Find Out Why We Should Listen
Interviewed by Rafaela Prifti/
1- “I don’t run anything” was your opening statement at a network meeting, of all places, that was hosted at the Saint George Cathedral in South Boston the first Saturday in November. It is counter-intuitive given the premise of networking and its purpose. But that was only the beginning, right?
I started with that line to get their attention and to remind everyone of the struggles each and every Albanian including the ones present at the meeting faced in the beginning as newly arrived immigrants. Years and Decades later every single Albanian is able to dedicate their own success to their hard work , Faith and persistence in trying. I particularly wanted to focus on the successful story of having and being part of a purposeful Albanian community. I think that these kind of networking meetings are a must for strengthening the ties between the many Albanian communities in America. Three decades after the fall of communism in Albania, the only first generation of Americans from Albania you could refer to today are the ones who came here after the nineties. The majority of guests at the networking event were specifically first generation Americans from Albania including myself.
2-Your given name is a conversation starter, right? It is also a connection to your family and ethnicity.
I was born in Korce, Albania and emigrated in US at the age of 18. My wife Ina, also from Korca, and I met in Boston over 15 years ago. We are blessed to have two boys. The Zdruli’s are from the very first families that settled as early as 18th century in the rugged but beautiful Dardha on the highlands of the city Korca. Many Albanian Christians found refuge in Dardha to live their lives free from the oppression and destruction of the Ottomans. My grandfather emigrated from Dardha to US in the first quarter of the 19th century where he lived the majority of his life, unfortunately away from his family because of many factors involved during that time-frame. My parents gave me an American name in his memory and to honor his sacrifices as a US citizen. Finally, because of my grandfather’s sacrifices, today my kids are the first generation of Albanian Americans who are born on US soil, Worcester. Ma, amongst four generations of Americans in the span of 100 years.
3- You have a very active role and involvement with the community. Can you talk briefly about it?
My involvement with the Albanian community in US started in Boston although now continues in Worcester. During the time I lived in Boston I have also served in leadership positions of many community based initiatives mostly from the efforts of the AANO Boston Chapter. I recall the past Flag Day celebrations and numerous fundraising events to benefit the student scholarship fund and Boston AANO basketball team. Most recently, I serve as the President of Sons of St. Mary’s and Co chair of the Albanian Festival of St. Mary’s Albanian Orthodox Church in Worcester Ma.
4- You see your own mission in the context of your involvement with the Church and through it to others. Can you talk about that purpose you feel?
I am glad you’re asking me this question. I will give you my perspective as a Christian believer.
I briefly spoke about the need to strengthen our Albanian community in US. This task can not be successfully achieved without having a vision for the future. This vision consist of fulfilling our duty as parents in growing the next generation of Albanian Americans with the same freedom and values this blessed nation was build and prospered to be the beacon of freedom for all the people around the world. With other words, focusing to build a strong family, will serve as the basis towards a successful future for our children. Every parent and grandparent, despite their differences in views can agree that prosperity in the long run doesn’t just come from wealth but also depends on the right knowledge and wisdom. For us Christians, this can be achieved through living a faithful life in prayer and obedience to God almighty by practicing the teachings of our faith in church and in our daily lives. In the world at large today, this way of acting is becoming extinct from priority and I believe that’s a very dangerous path to follow. I believe that we can’t control our children’s decisions when they become adults but it is our duty to guide them and become their primary teachers and counselors throughout their life, no matter their age. I also have observed that if we would like our children to retain the same family values, Albanian traditions and culture as we did, then we should try harder in preserving our Albanian friendships by making sure our children will be able to attend after school programs and activities together. If we believe and want to be part of an Albanian community that should have longevity, then we also should be able to open and run these programs successfully no matter the cost. We really need to analyze what means to be part of a community. Just because someone comes from Albania does not necessarily means that they’re part of a community. Many individuals and families that come from Albania don’t retain the ethnic and social interaction within their ethnic group for various reasons. It’s much easier for them to loose the Albanian culture, language and traditions in just one generation.
5- You say your two boys ask you at various events: Why are we always with Albanians? What do you say to them? What does it mean to be an American now that as you put it “We are the Americans!”?
Before leaving Albania under the old system, we prayed the Americans would bring hope and solutions for us in Albania. Still today majority of the Albanians believe and wait patiently for remarks or comments by the American officials on many matters, especially those in the political and leadership spectrum. The one thing that everyone should understand and value more, is that today those Americans and that voice should be coming from us who are the new generation of Albanian-Americans. There are no better Americans who know and care more for the Albanian cause than us, but we should encourage everyone here in US to do their part in bringing new hope and solutions by getting our voices together strengthening and supporting our communities we serve here first.
* Read the entire interview and Frank Zdruli’s message for Independence Day in the November issue.