ZHITI: -You made me an honorary member of you, I say it sincerely, I feel and touched, I want to speak openly as between friends, as with the glass of wine in my hands, that is, with the excitement it gives you and Some as long
Wishing you all the best for all of you and your works, other achievements and joys, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for becoming an “Honorary Member” of your association, which, as the name says, this is an act of honor for me and not only that, but also hospitality, appreciation, one as giving another hand, the spiritual, love
Since in the USA is the Association of Albanian-American Writers, it has multiple significance, cultural, national and international, I would say, of an intellectual commitment, of the height of the XXI century, of building a living bridge between the motherland, Albania and second home, the US and, although writing is a personal activity, it is necessary to be together, to recognize and reveal common values, to inaugurate them with the community, with the reader without limits, with time and to convey to the homeland and the future.
I know your names, I know from the works you have published, published in the “two homelands” and many other places, are the wealth of our letters in the “language of the gods”, as the renaissance called our Albanian, but also in great English and rich, powerful as its own people.
Since you made me an honorary member of you, I say it sincerely, I feel and touched, I want to speak openly as among friends, as with the glass of wine in my hands, that is, with the excitement it gives you and Some as long
From the beginning I would like to say that I have never been a member of the League of Writers and Artists of Albania, on the contrary, I was condemned by them, when it was a dictatorship and our country was part of the communist empire, divided and from it in the meantime, closed like a large, suffocating bunker. I had completed my higher education, I was a young teacher in the mountains of our North, on the border with Kosovo, in an extremely poor village, but with virtues, and I was arrested for my poems. They are not of socialist realism, the judges said, they are sad, hermetic, hostile. Poetry is just poetry, in my opinion. Other charges were added to the trial, as to why I had read banned literature and listened to “Voice of America”, “Vatican Radio”, “Radio Prishtina”. I was sentenced to 10 years in prison. And in hell I secretly wrote poetry, I believed in them as prayers to God, I wanted to testify, to save what I could from myself, to create the emotion of poetry even where it was not allowed. I got my creations out of jail. I did too, but I was stripped of my publishing rights. I continued to write secretly, until the day came when the Berlin Wall, which divided the world in two, but also humanity, collapsed, the communist empire fell, not only by itself, but also by the efforts of the advanced capitalist world, by the active humanism of the USA and the United Europe. And Albania, the smallest country with the most brutal dictatorship, changed, opened up, became free, as much as it could, took the right path, that of freedom and progress, of the Euro-Atlantic alliance, as we say now.
I too became part of this movement, of the great change, so very difficult, necessary, full of sacrifices. I was like a wave in the endless waves of my people. I started publishing my poems, I invented the genre of “burgology”, I published articles, essays, stories, novels, I showed the persecution and resistance of the opponents, their martyrdom, our truths that we made and literary truths, this it was very important, in my opinion, to enrich our lives with as many other lives as possible, and with those that were extinguished or interrupted, to receive and give, memory and feelings, blood and spirit, time spent for the future , metaphors of pain, ie books…
We longed for the world and many Albanians did not wait for the world to come to us, but fled to it, through Europe and America. The US remained the dream. They fled from the past and met the future. We are the people who have the largest diaspora, we are more outside than inside just as we are the only country that borders everywhere with its own lands. while now we are two Albanian states in the Balkans, which anyway strengthens us as a nation. We have a common, exemplary and unique diaspora. Let us remember that century-old Arbëresh in Italy, with the fascination that can be found, that has given us poems, the foundations of our literature; there are also the Illyrian Arbneshs on the Dalmatian coast, the Arvanites so dramatic in Greece, the Arnauts in Turkey, the Albanians in Romania, where the Naimian books of our Renaissance were printed and are being reborn again, etc., up to Russia, but also here Egypt, etc. There are also the newest diasporas in Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, in the Nordic countries, in Spain, across the Mediterranean, flourishing everywhere, especially across the ocean, on the new continent, in America. The Albanian Diaspora in the USA is also the superpower, important and active, that waves without fear and pride the two flags, the one with the two-headed eagle, among the oldest in the world, of the mother earth and the one with 50 stars, of the homeland of second, world superpower, champion of freedom and democracy, potent in culture and art, definitely in literature… Albanians of America for over a century have been committed to the fate of Albania, its independence, exist and continue and today, unite, manifest for the national cause by being active American citizens, lobbying, reaching out to Congress, the Senate, the Presidents and seeking, influencing the support and resolution of national cardinal issues, since the denunciation of dictatorial violence, abuse of democracy, genocide in Kosovo, etc. and economic well-being, but also cultural. As icons we have the image of our Saint Mother Teresa, “Honorary Citizen” in the US and our National Hero, Gjergj Kastrioti – Skanderbeg, who is said that without her, maybe America would be different.
But whose was the foot of the first Albanian to land on the shores of this ocean? The first landed the Arbëresh of Italy, another exile from exile. They brought with them language, beautiful dresses, songs, pride. This is evidenced by the excellent Argentinean-Arbëresh writer, Ernesto Sabato, to whom, when he came to visit Albania, I gave him a handful of soil from his dream Arbëria. We both mourned tari the first Albanian who trampled America is related to poetry, which he seemed to want to prevent from being defended here and there for his compatriots who would come. He was a poet and prisoner, the abbot from Mirdita, Preng Doçi. He came here almost a century and a half ago, went to Canada and came back where he came from as the church ministry wanted. But the one who remained is Kole Kristofori from Korça, he came in 1886. He needed a monograph on it, someone once wrote it, everyone, he felt it was his duty, memory is an order, and thankfully that publication was preceded by the preface of one of the pens one of the most excellent and important Albanian letters, Fan Noli, and was translated into English as the beginning of integration. So, the first Albanians in the US realized that they would need the book, just as much, if not more than you wanted the ships with which they ravaged.
The “Library that walks”, as the French poet Apollinaire called it, would be headed here by Faik Konica, the astonishing writer and esthete, critic of the National Renaissance Doctrine and with him Monsignor Fan Noli, the greatest Shakespearean of his time, that would establish the “Hearth” of the Albanians just like the autocephalous church. It is known, they are in the glorious chronicle of our diaspora in the US. I have always dreamed of a statue of Faik Konica with Fan Noli side by side. Where? Where they cooperated between the oppositions or where there are more Albanians or maybe in front of the Albanian embassy in Washington as the greatest ambassadors of Albanian history and culture, world-class intellectuals.
Albanians, but especially those of letters, with the United States are equally bound by wise freedom, found here what they had lacked, for which they would fight. There came those whom our country, when liberated from the Nazi-fascist beast, but occupied by the communist victors, had sentenced to death, opponents, leaders, statesmen, but also people of letters in the meantime. With the establishment of the communist dictatorship, the son of the great Frashërllins, the leader of the nationalists, the writer Mit’hat Frashëri, the university albanologist Stavro Skëndi, the writer and philosopher, the laureate of the Sorbonne, Isuf Luzaj, escaped persecution. Likewise, other personalities of history such as Kole Bibë Mirakaj and Kadri Cakrani who saved thousands of Jews from persecution, but could not escape from their brothers, the prime minister family of Dinaj of Dibra, the minister, historian and anthropologist Ago Agaj, etc.
I remembered from those I had seen books, memoirs. But I could not stay without remembering the other leading writer, Ernest Koliqi, who visited the USA and his novel “The Taste of Bread”, which was published outside Albania, when the first novel of realism was being asked to be published there. socialist, showed life in exile in Italy and the USA. In the Blessed States, as the early emigrants called America, great Albanian artists emerged, such as the Belushi brothers or the photographer of the artistic image, Picasso’s friend, John Mili. And from here the Qiriazi sisters returned to the homeland, to open schools for Albanians, but the victors treated them as not worse, ended up in prisons and madhouses, abandoned…
One of our comrades, friend and poet, Pano Taçi, was imprisoned, even though he had been a partisan, because he wanted to come to America, where he had his exiled grandfather.
Upon his release from the dictatorship prison, another poet, the eminent scholar Arshi Pipa, fled to the United States with the prison poems with him, written on thin cigarette papers. A rare proof of literature in the world. Here, Albanians also know how to save the book. After prison he escaped and Dr. Sami Repishti, who is already an “Honorary Member” of the Albanian Writers Association of America together with the well-known American poet Carrie Hooper, who has learned our language so well. Later, the Cham writer, Bilal Xhaferri, with his father shot as an opponent, when he escaped, took with him the manuscript of his novel about Skanderbeg. How many and how many young people afterwards, ah, were killed near the barbed wire of the border, dragged by the bloody snow on the mountain slopes, walked their corpses on carriages through villages and towns to terrify the people. However, the young Gjekë Marinaj managed to escape without falling into dictatorship. The cause became his already known poem, “Horses”. Apparently, among their herd was his Pegasus, who with mythical wings took him and brought him to the USA. With his initiative was founded the association of Albanian-American writers, wonderful, I would say, as a fact and we did.
And you, its current President, Mr. Adnan Mehmeti, you have published a book, where you reveal the activities of the Association you lead and the works. It’s her literary diary. There are many of your books. Among the Albanian writers in America are many well-known names, the avant-garde literature of Albanian letters today. In the United States of America there are Albanian schools for children, but also Albanian institutes and departments, associations, theater, etc., is the newspaper over a century old “Dielli”, the oldest of all newspapers of all diasporas in the US, but is also “Illyria”, there are local media, TV magazines, temples of faith, Catholic, Orthodox, Nolian church first, Albanian Mass, mosque and tekke, etc., there are Albanian studios as well as restaurants, consulates and embassies, stress there, hurricanes and successes, rallies and merchandise, & c. The Library of the American Congress, I have visited, has more books of Albanian literature than other countries in the region and is the richest of all libraries anywhere in the world, after the National ones in Tirana and Pristina. Above all, it is the living institution of Albanian conversations. There is an Albanian spirit here.
Albanians, both from the early and the new diaspora, came for a better life, for the high economic standard, well-being and more. And you can find them everywhere, in all jobs, in construction and business, in gastronomy, in libraries, airports, banks, in translations, even from English to Albanian and from Albanian to English, even poetry, you can find them in art, painting , sports, definitely in “Voice of America”, which also speaks Albanian, in the army and defense, in prison and madhouses, in law and medicine, etc., in cinematography up to Hollywood, in the top state administration, up to the House White, in science, up to the Nobel Prize. Albanians also find sculpture… And luckily there are writers, poets and poets. Writing in Albanian. But also, English. Having their own association, inner spiritual constitution. That you can search American bookstores and find Albanian books.
The Albanian language is a world treasure. It is old and belongs to the 10-11 most important languages, I would say to the young people here, it is rooted in Indo-European languages. And it must be preserved and the first to be taken care of with love and diligence are us, the Albanians. Parents and teachers, to pass on and teach generations and writers to cultivate it by continuing to build the Cathedral of the Albanian Language, hierarchical and here. Albanian literature, meanwhile, is a martyr literature, perhaps one of the most heroic of the literatures, it was delivered even when the Albanian language was the only one banned in the Ottoman Empire. He gave great works and gave under the communist empire and after its fall, another literature came out, secretly written about prisons and internments, which brought those realities that were missing, but also the truths of morality, finally brought itself and is valuable part of common Albanian letters.
Meanwhile, the beautiful opposite happened, one as anti-immigration, so very appropriate, returned to the motherland the literature of the diaspora, which continues and we have become together, the literature in Albania, in Kosovo, in the Balkans, everywhere in the world, better than ever.
The latest, coming from across the ocean, is me, of course not the last. I belong to those who came out of prisons, I took out and I still keep my poems, as I said, as I wrote them in hell, in notebooks stained with earth and blood. Maybe donate it to an archive or museum.
I have found here my accomplices, fellow prisoners, who have also published books, but also from those of the persecution bureaucracy, who have also published books. Both sides carry their experience, memories, hatreds and nostalgia, but America is immeasurable, of all freedoms, healthy and brings us together in understanding and peace and Albanians here like all American citizens in social life have and conflict between them, common holidays, prejudices and unions, taste and the right to vote, both in the homeland they left and in what they chose, while the US loves and supports Albania equally, its assistance remains vital, protects it as always and sees it as its ally. Often the small gets the most attention. And the big one makes us more realistic, more natural.
I came here with my wife, she has American citizen parents, sister and brother and their families and she really likes the work here, which is appreciated and given. Her care for me is beautiful and touching and I want to give her back as well. Our angel, our son, Atjoni, has grabbed us by the hands, and we go where he leads us, we try to be the way he would like us to be. We are with him. More than on earth, in Heaven. The sky is the same as the earth. How majestic are the heavens of America! We came here after I fulfilled all my duties to the country, the commitments and the mission. I tried to work honestly, even with passion, giving importance not to what separated me from those who gained governance, but what united us, the love for the homeland and its recovery. I, who had been sentenced to prison poetry, was publishing almost one book each year, and even books by others. I have enjoyed the love of the readers, even of those with whom I have worked, of the neighbors and of those who have led Albania. I was entrusted with the deputy, the diplomat, the minister of culture. I have always felt like a man of letters. I was doomed to them. Meanwhile, I say with despair, I realized that we, the former prisoners in the post-dictatorship, needed them more than they loved us. They needed our suffering, our ideals, our allies, what we represented, but not us. I gave the right to those who fled.
I did not find it easy, they even attacked me when the revenge of the past, of those who allowed the dangerous oligarchs as a state within the state, that is, themselves, was being plundered. The blows could also be noisy, e.g. from any television even modern, clan set up on corruption, however national, even from above, from some president of the Republic, who does not deserve to be named, came from the army of communism and just like his Kalashnikov once, brought out with bursts of slander and disruption. I endured them and overcame them, muttering to myself: but why aren’t you running away from them? I want to say that in our country a difficult, harsh democracy is being experienced, under the dictatorship of poverty and now under the siege of the Corona virus pandemic, which has plagued the world, when we have not yet recovered from the ideological pandemic of totalitarianism as in Roman Orwellian. Recently, the relevant cultural institutions in Albania did not give us support for the realization of a feature film about the prisoner revolts, the only political uprisings in all the prisons of the communist empire, where the director of that film and his screenwriter will to be two former political prisoners, possibly some of the actors, who were participants in that revolt. We are still attacked with their former films, their books, their attitudes and their state posts. Of course, I believe that this epidemic, like wars and dictatorships, will pass, to face new challenges, all in the name of good! Our country has wonderful people, a people who know how to stay with dignity.
And with art.
But I wanted to escape a nightmare and came to the US as one who wants to surrender to a dream. We have with us our history and our tragedy. More than distance, than calm and peace here, I need another reality that does not hurt or deceive you. Pure in all senses. Other conversations with friends are just as good as they always are. The day came when I needed the remaining self-more, to protect it and to have the fullest time and opportunity to say what I would like to finally say, not that I had missed the freedom that I had secured myself. I am rich and with my losses. My pain here seems to me to be better maintained and so is it. Where they do not know me. My new reality unites the present with the most beautiful, which was fatally interrupted for us, but which, by the power of the Creator, we can experience and continue it differently, without the places of pain nearby, under the light that our Son sends us from Heaven, that I, if I could write it, would need a different house, another, though rented as life itself… So, I have not run away. The homeland is the same. I just got into the dream. I am allowed…
With faith, as our forefathers said, and with love,
Chicago, Roselle, November 22, 2020