By Rafaela Prifti/
At the celebration of the 106th anniversary of the Pan-Albanian Federation Vatra, the recipients of the awards praised the organization for its role in the community and in the advancement of the national interest. While each one of them has a lasting individual relation with Vatra, all three delivered a similar message for the future in their acceptance speeches.
Doctor Elez Biberaj stated that “being honored by Vatra, this historic organization that has served as the center of patriotic activity of the Albanians of America and has provided a great contribution to the freedom, independence and democracy of our nation, is a great honor and privilege.”
He recognized the long-standing connection with Vatra going back to the beginnings of his career in journalism and media communication. In his acceptance speech, he thanked his family and expressed special gratitude to his parents, Hysen and Ajshe Biberaj, who nourished his pride and love for the nation, as well as the sense of duty to uphold the values of our beloved homeland.
On a personal note, Dr. Biberaj added that the timing of the Lifetime Achievement Award is more meaningful because it coincides with the 50th anniversary of his family’s immigration to America. His concluding remarks were “Our family is very fortunate to have achieved the American dream and for this we are very grateful to this blessed democratic country. The United States has given us the opportunity to be loyal American citizens and at the same time make a modest contribution to the aspirations of our nation for freedom, independence and democracy.”
As the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Professor Sami Repishti expressed gratitude for being acknowledged by Vatra on its 106th anniversary of its founding! As an Albanian-American, he said that he accepts the award with pride especially since “Vatra has been, is and will always remain “a second Albania in America” for me.” Praising the work of the older generation of Vatra’s members especially during the 45 years of the Communist regime, Professor Repishti noted that this victory is a precious ‘inheritance in our hands’.
With regards to the dynamics of the new century, he pointed out that “in the last three decades, starting in 1990, there has been a significant wave of new migration from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Cameria. The result is a large, active and economically sound Albanian community in America. The future of Vatra is secured!”
Professor Sami Repishti reminded everyone that “the present day Vatra faces new tasks. The number of successful intellectuals and businessmen in our community means that there are opportunities for greater contributions in several areas.” Reflecting on the new composition, he presented the following points:
Knowing America’s history, respecting the Constitution and the laws of this great country, and embracing the values of liberty and justice for all. Let’s strengthen even more the Albanian-American ties. Secondly, safeguarding the Albanian language, the traditions of honor and hospitality, and especially the love for our homeland. Let’s open new Albanian schools, celebrate our national days, expand the writing and speaking of the Albanian language, and even represent our community in the local, state, and federal government. Mr. Mark Gjonaj is a good example! Thirdly, assisting Albanians in the Balkans where they truly need help to improve their difficult conditions. Also, standing up to defend the Albanian lands in the Balkans. Albania and Kosovo are small countries with great enemies both inside and outside the borders. The bonds that unite Albanians are stronger that the divisions that are imposed on us!
In the end, Professor Sami Repishti called on everyone to Join ‘Vatra’ Federation and stand by its Chairman and the dedicated editor of its newspaper in nurturing our love for the homeland.
Naum Prifti’s acceptance remarks started with a personal episode from his childhood that determined the course of his life as a writer in Albania. While he continued to create and his body of work became more known, there were rumors that hinted at ‘the convenience’ of two brothers writing on either side of the Atlantic Ocean: Peter Prifti in America and Naum Prifti in Albania. He noted that he remained on the path of writing though he was aware that some of his works would never be published there. “Since I was not considered trust-worthy to be allowed to travel outside of Albania’s borders, I crisscrossed every part of the country, North, South, East and West, and met with the farmer, the blue collar worker, the officer, the soldier, the shepherd and so on. I came face to face with the pain and the suffering, the folk tales and the legends, the humor and the tragedy but above all I came face to face with the Albanian spirit that has always fueled my writing.”
In reference to the post-communist era, the writer explained “Even when I came to the United States, there were still rumors about my loyalties. Again writing was my salvation. I poured my thoughts into new works of fiction and journalistic essays. After 70 years of being a writer, I have no reason to alter or edit any of my works because I have been true to myself.
Naum Prifti’s enduring relationship with Vatra began shortly after his arrival in New York in the early 1900s. “I joined Vatra in the position of Secretary under the Chairmanship of Agim Karagjozi.”
In his conclusion, Naum Prifti stated that “Vatra’s strength is not measured in its monetary funds but in the hearts of the dedicated members that are guided by the highest national ideals. This anniversary is a confirmation of Vatra’s steadfastness. Vatra is the HEARTH that DOES NOT EXPIRE!”