By Merita B. McCormack/
On the occasion of Albanian Flag Day and the 109-th Anniversary of Albania’s Independence, the Albanian Community in Northern Virginia organized a series of events.
We started first by participating at 10:45 AM Sunday Mass at St.John the Apostle Catholic Church, home of the Albanian Community in the Diocese of Arlington, which was followed by other meaningful events including an Albanian parade, raising of the Albanian flag, and entertainment.
We were graced throughout the day with the presence of first-class relics of Albanian martyrs at the church and are very grateful to Fr. Kevin Larsen for his beautiful and heartfelt prayers. You could see tears flowing down our cheeks as the relics were visited first during the processional, using incense, venerated by the priest, and the long lines of people wanting to do the same after the Mass. They were invoked several times throughout the Mass. These relics were sent to the Albanian Community in the Catholic Diocese of Arlington by Bishop Angelo Massafra of Albania, to whom we are very grateful.
We are grateful also to Mr. Bujar Maxhuni, Kosova DCM, and Diplomat Merdiana Leci from Kosova Embassy in the USA for attending the Mass as well. Also, a big thank you to Shaqir Salihu, who came to Mass wearing the famous tie of Mit’hat Bey Frashëri, and who always supports such community events. One was the Flag raising at Ida Lee Park, in Leesburg, VA and the other was a rich artistic program at the auditorium of the church.
The post mass events were attended by over 130 Albanian Americans, the Albanian Ambassador to the US Ms. Floreta Luli – Fabër, several diplomats from Albania and Kosova, including Kosova’s DCM to the US, Mr. Bujar Maxhuni, several Albanian American dignitaries, and one elected official for the County where this event took place. The most prominent was the entire Biberaj family. Ms. Buta Biberaj is the Loudoun County Commonwealth Attorney and Mr. Elez Biberaj is a VOA Division Director.
The Albanian parade and flag-raising ceremony was an emotional one. Albania’s Ambassador met us at the public park and during her greeting, she expressed her thanks and gratitude for the organizers and participants, emphasized that this was the first such event in Virginia, and wished everyone Happy Albania’s Independence. The Albanian Embassy posted several photos on the Facebook page with a special tag for PACTDC. Ms. Buta Biberaj posted on her Twitter page the following statement
“What a pleasure to be celebrating our Albanian culture in our Loudoun County. May this inaugural event be the first of the next 100 years. Thank you#PACTDC for your sponsorship and for the many dedicated volunteers.”
Ms. Buta Biberaj greeted and spoke as an Albanian American and encouraged the young people, Albanian Americans to appreciate their heritage and cultivate the best from both cultures. She was impressed by a large number of participants. She was dressed in red and black, representing Albanian flag colors.
The ceremony started with a moment of silence to honor the memory of all the fallen of the nation. Then it followed up with the singing of the American Anthem and then the Raising of the Albanian flag accompanied by the Albanian Anthem. A traditional men’s dance from the region of Vlora was performed at that venue.
Then everyone proceeded for some light refreshments and entertainment at the auditorium. This ceremony was MC-ed by our beautiful and eloquent friends Anisa Papadhima and Kreda Boçi. They presented in both Albanian and English and were dressed in National Costumes of Albania. The speech included quotes from Ismail Bey Vlora ( Qemali) and also expressed the sentiments of the day.
A slideshow with Happy Independence greetings in Albanian from all the performing artists, all young children from the Northern Virginia area was presented. That was very beautifully done. Mr. Maxhuni greeted the participants at the third part of the festivities inside. It was a beautiful moment for us all to have our brothers and sister in blood be present there.
The artistic program, effectively and eloquently MC-d by Kreda and Anisa, included gratitude, thanksgiving, dancing, and singing from all Albanian regions and the story of PACT was shared. There were snacks, desserts and other refreshments served. The dance floor was opened to all with the dance of Pajtushka/Katjushka
The cake with the Albanian flag was baked by the talented Ira Mehani from “Irene’s Treats” in Baltimore, MD, and was cut by Albanian Ambassador Mrs. Fabër, Mr. Maxhuni, the Biberaj family members, and joined by the hosts and organizers of the events.
This would have never been possible without the generous hosts namely St John The Apostle parish and the Albanian Community under the Office of Multicultural Ministries in the Diocese of Arlington who provided the indoor Venue and the Town of Leesburg for the outdoor venue.
During the indoor activities, on behalf of the hosts, the author of this article welcomed guests, expressed thanks and gratitude, and shared what we do to keep the best Albanian traditions and culture integrated in the USA. The atmosphere was just beautiful. We are grateful to God for the abundant blessings. We are thankful to all the organizers and helpers.
One can have the venue though but without the will and talent of people who give from their hearts, none of this would have been possible.
A huge thanks to Anisa Papadhima, co-founder and Artistic Director of PACTDC and Kreda Boçi, co-founder and Activities Director, MC, and the community effective networker, their husbands Pavli and Toni and their entire families, also many thanks to Liljana Pali Luku for the hard-working decorator and planner extraordinaire, her husband Edmond Luku for all of the creative and hard work of coordinating the flag-raising logistics, to Malvina & Elvis Shehu for their continuous support throughout all of the rehearsals, event planning and event day, to Valbona Aliaj Selimaj for all her multifaceted help and advice, hairdos, love, and support showed throughout, to Evisa Selimaj, our contemporary Marigo who led the parade along with her husband Junik, co-raised the flag together with her brother and lead dancer Albi Selimaj.
Special thanks go to Adhurim Selimaj, the lead master of Laberia songs, to Kaliopi Kosta Lazeri, Matilda Shehu Lazeri & Miri Lazeri for setting up, performers hairdos, checking in guests and ensuring the event was a success, to Andora Stanton and her family for assisting setting up and support throughout the event, to Albana and Rikard Ndreu for supporting all dance rehearsals and assisting setting up, Entela Kovaçi for supporting all dance rehearsals, providing a traditional frame for decoration and assisting setting up and ensuring a successful event. Most importantly, Ira and Bledi Mehani, owners of “Irene’s Treat’s” Company provided their delicious traditional desserts, a variety of byreks and surprised the community by gifting a beautiful cake with the Albanian flag and wish “Gezuar 28 Nentorin”.
The most important part of these all are our young children, who led by Laura Boçi, taught by Anisa Papadhima have been diligently practicing, learning the traditional Albanian folk dances. They are truly the heart and the soul of the community and they performed beautifully. They shined and they rocked it! Well done to all!
A special thanks to Fr. Thomas Cavanaugh for his beautiful reflection and benediction. His words of wisdom, his advice, and his love, by invoking mother Teresa and sharing her charism were well received and cherished. St. John the Apostle Catholic Church is currently serving as a home base for our community here in the Diocese of Arlington.
We are eternally grateful.
His name and St. John were also tweeted by Ms. Biberaj, with thanks and gratitude.
It was a good, blessed Albanian feast in the heart of America’s East Coast.
Thank you, everyone!
Happy Flag Day!!
Long Live Albanian Nation!