Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu Way was granted the Honorary Name Designation by the Worcester City Council. The petition applies to adjacent blocks on Salisbury Street that might have a second sign as soon as this summer just in time for the Albanian Festival in early June. Addressing last night’s Council meeting on behalf of The Sons of St. Mary’s, an active entity in the Albanian community for 50 years, its President Frank Zdruli said that the “name designation of Skenderbeu, Albania’s national hero, bestows an honor onto all Albanians.” Inside the meeting hall and up at the balconies, there were representatives of Vatra Worcester, Sons of St. Mary’s and young Albanians. Zdruli encouraged the young Albanian Americans in particular to be inspired and strive for the highest offices of public service.
Greg Steffon of The Son’s of St. Mary’s put the emphasis on the unifying effect of a figure like Skenderbeu. Similar to the old generations of Worcester honoring the Salisbury name of Anglo-Walsh origin, “the Albanian families including mys predecessors who migrated here in the early 20th century became part of the fabric of the city ” said he in addressing the Council meeting. Over the years “the old” became a network and support system for the new waves of immigrant Albanians, some of whom came after the war in Kosovo. Steffon pointed out that the name designation of the crucially important historic figure “honors the old and the new generations of Albanians.” In fact the two Worcester City Councilors Donna M. Colorio and Ethel Haxhiaj who jointly filed the application for the ceremonial street sign with the City Clerk Nikolin Vangjeli, illustrate the point adequately. Councilwoman Colorio who is of Albanian descent and Councilwoman Haxhiaj who came to the city from Albania in 1997 exemplify achievements that are made possible thanks to support by the whole community. Other Councilors endorsed the petition calling it “a well deserved recognition for Albanians – the largest growing community in Worcester.”
Behind the organizing efforts of the petition is The Sons of St. Mary’s, an active entity in the Worcester community for 50 years. Though the pandemic delayed a few of their projects, they are determined to bring back the Albanian Festival, a bountiful event and a proud manifestation of Albanian culture and heritage. This year the ceremonial naming coincides with the 555th death anniversary of Albania’s national hero Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu (1405-1468) It is very fitting therefore to have the music, food, crafts and lots more under the street sign with his name on it.
Both Zdruli and Steffon made it a point to reference the new designation of Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu Way as the “only way to find the Festival”.
Joseph Petty, Mayor of Worcester, who presided the City Council meeting, approving the Yes vote, said that “Albanians are a big part of Worcester’s history and will be a part of its future.”