome which was the unification
of all associations into a single one by creating the Albanian Federation “Vatra”. This union was
named like this due to the high authority of this federation among the Albanians of America and
its chairman Fan Noli. In May 1912 “Vatra” Federation made efforts to create a national
newspaper.76

As it can be seen the final goal of the Albanian Diaspora in America was already realized. What
was required now was putting in practice Vatra’s program, as well as the direct active
participation during the events of 1911-1912 which would end up with the declaration of
independence.

As far as the aids for the general Albanian rebellion were concerned, there was an article
published by “Dielli” newspaper titled “The call of rebellions among migrating Albanians” in
which was written: “In the sister newspaper “Freedom of Albania” in the first page of its final
edition, we sang with remarks a call of aids to our rebellion brothers in Kosovo and Malësia.

75
Instituti i Historisë, “Lef Nosi-Dokumente historike1912-1918”, Tiranë, 2007.

76
Sejfi Vllamasi, “Ballafaqime politike në Shqipëri, Tiranë, 1995.

35
Although we haven’t taken such a call, we will make efforts to do our duty as much as we can.
Our brothers should know that their calls will always be welcomed in our hearts. They should
never lose their hopes because blood never becomes water.”77

In August 1912 there were clearly displayed on the pages of “Dielli” newspaper the efforts of the
Albanians living in America to topple John-Turkish power. This is what there was written on the
pages of this newspaper: “Through “Dielli” newspaper we managed to wake up Albanian
patriots, we could boast for having taken a little part in the efforts against Jonh-Turkish power,
but a big part in the strengthening of our national ideal. The John-turks know this better than we
do. As a proof we keep a word of theirs “TANIN” which used to say that the centre of the
Albanian Committee is probably located in America”.78

The aid of “Vatra” Federation was manifested even in the creation of a group of immigrants,
Albanians of America, dressed in red and black uniforms, wearing hats on which there could be
read the words “Freedom or Death”. This federation was of the opinion that in moments in
which Albania was, in order to maintain territorial entirety the most valuable thing to be done
was the preservation of their status under the Ottoman Empire, so as not to be destroyed and torn
from the neighboring states. According to them: “Albania is an ongoing volcano, fire burnt and
destroyed it from all sides, Montenegro and Serbians in the north, the Greeks in the south and
Bulgarians in the east. Before breaking the imperial army they want to break the territory. Since
we are people seeking for peace we are going to answer our nation’s call, we are going to do
whatever we can to protect the honors of Albania.”79

Following the protection of Albanian national issue, another big rally was organized in Boston
on 17 November 1912, in which Konica called for sending telegrams to the Super Powers and
European chancelleries. There would be emphasized that if the separation of Albania was
allowed, great rebellions would be organized in the Balkans.

77
Skënder Luarasi “Tri jetë”, Migjeni, 2007.

78
Ismail Qemal Vlora, “Kujtime”, Toena, 1997.

79
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 245.

36
In the act of the declaration of independence on 28 November 1912 there were also present
members of the Albanian volunteers coming from America. Not only this, but based on the
testimony of Qamil Panariti, regarding the origin of the flag raised in Vlora, he said that the flag
had been brought from Boston in Corfu in 1911, by members of the association “Besa-Besën”,
who had expressed their desire to take part as volunteers in the Albanian uprising of that year.
The flag was brought to Albania by Marigo Pozio, who had wrapped it round her body so as to
escape Greek customs control.

“Vatra” Federation in those years became like a government in migration. Its leaders were
welcomed by the official authorities, as representatives of Albania. With their excellent
speeches, they defended Albanian people and the Albanian issue. Fan Noli often left because of
being in charge of important tasks.

In the autumn of 1912, when the Nation was in danger of fragmentation, Fan Noli was sent in
London by “Vatra” Federation. Fan Noli greeted Ismail Qemali for the declaration of
independence from the British capital, London.

III.2. First Albanian organizations in America

III.2.1. Albanian – American Civic Langue, AACL (Liga Qytetare Shqiptaro - Amerikane)
(1989)

Organization founded in 1989 by Joseph DioGuardi, a Republican congressman from New York
of Arbëresh origin80. The following year, it successfully lobbied for the first congressional
hearings on Kosovo, with testimony from Ibrahim Rugova. Through it was not always
successful, its rallies and lobbying on behalf of human rights in Kosovo were essential in
pushing through economic sanctions against Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

III.2.2. Albanian – American national organization (AANO) (1946)

80
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 6.

37
A nonreligious and nonprofit organization established in 194681. Among its priorities is to
support the academic endeavors of Albanian – American college students through annual
scholarships. It has nine chapters located throughout the United States and Canada. Its current
national president is John Lulgjuraj of Florida.

III.2.3. Albanian Council (Kuvendi i Arbërit) (1703)

Council of the Catholic Church held in Mërqia, three kilometers north of Lezha, on 14-15
January 1703 to affirm the position of the Catholic Church in Albania and to stem the tide of
conversional to Islam. The conference was organized during the reign of Pope Clement XI
Albani (r. 1700 - 1721), himself of Albanian origin, and was held under the direction and the
presence of Croatian archbishop, Vincentius Zmajevich (1670 - 1745) of Bar, who was
“apostolic visitor” of Albania, Serbia and Macedonia. The council was attended by about 200
Catholic dignitaries to discuss the state of the Church, prevent further conversions to Islam, and
settle serious properly disputes among the various parishes. Both the opening speech by
Zmajevich and the resolution taken by the council were made in Albanian. The records of the
meeting, which are of historical, linguistic and ecclesiastical significance, were sent to Rome for
papal inspection and published in Albanian and Latin by the Propoganda Fide in 1706, with the
assistance of Francesco Maria Da Lecce O.F.M. they constitute an important source of our
knowledge of the language of northern Albania in the early 18th century.

III.2.4. Albanian Literary Commission (Komisija Letrare Shqype) (1916)

Commission set up in Shkodra on 1 September 1916 by the Austro – Hungarian authorities at the
instigation of Consul General August Ritter von Kral (1869 - 1953)82. Its aim was to create a
literary norm and a standard orthography for Albanian official use, and in particular for school

81
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 7.

82
Ibid. Pp. 8.

38
teaching. It also encouraged the publication of Albanian school texts. Among the members of the
commission were Gjergj Fishta, Luigj Gurakuqi, Maximilian Lambertz, Mati Logoreci, Ndre
Mjeda, Hilë Mosi, Sotir Peci, Gjergj Pekmezi, and Aleksandër Xhuvani. After some deliberation,
the commission decided to use the central dialect of Elbasan as a neutral compromise for a
standard literary language.

III.2.5. National Albanian American Council, NAAC (Këshilli Kombëtar Shqiptaro-


Amerikan) (1996–)

The National Albanian American Council is an independent, nonprofit association that lobbies
for and promotes Albanian interests in the United States83. It opened its office in Washington,
D.C., on 1 October 1996 and was particularly active in the following years on behalf of Kosovo.
Its current chairman is Martin Shkreli.

III.2.6. “Vatra” Federation – Shoqata “Vatra” (1912)

Vatra, the Pan-Albanian Federation of America, was founded in Boston on 28 April 1912 by Fan
Noli and Faik bey Konica to promote Albanian interests in the United States and, in particular, in
the Balkans. It was an amalgamation of the “Besa-Besë” (Pledge for a Pledge) society and 13
other Albanian organizations in America, and later had 70 branches throughout the country.
“Vatra” which in Albanian means “hearth”, was initially headed by Fan Noli, and then from
1921 by Konica84. It was destined to become the most powerful and significant Albanian
organization in America. In 1917, in view of the chaotic situation and political vacuum in
Albania, it regarded itself as a sort of Albanian government in exile. The “Vatra” Federation has
gone through many ups and downs over the years. It still exists and is presently headed by Agim
Karagjozi, with its head-quarters in the Bronx, New York.

83
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 319.

84
Ibid. Pp, 467.

39
CHAPTER FOUR

A FULL BIBLIOFRAPHY OF ALBANIANS IN AMERICA AND AMERICANS FOR


ALBANIAN WRITTERS (SCHOOLARS, JOURNALISTS, WRITTERS, ETC)

IV.1. ALBANIAN PERSONALITIES IN AMERICA

IV.1.1. Arshi Pipa (1920 – 1997)

Arshi Pipa was a scholar and writer. Arshi Pipa was born in Shkodra, where he attended school
until 1938. His first poetry, composed in the late 1930s in Shkodra, was collected in the volume
“Lundërtarë” (Sailors; Tirana, 1944). Pipa studied philosophy at the University of Florence,
where he received the degree “dottore in filosofia” in 1942 with a dissertation on Henri Bergson
(1859–1941). He thereafter worked as a teacher in Shkodra and Tirana. In 1944, he was editor of
the short-lived Tirana literary monthly “Kritika” (Criticism)85. Unwilling to conform after the
radical transition of power at the end of the war, he was arrested in April 1946 and imprisoned
for 10 years. After his release in 1956, he escaped to Yugoslavia; he immigrated to the United
States two years later. He held teaching posts at various American universities and until his
retirement was professor of Italian at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Pipa digested his 10 years of horror in the prisons and labor camps of Durrës, Vloçisht,
Gjirokastra, and Burrel in “Libri i burgut” (The Prison Book; Rome, 1959), a 246-page
collection of verse. He has published two other volumes of poetry in the Gheg dialect: “Rusha”
(Rusha; Munich, 1968) and “Meridiana” (Meridiana; Munich, 1969), the latter in the romantic
and nostalgic vein of Giacomo Leopardi. Of greater impact were Pipa’s scholarly publications, in
particular his literary criticism. Among these works are the three-volume literary study “Trilogia
albanica” (Munich, 1978) and the monograph “Montale and Dante” (Minneapolis, 1968). He

85
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 357.

40
also published a controversial sociolinguistic study on the formation of standard Albanian (gjuha
letrare) as the official language of Albania, “The Politics of Language in Socialist Albania”
(New York, 1989); a collection of 15 political essays, “Albanian Stalinism: Ideo-political
Aspects” (New York, 1990)86; and a study on the Albanian literature of the socialist realist
period, “Contemporary Albanian Literature” (New York, 1991). In later years, he edited the
short-lived periodical “Albanica” in Washington, D.C., where he lived with his sister in
retirement.

IV.1.2. Bilal Xhaferi (1935 – 1986)

Bilal Xhaferi was a writer. Bilal Xhaferi was born in the village of Ninat near Konispol in the
southern Çamëria region and was raised with his sisters in internment, where he was permitted to
finish secondary school. In his early years, he published a volume of 10 short stories entitled
“Njerëz të rinj, tokë e lashtë” (Young People, Ancient Land; Tirana, 1966), a work of artistry
and ideas, but perhaps too realistic for the time87. In 1968, Xhaferi spoke out at the Union of
Writers and Artists against Ismail Kadare’s novel “Dasma” (The Wedding; Tirana, 1968) and
was severely taken to task by the then all-powerful Fadil Paçrami. He was expelled from his
home in Durrës and sent to work as a farm laborer in Sukth. Xhaferi was miraculously able to
escape from Albania to Greece on 30 August 1969 and immigrated subsequently to the United
States, where he worked for the Boston periodical “Dielli” (The Sun) and organized an
American–Çamërian organization. He died in Chicago. A volume of his verse, “Lirishta e kuqe”
(The Red Glade; Tirana, 1967), was printed shortly before his fall but was never circulated. His
novel on Scanderbeg and another one, entitled Krasta Kraus, remained unpublished until the
1990s.

86
Pipa, Arshi. Albanian Stalinism: Ideo-political Aspects. East European Monographs 287. New York: Columbia
University Press, 1990.

87
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 489.

41
IV.1.3. Christo Anastas Dako (1878 – 1941)

Christo Anastas Dako was an Albanian - American journalist and activist. Christo Anastas Dako
first became involved in the nationalist movement while a student in Bucharest and was
imprisoned for a time for his activities. He married Sevasti Qiriazi (1871–1949), a noted figure
in women’s education, and immigrated to the United States in 190788. There he vied with Fan
Noli for leadership of the Albanian community in Massachusetts, and in 1913 became president
of the “Vatra”: “Dielli” (The Sun). He also edited the short-lived periodical “Biblioteka zëri i
Shqipërisë” (The Voice of Albania Library), published in 1916 in Southbridge, Massachusetts89.

Dako was also the author of school texts and works of political history such as the essay “Cilët
janë Shqipëtarët” (Who Are the Albanians?; Monastir, 1911); “Albanian, the Master Key to the
Near East” (Boston, 1919); the short historical study “Liga e Prizrenit” (The League of Prizren;
Bucharest, 1922); and in later years “Shënime historike nga jeta dhe veprat e Nalt Madhërisë së
tij Zogu I parë Mbreti i Shqiptarvet” (Historical Notes from the Life and Works of His Majesty,
Zog the First, King of the Albanians; Tirana, 1937), translated by the author into English as
“Zogu, the First King of the Albanians: A Sketch of his Life and Times” (Tirana, 1937).
Needless to say, the latter work did not make his memory particularly cherished in postwar
Stalinist Albania.

IV.1.4. Costandine Chekrezi (1892 – 1959)

Constandine Chekrezi wa an Albanian - American publisher and writer, known in Albania as


Kostandin or Kost Çekrezi. Constandine Chekrezi was born in the village of Ziçisht in the Korça
area and graduated from a Greek secondary school in 1909. He studied in Salonika and Athens,
and after losing his job as an interpreter for the International Control Commission as a result of
the outbreak of World War I, he immigrated via Italy to the United States at the invitation of the
“Vatra” Federation.

88
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 97.

89
Ibid. Pp. 97.

42
In Boston, he was put in charge of the “Vatra” newspaper “Dielli” (The sun) for a time until the
latter was taken by Fan Noli. Like Faik bey Konitza, Chekrezi studied at and graduated from
Harvard University (1916 - 1918). It was in Boston, too, that he published an ephemeral
semimonthly periodical called Illyria, From March to November 1916, and in early 1919 he took
over editorship of Fan Noli’s monthly “Adriatic Review”. He also served as Albanian high
commissioner to Washington, where he died90.

Chekrezi was the author of a number of monographs in Albanian and English, in particular
several lengthy works of history in Albanian, which in their scope were quite impressive for the
time. They include: “E shkuara dhe e tashmja e Shqipërisë” (Albanian Past and Present; New
York, 1919)91; “Këndime për rjeshtën e funtme të shkollave filltare” (Readings for the Last
Grade of Elementary Schools; Boston, 1921); “Histori e Shqipërisë” (History of Albania;
Boston, 1921); “Histori e vjetër që në kohërat e Pellasgëve gjer në rrënjët e Perandorisë
romane” (Ancient History from the times of the Pelasgians up to the fall of Roman Empire;
Boston, 1921); “Histori e re e Evropës” (Modern History of Europe; Boston, 1921); “Historia
mesjetare e Evropës që në rënien e Romës gjer në rënien e Kostandinopojës 478 – 1453”
(Medieval History of Europe from the Fall of Rome to the Fall of Constantinople 478 – 1453;
Boston, 1921); and the first English – Albanian dictionary, Chekrezi’s English – Albanian
Dictionary, “Fjalor Inglisht – Shqip” (Boston, 1923).

IV.1.5. Elez Biberaj (1952 - )

Elez Biberaj is an Albanian - American scholar and political commentator. Elez Hysen Biberaj
was born in Krusheva near Plava in Montenegro a year after his family had escaped from
Tropoja. He immigrated with his entire family to the United States in 1968. In December 1980,
he began working for the Albanian Service of the Voice of America in Washington, D.C. From

90
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 79.

91
Chekrezi, Constantine Anastasi (Çekrezi, Kostantin). Albania Past and Present. New York: Macmillan, 1919,
reprint 1971.

43
1982 to September 1986, he served as senior analyst for Soviet and East European affairs at the
press division of the United States Information Agency, and from September 1986, he was chief
of the Albanian Service of the VOA. In March 2004, he resigned as head of the Albanian Service
and became Eurasia Division Director of the VOA. Biberaj received his Ph.D. in political
science at Columbia University in New York in 1985, where he specialized in Soviet and Eastern
European affairs, and first visited Albania in March 1991 as an election observer for the Helsinki
Commission. Among his publications are “Albania and China: A Study of an Unequal
Alliance”, Boulder 1986; “Albania: A Socialist Maverick” (Boulder, 1990) and “Albania in
Transition: The Rocky Road to Democracy” (Boulder, 1998). He has also published articles in
journals such as Conflict Studies, Problems of Communism, Survey, and East European
Quarterly92.

IV.1.6. Fan Noli (1882 – 1965)

Fan Noli was a political figure, church leader, writer, poet, and translator. Fan Noli, also known
as Theophan Stylian Noli, was not only an outstanding leader of the Albanian American
community, but also a preeminent and multitalented figure of Albanian literature, culture,
religious life, and politics. Noli was born in the village of Ibrik Tepe, south of Edirne
(Adrianopole) in European Turkey. He lived from 1903 to 1906 in Egypt, from where he
immigrated to the United States93.

On 9 February 1908, at the age of 26, Fan Noli was made a deacon in Brooklyn and was
ordained as an Orthodox priest on 8 March of that year. A mere two weeks later, on 22 March
1908, the young Noli proudly celebrated the liturgy in Albanian for the first time at the Knights
of Honor Hall in Boston. This act constituted the first step toward the official organization and
recognition of an Albanian Autocephaly Orthodox Church.

92
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 79.

93
Ibid. Pp. 329.

44
From February 1909 to July 1911, Noli edited the newspaper “Dielli” (The Sun), mouthpiece of
the Albanian community in Boston. Together with Faik bey Konitza, he founded the Pan-
Albanian “Vatra” Federation of America on 28 April 1912, which soon became the most
powerful and significant Albanian organization in America. Fan Noli had now become the
recognized leader of the Albanian Orthodox community and was an established writer and
journalist of the nationalist movement. In November 1912, Albania was declared independent,
and the 30-year-old Noli, having graduated with a B.A. from Harvard University, hurriedly
returned to Europe. In March 1913, among other activities, he attended the Albanian Congress of
Trieste, which was organized by his friend and rival, Faik bey Konitza.

In July 1913, Fan Noli visited Albania for the first time, and there, on 10 March 1914, he held
the country’s first Orthodox Church service in Albanian, in the presence of Prince Wilhelm Zu
Wied. From 21 December 1915 to 6 July 1916, he was again editor-in-chief of the Boston
“Dielli” (The Sun), now a daily newspaper. In July 1917, he once more became president of the
“Vatra” Federation which, in view of the chaotic situation and political vacuum in Albania, now
regarded itself as a sort of Albanian government in exile. On 27 July 1919, Noli was appointed
bishop of the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, finally an independent diocese. In the
following year, in view of his growing stature as a political and religious leader of the Albanian
community and as a talented writer, orator, and political commentator, it was only fitting that he
be selected to head an Albanian delegation to the League of Nations in Geneva, where he was
successful in having Albania admitted on 17 December 192094. Noli rightly regarded Albania’s
admission to the League of Nations as his greatest political achievement. Membership in that
body gave Albania worldwide recognition for the first time and was in retrospect no doubt more
important than Ismail Qemal bey Vlora’s declaration of independence in 1912.

Noli’s success at the League of Nations established him as the leading figure in Albanian
political life. From Geneva, he returned to Albania and, from 1921 to 1922, represented the
“Vatra” Federation in the Albanian parliament there. In 1922, he was appointed foreign minister
in the government of Xhafer bey Ypi but resigned several months later. On 21 November 1923,

94
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 329.

45
Noli was consecrated bishop of Korça and metropolitan of Durrës95. He was now both head of
the Orthodox Church in Albania and leader of a liberal political party, the main opposition to the
conservative forces of Ahmet Zogu, who were supported primarily by the feudal landowners and
the middle class. On 23 February 1924, an attempt was made in parliament on the life of Ahmet
Zogu, and two months later, on 22 April 1924, nationalist figure and deputy Avni Rustemi was
assassinated, allegedly by Zogist forces. At Rustemi’s funeral, Fan Noli gave a fiery oration,
which provoked the liberal opposition into such a fury that Zogu was obliged to flee to
Yugoslavia.

On 17 July 1924, Fan Noli was officially proclaimed prime minister and shortly afterward regent
of Albania. For six months after this so-called June or Democratic Revolution, he led a
democratic government that tried desperately to cope with the catastrophic economic and
political problems facing the young Albanian state. After the overthrow of his government by
Zogist forces on Christmas Eve 1924, Noli left Albania for good. In November 1927, he visited
Russia as a Balkan delegate to a congress of “Friends of the Soviet Union” marking the 10th
anniversary of the October Revolution, and in 1930, having obtained a six-month visa, he
returned to the United States96.

Back in Boston, he withdrew from political life and henceforth resumed his duties as head of the
Albanian Autocephaly Orthodox Church. In 1935, he returned to one of his earlier passions,
music, and, at the age of 53, registered at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston,
from which he graduated in 1938 with a bachelor of music. On 12 April 1937, Noli’s great
dream of an Albanian national church was fulfilled when the patriarch of Constantinople
officially recognized the Albanian Autocephaly Orthodox Church. Not satisfied with
ecclesiastical duties alone, Noli turned to postgraduate studies at Boston University, finishing a
doctorate there in 1945 with a dissertation on Scanderbeg. In the early years following World
War II, Noli maintained reasonably good relations with the new communist regime in Tirana and
used his influence to try to persuade the American government to recognize the latter. His

95
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 329.

96
Ibid.

46
reputation as the “red bishop” caused a good deal of enmity and polarization in émigré circles in
America97. In 1953, at the age of 71, Fan Noli was presented with the sum of US$ 20,000 from
the Vatra Federation, with which he bought a house in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he died at
the age of 83.

Politics and religion were not the only fields in which Fan Noli made a name for himself. He was
also a dramatist, poet, historian, musicologist, and, in particular, an excellent translator who
made a significant contribution to the development of the Albanian literary language.

IV.1.7. Foqion Postoli (1889 - 1927)

Foqion Postoli was a novelist and playwright. Foqion Postoli was born in Korça of a merchant
family. He studied commerce for two years in Constantinople where he had relatives and,
subsequently, like many people from Korça at the time, emigrated with his family to the United
States, settling in Massachusetts. There he worked as a secretary for the Brockton chapter of the
“Vatra” Federation and collaborated in the latter’s main publications, the Boston newspaper
“Dielli” (The sun), where much of his writing was first published. In 1921, after a 14-year
absence, he returned to Albania to help found the Albanian Autocephaly Orthodox Church. The
two novels and one play for which Postoli are remembered were all written in America within
the years 1910 – 1919 and were first published in the pages of “Dielli”. His first novel, “Për
mprojtjen e atdheut” (In defence of the Homeland), 1921, is a typical product of the romantic
nationalism of the late “Rilindja” period, a sentimental love story full of patriotic ideals and
virtue. The novel “Lulja e kujtimit” (the flower of Remembrance), Korça 1924, though suffering
from the same artificiality and triteness of plot, is, artistically speaking, a slight improvement.
This two-part tale of romance and patriotism proved more popular and became one of the best-
known Albanian novels of the 1920s and 1930s98.

97
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 364.

98
Ibid. Pp. 330.

47
IV.1.8. Kristo Kirka (1883-1955)

Kristo Kirka was an Albanian patriot, diplomat, politician, and activist. He is one of the most
contributing figures of the Albanian national cause.99

Kirka was born in 1883 in Korçë, Ottoman Empire (today’s Albania). Korçë was home of most
of the activists of the Albanian National Awakening. He finished the elementary and high school
in his home town in Greek language. From a young age he came in contact with Albanian
patriotic circles of that time, following with a trial from the Ottoman authorities. Kirka skipped
the trial and left the country, settling in Boston, MA in 1905.

Kirka got engaged with the Boston based “Besa-Besë” organization founded in 1907. In 1908,
he went to New York to participate the ceremony of ordination of Fan Noli together with Sotir
Peci and others. Following the engagement of Noli with the Albanian Orthodox Church in
United Stetes, Kirka became president of “Besa-Besë”. After the merging of the society with
other Albanian-American organization and the formation of Vatra, the Pan-Albanian Federation
of America, Kirka became manager of Dielli newspaper and head of the Vatra’s Boston
branch.100 In 1913, he was sent to meet with Albanian Colony of Romania as a representative of
Vatra, from there Kirka went to Durres to welcome the arrival of Prince Wied, newly elected
Monarch of Albania.101

In 1914 he joined the cheta of Themistokli Germenji, and left again for United States in 1915.
On July 4, 1915 he was elected vice-president of the Congress of Vatra, where was decided to
send a delegation in Europe to support the Albanian cause together with the establishment of a
support fund.102

In 1921, he accompanied Noli in his trip to Albania as a representative of “Vatra”. He was


elected representative of Korça region in the first Albanian parliament. He joined the pro-British

99
“Vatra” founder, Kristo Kirka’s monograph published, Albanian Screen TV, 2012-07-09. 2014.

100
Boston Register and Business Directory (85), Sampson & Murdock, 1921. Pp. 49.

101
Fan Noli (1918), Kalendari i Vatrës i motit 1918, Boston, MA: Vatra Press. Pp. 58, 59.

102
Ibid.

48
“People’s Party” (Albanian: Partia e Popullit) of Noli, and was one of the contributors of its
statute. He was one of the main supporters and participant in the Congress of Berat, where the
autocephaly of the Albanian Orthodox Church was declared in 1922. In 1924, he was assigned as
General Counsel of Albania in Boston, and later in NY.103 Meanwhile, from 1925 to 1929 he
served as the President of “Vatra” Federation.

Kirka left United States and returned to Albanian in 1933, this time bringing his family with him.
In 1935 he was assigned as vice-prefect for Himara, where he fought against pro-Greek elements
struggling for re-establishment of Greek schools in the area. In 1937, he was transferred as vice-
prefect for Bilisht.104

With the Korca control by the Greek army during Italo-Greek War in 1940, he was one of the
first arrested by the Greek military authorities and sent to a prison near Athens. He was released
after the German Occupation of Greece and returned to his hometown where he became mayor
during 1942-1944.

Kirka joined “Balli Kombetar” (National Front), and served as member of Balli’s District
Committee for Korçë. He rejected all attempts for bringing him in to the National Liberation
Front. With the triumph of Communist forces in 1944, many Balli elements would be arrested,
imprisoned, and even executed. Kirka was arrested in late 1944, but released by an order
from Beqir Balluku 12 days later. He would get arrested for the second time in June 12, 1946,
this time for good. He was sentenced with 20 years of prison. Kirka died in the Burrel Prison on
April 28, 1955.

His home and all belongings got confiscated. He son would get arrested soon-after and
imprisoned. His wife and three daughters would suffer the oppression of the Commumist
regime.105

103
State Department (1925), Register of the departament of state, p. 273

104
Sami Repishti (2013-05-18), “Kristo Kirka, the patriot of the two Albanias” (in Albanian), Dielli.

105
Reshat Kripa (2012-07-11), A book for a martyr, Kristo Kirka (in Albanian), www.zemrashqiptare.net

49
As a patriot and contributor of the national cause, he would get rehabilitated later, though he
remained somehow forgotten even after 1990. On September 2014, Albanian President Bujar
Nishani accredited the medal “Honor of the Nation” to many “Vatra” personalities, including
Kristo Kirka.106

IV.1.9. Mihal Grameno (1871 – 1931)

Mihal Grameno was a writer, publisher, and nationalist figure. The literary and patriotic
activities of Mihal Grameno span the Rilindja and independence periods. Grameno was born in
Korça of a merchant family and studied at the Greek school there before immigrating to
Romania in 1885. In Bucharest he became involved with the nationalist movement and in 1889
became secretary of the burgeoning Drita (The Light) society107.

Mihal Grameno was not only an ideologist of the “Rilindja” movement, he was also a man of
action. In 1907, he joined the Çerçiz Topulli band, an early guerrilla unit fighting against Turkish
troops in southern Albania. With his fiery eyes and flowing beard, he was the epitome of the
Balkan freedom fighter and bandit.

In July 1909, he published the first issue of “Lidhja orthodhokse” (The Orthodox League) in his
native Korça, a fortnightly newspaper of nationalist aspiration, which lasted until June 1910,
when it was closed down by the censors. On 1 February 1911, he began editing another
newspaper in Korça entitled “Koha” (The Time), a weekly political and literary journal
published to defend the rights of the Albanian people108.

106
President Nishani awards the "VATRA" Federation and the prominent Albanian-American activists, Presidency
of Albania

107
Skendi, Stavro (1967). The Albanian national awakening, 1878–1912. Princeton University Press. Pp. 207, 211,
421. 2010.

108
Jacques, Edwin (1995). The Albanians: an ethnic history from prehistoric times to the present. McFarland &
Company. Pp. 313–317, 348.

50
In 1915, Mihal Grameno immigrated to the United States and continued publishing the weekly in
Jamestown, New York, until 1919, with the subtitle “the organ of the nationalist Albanian.”
Deeply concerned about Albania’s very survival following the convulsions of World War I and
the continued lack of a stable government there, the Albanian American community sent Mihal
Grameno and five other Albanian delegates to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference to represent
Albania’s interests.

As a literary figure, Mihal Grameno first became known in 1903 for his patriotic poem “Vdekja”
(“Death”), though the political fervor of this and later verse was never matched by any particular
linguistic finesse. More readable are his plays and short stories. On the eve of Albanian
independence, he printed a volume of fiery nationalist verse entitled “Plagët” (The Wounds;
Monastir, 1912), and in later years published the memoirs of his experiences as a guerrilla fighter
in “Kryengritja shqiptare” (The Albanian Uprising; Vlora, 1925)109.

Mihal Grameno was a typical figure of late “Rilindja” culture, full of romantic nationalism and
creative energy, determined to improve the sorry lot of his people and defend their rights. He
personifies the nationalist hero–writer of this age and is thus much admired in Albania.

IV.1.10. Milto Sotir Gurra (1884 - 1972)

Milto Sotir Gurra was born in Korça region of southeastern Albania, who spent the most of his
productive life abroad: first in Odessa on the Black Sea and later in America, Constantinople,
Sofia and Costanzia110. He wrote literary prose and short stories, was also a journalist. As an
emigrant, he well understood the loneliness and isolation of those in exile. Many of short stories,
written in an unpretentious narrative style, therefore reflect the nostalgia and bitterness of
southern Albanians forced to emigrate from their homeland in search of work and a better life. A
collection of twenty-two of these tales was published under the title “Plagët e kurbetit”, Tirana
1938 (The Torments if exile).

109
Hoerder, Dirk; Harzig, Christiane (1987). The Immigrant Labor Press in North America, 1840s–1970s: An
Annotated Bibliography: Volume 2: Migrants from Eastern and Southeastern Europe 031326077X. p. 474.

110
www.wikipedia.com

51
IV.1.11. Nexhmie Zaimi (1917 - 2003)

Nexhmie Zaimi was born in Albania in May 1917 and died 18 April 2003 in Santa Barbara,
California. She was a noted Albanian American author and journalist.111

In Albania, when Zaimi was twelve and half years old, her father visited her in her bedroom and
proceeded to tell her that she would have to begin wearing a veil whenever she went out of the
house. When he handed her the veil, without saying a word, she opened the window and threw
the scarf onto the neighbours roof where it remained for several days. Her father, angry, called
her a “wild goat”, the equivalent of tomboy in Albania, and left the room. This rebellious act
would set the tone for Zaimi’s adult life.112

Nexhmie was one of the first six (along with her brother Mehmet) to attend high school
in Albania, run by American Presbyterian missionaries. While a teenager in Albania, her
traditional family tried to force her into marriage. She ran away from Albania and became the
first female from Albania to achieve a higher education at Wellesley College.113 She soon
became an American citizen.

While attending Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in New York City, she
married Henry M. Margolis, an attorney and businessman, in the 1940s. They divorced in the
early 1950s. She had one son, writer Eric Margolis.

In 1938, her autobiographical book Daughter of the Eagle was published and became a national
best-seller.114

111
George Henderson,Thompson Olasiji. Migrants, Immigrants, and Slaves. University Press of America, Inc.
Pp. 147.

112
Ganchev, Nexhmije. “Në arkivin e CNN dhe Zërit të Amerikës, një vend të veçantë zë dhe dosja e gazetares
shqiptare, Nexhmije Zaimi” (in Albanian). Albasoul.com. Retrieved Dec 11,2009.

113
Ibid.

114
“Gjakova-L Per Leksikonin e shkrimtareve shqiptare: Nexhmie Zaimi” (in English and Albanian). Alb-Net.Com.

52
During World War II, she worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) (predecessor of
the Central Intelligence Agency). After the war, she took a very active role in Albanian-
American affairs, becoming president of the Pan Albanian Association “Vatra”. She aided
Albanian immigrants and helped support her family in Albania.

In the early 1950s, she was one of the first American female journalists to report from the Middle
East. She interviewed Egypt’s leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat, and Jordan’s King
Hussein. She was also one of the first journalists to write and lecture widely about the Palestinian
refugees, whose plight was virtually unknown at the time in the United States. She delivered a
study to the United States State Department in which she warned that unless the problem of the
Palestinian refugees was resolved, it would blow up in America's face in fifty years. It would be
exactly fifty years later that 9/11 struck America. Her broadcasting and speaking careers were
terminated after the newspapers for which she wrote were pressured into dropping her writing,
and constant threats were made against her life and that of her young son.115

During this period, Mrs. Zaimi came down with severe glaucoma and other eye ailments that
crippled her and prevented her from writing another book. She worked for the Albanian
community in New York and New Jersey, translating at the New York Criminal Courts, and
engaging in community activities and helping war refugees in Europe. She also lived for periods
in Paris, Rome, Geneva, and Cairo. She was a strong voice in the United States against Albania’s
Communist regime. Her Manhattan home was constantly filled with journalists, artists, writers,
diplomats, UN personnel, and visitors from Europe and the Mideast. Due to the onset of
blindness, Nexhmie Zaimi reluctantly left New York in the 1980s and moved to a retirement
community in Santa Barbara, California. In her late 80s, she took over the care of three children
from Kosovo who had been gravely injured by accident in a NATO airstrike. She continued to
write her second book until her death. Remaining proud and defiant to the end, in 2003, her body
finally gave out.

In Albania and New York, she was widely known as “the First Lady of Albania”. Italy had made
her a “Knight Commander” of the Crown of Italy.

115
“American Studies in Albania and the Future” (PDF). John F. Kennedy-Institut Berlin, Refik Kadiji 1994 Paper
68. Pp.12.

53
IV.1.12. Petro Nini Luarasi (1864 - 1911)

Petro Nini Luarasi was born in Luaras, Kolonjë District and died in Ersekë, Kolonjë District. He
was an Albanian Rilindas activist, Christian orthodox priest, teacher and journalist. His father,
Nini Petro Kostallari, had also been active in the Albanian National Revival as a publicist and
teacher.

Once that he finished the Qestorat seminary school under Koto Hoxhi,116 he worked as a teacher
in the villages of Kolonjë District, where he taught Albanian in disguise and prepared a number
of friends as future teachers of Albanian. In 1887-1893 he opened in Ersekë and in some villages
of the Kolonjë District Albanian language schools.

Subsequently he emigrated to the United States in the 1904 - 1908 period, where he was an
active member of the Albanian National Movement and initiator of the patriotic associations
“Motherland Nostalgia” (Albanian: “Mall i mëmëdheut”) and “The Pellasgian” (Albanian:
Pellazgu). Luarasi also worked as a director and teacher of the first Albanian School of the
Gjerazi sisters in Korçë and in 1909-1911 he worked as a director of the Negovani school, which
had been founded by Papa Kristo Negovani. He also contributed to the organizations for the
Liberation of Albania from the Ottoman Empire.117

Petro Nini Luarasi was one of the delegates of the Monastir Congress that sanctioned the
creation of the Albanian alphabet in 1908. For his patriotic deeds, teaching of the Albanian
language and social activism he was persecuted both by the Young Turks and the Ecumenical
Patriarch of Constantinople. He died poisoned by them on 17 August 1911.118

He collaborated, published and was editor in chief with the following magazines:

116
Jacques, Edwin (November 1994). The Albanians: an ethnic history from prehistoric times to the present.
McFarland & Company. Pp. 290–291.

117
Myzyri, Hysni (1978). The First National Albanian Schools 1887- July 1908. 8 Nëntori. Pp. 114 and 137.

118
shqiptarortodoks.com “Diffamation of the Albanian and Excommunication of the Albanian letters” (PDF) (in
Tosk Albanian).

54
 Nations’s Union (Albanian: Bashkimi i kombit) (published in Monastir during the 1909-
1910 period), where he was editor-in-chief;
 Drita, (published in Sofia, Bulgaria during the 1907 - 1908 period);
 The Nation, (Albanian: Kombi) published in Boston, in 1908;
 The Freedom (Albanian: Liria) published in Thessaloniki during the 1909-1910 period.

In these journals he published teaching, poetry and publicist writings. In his political
work Excommunication of the Albanian letters (Albanian: Mallkimi i shkronjave shqipe) and
“The Defamation of the Albanian” (Albanian: Ç’përfolja e shqiptarit) (Manastir, 1911) he
protected the rights of the Albanian people to their own national culture. He propagated the main
ideas of the Albanian National Revival which were those of uniting the Albanian people in their
fight for the freedom of Albania, no matter the religious beliefs.119

IV.1.13. Peter Prifti (1924 – )

Peter Prifti was an Albanian American scholar. Peter Rafael Prifti was born of an Orthodox
family in Rehova in the southeastern district of Kolonja. On 28 March 1940, at the age of 15, he
immigrated to the United States to join his father and older brother, settling initially in
Philadelphia120. He graduated from Penn State College in 1949 with a Bachelor of Arts degree
and got his master’s in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania in 1955. In 1958, at the
invitation of the “Vatra” Federation, he moved to Boston to work for the Albanian newspaper
“Dielli” (The Sun) for two years. From 1961 to 1976, with the exception of a year of studies in
Paris, Prifti worked at the Center for International Studies of the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, where his interests were focused on his Albanian homeland. In 1976, he moved to
San Diego to teach Albanian at the Department of Linguistics of the University of California.

119
Myzyri, Hysni (1978). The First National Albanian Schools 1887- July 1908. 8 Nëntori. Pp. 114 and 137.

120
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 368.

55
Prifti is the author of: “Albania’s Cultural Revolution” (Cambridge, 1968); “Albania and Sino–
Soviet Relations” (Cambridge, 1971); “Socialist Albania since 1944” (Cambridge, 1978);
“Confrontation in Kosovo: The Albanian–Serb Struggle, 1969–1998” (Boulder, 1999); “Remote
Albania: The Politics of Isolationism” (Tirana, 1999); and “Unfinished Portrait of a Country”
(New York, 2005), as well as of literary translations and numerous articles on Albanian politics
and history. He is coauthor of “Readings in Albanian” (San Diego, 1979); “Spoken Albanian”
(Ithaca, 1980); and “Standard Albanian: A Reference Grammar for Students” (Stanford, CA,
1982)121.

IV.1.14. Sami Repishti (1925 – )

Sami Repishti is an Albanian – American scholar and human rights activist. Sami Repishti was
born in Shkodra, where he attended school until 1944. He studied modern history at the
University of Florence in Italy from 1942 to 1943, then returned to his native Shkodra122.
Together with most other Albanian intellectuals who had studied abroad before or during World
War II, he was arrested in the witch hunts of late 1946 and, accused of having “Western ideas”,
was sentenced on 28 November 1946 to 15 years in prison. From 1946 to July 1956, he worked
in various labor camps (in Kavaja, Berat, and Fier and at Rinas airport) until he was released.

After three years as an assistant carpenter, he managed to escape to Yugoslavia on 22 August


1959, where he was imprisoned for 11 months by the Yugoslav authorities. On 1 September
1961, he escaped to Italy, from where he immigrated to the United States on 9 April 1962123.
From 1962 to 1964, he studied French language and literature at the City University of New
York and, after a year of studies in Paris in 1970–1971, he finished his doctorate at CUNY in
1977. Starting in 1966, he taught French and Italian at Malverne High School in New York, and

121
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 369.

122
Ibid. Pp. 383.

123
Ibid. Pp. 384.

56
from 1978 until his retirement in 1991, he taught French at Adelphi University in Garden City,
New York. He currently lives in Baldwin, New York.

Sami Repishti has been active in the field of human rights, in particular for Kosovo. He was a
founding member of the Albanian – American Civic League, serving as its executive director
until 1992 and, from 1996 to 1998 was the first president of the National Albanian American
Council. He is coauthor with Arshi Pipa of “Studies on Kosovo” (New York, 1984) and has
written numerous articles on Albanian history and the human rights situation. His memoirs were
published as “Pika loti: tregim burgu” (Teardrops: Prison Memoirs; Shkodra, 1997) and “Nën
hijen e Rozafës: narrativë e jetueme” (In the Shadow of Rozafa: A Lived Narrative; Tirana,
2004).

IV.1.15. Sotir Peci (1873 - 1932)

Sotir Peci was an Albanian politician, educator and mathematician. In 1906 he published the first
Albanian-language newspaper in the United States of America in Boston. In 1908 he participated
as a delegate in the Congress of Monastir. In 1920 he was appointed Minister of Education of
Albania. Sotir Peci, the son of wealthy merchant Jovan Peci, was born in Dardhë, a village
near Korçë, on July 13, 1873124. His father died while he was a child. Peci studied at the local
school in Korçë. In 1890 at the age of 17 he enrolled at the University of Athens where he
studied physical sciences and graduated with a degree in mathematics.125 While in Athens he
published the Albanian dictionary written by Kostandin Kristoforidhi.

Like many people in the Korça region at the beginning of the twentieth century, he emigrated to
America (1905), where hi published “Kombi” (The Nation), the first Albanian – language
newspaper in North America. Kombi lasted for the three years until 1909 when it was succeeded
in February of that year of “Dielli” (The sun), founded by Fan Noli and Faik bey Konitza. Peci

124
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 350.

125
Canadian review of studies in nationalism: Revue canadienne des études sur le nationalisme. 30-32. University of
Prince Edward Island. 2003. Pp. 46.

57
was involved in the “Besa-Besën” society of Boston in 1907 and attended the Congress of
Monastir from 14 to 22 November 1908126. From 1909, he taught mathematics and science in
Elbasan, and from 1911 – 1912 was headmaster of the school in Korça, where he was the author
of textbooks127. Peci was a member of the National Party from 1914 – 1920 and was elected as
vice – chairman of the Congress of Lushnja in January 1920, subsequently being appointed
minister of education in the administration of Sulejman bey Delvina. During his time as minister,
he laid the foundations for a national system of public schooling. Peci was a member of the High
Regency Council (Këshilli i lartë i Regjencës) for a couple of years and, on the 16 June 1924, as
its only remaining member, it was he who appointed Fan Noli as prime minister. Peci remained
in government office during Noli’s so-called Democratic Revolution in 1924, but blocked
important reform legislation. When Ahmet Zogu took power at the end of that year, Peci fled
abroad and joined the Bashkimi Kombëtar (National Unity). On 21 September 1927, however he
took advantage of the general amnesty proclaimed by Ahmet Zogu and returned to Albania. He
died in Florina (Greece).

IV.1.16. Stavro Skendi (1905 - 1989)

Stavro Skendi was a Scholar and cultural historian. Stavro Skendi was born in Korça and studied
at the prestigious Robert College in Istanbul, where he obtained a B.S. in mathematics. He
continued his education at the Geneva School of International Studies in Germany and returned
to Korça in 1930 to teach mathematics at the national secondary school. There he became a
leading figure of the nationalist movement in the 1930s. Because of his antifascist inclinations,
he was interned by the Italians, together with many other Albanian intellectuals, for 18 months
on the island of Ventotene in the Tyrrhenian Sea. In 1941, he returned to Korça and opened a
bookstore. Soon forced into hiding, he escaped to Istanbul in the summer of 1943 and remained
there until 1946, when he immigrated to the United States. With the assistance of the American

126
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 351.

127
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 364.

58
Council of Learned Societies, Skendi was able to resume his studies and, in 1951, finished his
doctorate at the department of Slavic languages at Columbia University in New York. He taught
for a year at the University of Toronto and then returned to Columbia, where he was active until
his retirement in 1970. He was a lecturer in the program on East-Central Europe and a research
supervisor of the Mid-European Studies Center. In 1972–1973, he also worked for the Institute
for Advanced Studies at Princeton128.

Stavro Skendi, author of numerous books and articles on Albanian and Balkan history, politics,
and culture, was one of the leading figures of Albanian scholarship in the United States. Among
his major monographs are “Albanian and South Slavic Oral Epic Poetry” (Philadelphia, 1954);
“The Political Revolution of Albania 1912–1944” (New York, 1954); “Albania” (New York,
1956); “The Albanian National Awakening”, 1878–1912 (Princeton, 1967); and “Balkan
Cultural Studies” (New York, 1980).

IV.2. AMERICANS FOR ALBANIA

IV.2.1 Edwin Jacques (1908 – 1996)

Edwin Jacques was an American scholar and historian. Edwin E. Jacques was a Protestant
missionary who worked as a teacher in Korça from 1932 to 1940, where he began collecting
material on Albanian history. He was in Rome in 1940 and then returned to the United States to
obtain a master’s degree at Boston University in 1941 with the thesis “The Islamization of
Albania under the Turks”129. He visited Albania in 1986. Jacques’s major contribution to
Albanian studies is his 700-page history of Albania, The Albanians: An Ethnic History from
Prehistoric Times to the Present (Jefferson, N.C., 1995). This work is the longest and most
complete history of Albania written in English. It has recently appeared in an Albanian
translation.

128
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 418.

129
Ibid. Pp. 210.

59
IV.2.2. Frances Trix (1948 – )

Frances Trix was an American scholar and anthropologist. Frances Trix was born in Bellefonte,
Pennsylvania. She studied Near Eastern languages and literatures at Middlebury College (1966–
1968) and at the University of Michigan (1968–1972), where, after years of teaching at home
and abroad, she finished her doctorate in linguistics in 1988130. She was long associate professor
of anthropology at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and is now associate professor
of anthropology at Indiana University in Bloomington. Trix is the foremost English-language
expert on the Bektashi order of dervishes and was closely associated with Baba Rexhepi during
his final years in Detroit. She is the author of Spiritual Discourse: Learning with an Islamic
Master (Philadelphia, 1993); The Albanians in Michigan (East Lansing, 2001); Sufi Journey of
Baba Rexhebi (Philadelphia, 2009); and numerous articles on Islam and the Bektashi.

IV.2.3. John Kolsti (1935 – )

John Kolsti was an Albanian American scholar. John Sotter Kolsti was born in Boston,
Massachusetts, of a family of southern Albanian descent. He entered Harvard University in 1956,
where he finished his doctorate in 1968 under the supervision of folklorist Albert Bates Lord
(1912–1991)131. From August 1966 to July 2007, he served as professor of Slavic languages and
literatures at the University of Austin in Texas. Kolsti is the author of The Bilingual Singer: A
Study in Albanian and Serbo–Croatian Oral Epic Traditions (New York, 1990) and of articles on
Albanian epic poetry and politics.

IV.2.4. Leonard Newmark (1919– )

Leonard Newmark was an American scholar and linguist. Leonard Newmark, born in Indiana, is
professor emeritus of linguistics at the University of California in San Diego and was a research

130
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 451.

131
Ibid. Pp. 237.

60
linguist at the Center for Research in Language there. He has been involved in the study of
Albanian since 1951, when he began to teach the language as a graduate student at Indiana
University. Since then, he has participated in seminars in Albanian language and culture in both
Albania and Kosovo. He is the author of Structural Grammar of Albanian (Bloomington, 1957)
and Albanian–English Dictionary (Oxford, 1998), unquestionably the best Albanian dictionary
ever to have appeared; and is coauthor of Spoken Albanian (Ithaca, NY, 1980) and Standard
Albanian: A Reference Grammar for Students (Stanford, CA, 1982)132.

IV.2.5. Nicholas Pano (1934– )

Nicholas Pano was an American scholar and historian. Nicholas Christopher Pano studied at
Tufts University and pursued his M.A. at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. He was subsequently
professor of history at Western Illinois University in Macomb. His research has focused on 20th-
century Albanian history and politics. He is the author of People’s Republic of Albania
(Baltimore, 1968).

IV.2.6. Rose Wilder Lane (1886 – 1968)

Rose Wilder Lane was an American writer. Rose Wilder Lane was born in South Dakota, the
daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House on the Prairie books, and was raised
in Missouri. At the age of 17, she went to work at Western Union in Kansas City and, in 1908,
moved to San Francisco, where she began writing for the women’s page of the San Francisco
Bulletin133. Her short stories for women’s magazines soon made her the highest-paid woman
writer in the United States. After the publication of her first book, she accepted a job at the
American Red Cross and Near East Relief, investigating and reporting to the press on conditions
in Europe and the Near East to raise money for relief work. She began work at the Red Cross

132
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 327.

133
Ibid. Pp. 262.

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office in Paris and, from there, traveled to Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, and Albania, which was her
lasting interest. She was scheduled to move on shortly from the refugee camp that she was
visiting in Shkodra when a fellow American Red Cross worker, Frances Hardy, persuaded her to
join a small party that was about to embark on an expedition to the northern Albanian mountains
to set up schools.

It was this journey in 1921 that inspired her book “The Peaks of Shala, Being a Record of
Certain Wanderings among the Hill-tribes of Albania” (London, 1922), one of the most
delightful contributions to America’s discovery of Albania in the early decades of the 20th
century134. Rose Wilder Lane was not an anthropologist with a profound knowledge of the
Balkans, nor was she an experienced political commentator like her scholarly though witty
British predecessor, Edith Durham; she was not even a specialist in travel literature as such. But
she was able to do bring the very foreign world of the highland tribes of northern Albania home
to the American reading public, and this she accomplished with eminent skill and simplicity.
Despite its exotic subject matter, the “Peaks of Shala” was an immediate success. Indeed, it
went through three printings soon after its first appearance on the book market.

In 1926, five years after her trip to the Shala district, she returned to Albania with her friend, the
author Helen Dore Boylston, and their reluctant French maid, Yvonne, with the intention of
building a house and settling there for good. The narrative of her journey from Paris to Tirana in
a Model T Ford called Zenobia was published by William Holtz as Travels with Zenobia, Paris
to Albania in a Model T Ford: A Journal by Rose Wilder Lane and Helen Dore Boylston
(Columbia, 1983)135. For family reasons, Rose’s dream of living in Albania permanently was not
be to fulfilled, and she was forced to sail back to America a year and a half later. The Great
Depression soon set in, and all hopes of returning to her beloved Albania had to be abandoned.
She died in 1968 at the age of 81, on the eve of a planned trip around the world.

134
Robert Elsie, “Historical Dictionary of Albania”, Second Edition (Historical dictionaries of Europe; no. 75) The
Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010. Pp. 263.

135
Ibid.

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CONCLUSION

Albanian emigration to the United States started in the late 19th Century, albeit at a very slow
pace. The first wave of Albanian immigrants came from Korça and other areas of southern
Albania. They were predominantly orthodox young males who hoped to return home after they
made money on the new continent. Their main center was Boston and the Greater Boston area.
Until the late seventies, Boston was to remain the major center of Albanian immigration in the
United States. The awakening period, had found a big number of Albanians in America, fighting
with pen in hand for Albanian independence. In this big number of personalities we mentioned
all Albanian – American personalities which gave their contribute on National Awakening. Some
of more important figures and personalities were the follow:

 Arshi Pipa (1920 – 1997);


 Bilal Xhaferi (1935 – 1986);
 Christo Anastas Dako (1878 – 1941);
 Costandine Chekrezi (1892 – 1959);
 Elez Biberaj (1952 - );
 Fan Noli (1882 – 1965);
 Foqion Postoli (1889 - 1927);
 Kristo Kirka (1883-1955);
 Mihal Grameno (1871 – 1931);
 Milto Sotir Gurra (1884 - 1972);
 Nexhmie Zaimi (1917 - 2003) ;
 Petro Nini Luarasi (1864 - 1911) ;
 Peter Prifti (1924 – );
 Sami Repishti (1925 – );
 Sotir Peci (1873 - 1932);
 Stavro Skendi (1905 - 1989);

They contributed mostly in “Kombi”, “Drita”, “Dielli”, “Tema” etc; with their publicist works.
Also thei have a lot of other works, individually and cooperating which each-other.

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