by Drilon Gashi/
Translated by Rafaela Prifti/
“Reporting for Radio Television of Kosova, Sulejman Gashi, New York” – this was how my father signed off his live reporting for RTK news broadcast. In the 1990s a particular kind of audience sitting in coffee shops and living rooms around the country followed his reporting with intense anticipation. The mounting escalation of Serbia’s repressive regime gave cause to people’s fears for their future. An information vacuum prevailed in the country following the extreme measures of the Serbian regime to shut down the Prishtina Radio Television and the only daily newspaper in the Albanian language Rilindja. The shutdowns meant thousands of layoffs for the employees including my father, who were left without any employment options. Shortly after my dad migrated to the United States, in New York. Here he pursued his vocation by providing news coverage for Albanians for more than two decades.
As a TV correspondent of New York and Washington, my father’s voice carried the promise of hope for Kosova and the Albanian diaspora in America. It was the hope for better days for Kosova, the promise that America will stand by the struggles of our homeland and the dream of a better future for Albanians.
My father reported for Kosova’s National Broadcaster RTK for 25 years. He was a guest reporter on the Kosova program of Radio Zagreb, Radio Tirana and the satellite channel of RTK, and a contributor for the newspaper Rilindja (Bujku). He co-founded the daily Albanian-American newspaper Illyria with Isuf Hajrizi and Harry Bajraktari to draw the attention of American politicians and powerful institutions to the plight of Albanians particularly in Kosova. The mission of the news outlet was to support the independence of Kosova and democratization of Albania. He was an accredited journalist with the United Nations.
Starting in 1993, Sulejman provided translation services, guidance and accompaniment to a multitude of delegations and visitors including state dignitaries, government officials and professionals from Kosova, Albania and other parts of the Balkans at the behest of the State Department. He was assigned to translate for President Bill Clinton, Secretary Madeleine Albright, Secretary Hillary Clinton and many state officials from the US and around the globe. He was team leader with the Public Information Office of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) while serving as advisor to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Bernard Kushner.
He did all this so that Kosova would be free and Serbia would put an end to the persecutions, killings and systemic expulsions of Albanians living in an independent country.
Dad used to say: “Filing a story, a report or segment that carried some hope for Kosova’s future, would brighten up my day.” And so the condolences that we have received for his passing have weighed heavy on our hearts but they also have reinforced our sense of pride on account of the life and legacy of Sulejman Gashi. We are proud of his character, professionalism, dedication, and patriotism. Most of all, we, as a family are proud of him as a husband, a son, father, brother.
His love for our mother was deep, sincere and unwavering. He respected and adored her. At times he showed his fondness with humor. Above all, he was aware that being in love with Tone, the catholic girl from Cabiq, whom he met in high school, was the most precious gift in life. He was fortunate that he was loved back by our mother intensely and boundlessly thus setting up an extraordinary example for us, their children and all who have seen their dedication to one another.
He loved his four children Saranda, Drilon, Janina and Egzon infinitely. In return, he expected our love and respect. He was loving and caring as well as strict with us. He encouraged us to be achievers in America. Our father gave us guidance in areas of academic knowledge and counsel in terms of being successful and compassionate. He was a constant mentor who taught us by example how to love Kosova and Albanians.
To me, he was more than a father. He was my idol, my best friend and no one will take his place ever.
He was very close to his parents, Elfije and Sherif. He looked after them with deep devotion, love and respect. He honored his parents as well as his birthplace Kijeva, where he invested to have the family home rebuilt after it was damaged from the war. Grandma Elfije was frequently heard singing a folk tune: “Mother has no other son like the one named Sulejman.” The Serbian paramilitary troops and regime had plundered the homes of Albanians in Kosova. As my father put it: “above the charred rooftops of Kosova, I could see the red-and-black flag flying free at last.”
My father is one of five sons of Sherif and Elfije: Sulejman, Selajdin, Abraham, Arben and Ardian. He used to say to his siblings: “There were five Frasheri brothers. Each a patriot and activist in their own right.” Indeed each of the Gashis strived to be upstanding men and walk in the footsteps of their beloved “Sule”.
His homeland of Kijeva and family name of Tahirhasan were a source of enormous pride for him exemplified in highly regarded men like Ramadan Shabani and Kajtaz Ramadani. The household of Ramadan Shabani were renowned for the elders who settled many blood feuds among the families for over a century.
Today we say farewell to Sulejman Gashi aka Sulejman Sherifi who will be also remembered as one of the great men of Kosova and the Albanian nation. My father was affectionate with all family members, relatives, friends, colleagues and his admirers. He kept in touch and wrote back to everyone in a personal way giving support and advice if asked. He enjoyed their successes and even poked fun at the right time. He showed empathy and was there for them in hard times.
I would like to address one special connection that he had. He loved America as one loves their best friend. To my father, America is the best friend of Kosova and Albanians. He made it his life’s work to solidify the special bond of America, Kosova and Albania.
My dad was passionate about life, culture, history, multiculturalism and realism of the United States. Through the State Department work and through family and personal trips, he had traveled to all the states save five, where he had seen the big cities as well as the countryside, the national parks and museums all across the nation. Some of his favorite places were New York, Washington, San Diego and Seattle. He had a soft spot for the country music and was delighted to walk in a pair of cowboys boots. He was by all possible accounts an Albanian-American. He was equally proud of his birthplace and his adopted country of the United States. He was immensely appreciative of Fan Noli and Faik Konica. His own lifework places him at the highest level of Albanian-American achievements.
This ceremony has brought together government officials, religious representatives of different faiths, and the media to honor the life and work of Sulejman Gashi which carry special significance. Let my father’s example inspire people who hold similar political views to challenge each other in search of progressive solutions, and move groups of opposite convictions to join forces in service of a common cause for the good of the people. Let his example allow believers of different faiths to engage in mutual understanding as neighbors, friends or family and put the nation above religion. Let us be uplifted by the promise of hope that my father conveyed and that will stay with his memory. Hope that Kosova and Albanians will move forward toward real progress, that Kosova and Albanians, united in their pledge to their country, will triumph over many challenges and rivals. And hope that America will back Kosova and Albanians as a manifestation of a lasting and enduring friendship.
I speak for the whole family when I say without exaggeration and full awareness that to us, the son, brother, husband and father, Sulejman Gashi was a masterpiece. An avant garde and tireless promoter of the ideals of our people, a valiant patriot, a professional and a wiseman, respected and respectful, a contemporary example for all, a beloved and devoted family man.
He truly was the embodiment of the motto that his family’s elderly Man Hasani of Caralluka lived by.
When asked why the seniority of the elderly post was bestowed upon the TahirHassan family, the old man answered: “Because there never was a dark stain in that household, because they never got mixed up with other’s men’s affairs, because not only did they memorize the rules of conduct (Kanun) but they also lived by them, they were fair in their judgment and never played favorites with the powerful or the wealthy or even their friends, they never engaged in bribery, their youth respected the elderly, they never said “ME” but “WE” – they always appreciated the councill of the fellow men (oda) and they never meddled with disputes that had been settled by the predecessors. “
Dearest dad, we are heartbroken that we have to bid farewell here in the free land of Kosova that you loved without measure and whose freedom brought you immense joy.
Here I am signing off one last time as my dad used to do at the end of his reporting, for Radio Television of Kosova, our family’s hero and the nation’s voice of hope, Sulejman Gashi! Farewell our most beloved!