By Rafaela Prifti/
The third meeting on the 2019 Albanian Day parade called by the leaders of the Albanian Roots was held on Thursday, May 9. In attendance were members and representatives of organizations from Ana Malit, Kraja, Dibra, Albanian Excellence, Pan-Albanian Federation of America Vatra, Plave Guci, Albanian Youth Center and more. The founder of Albanian Roots and chair of the meeting, Marko Kepi, presented the agenda and addressed a wide range of items. He announced that the names of the parade honorees were finalized. In support of this year’s theme, Mr. Kepi presented a draft letter intended for Ambassador Besiana Kadare at the Permanent Mission of Albania to the UN. It stated: “The Albanian American community organizations voted to dedicate this year’s Albanian Parade to the victims of Cameria on the 75th anniversary of this sad and painful part of our history.” The letter recalled the event “A matter of Humanity: The Rescue of Jews in Albania during the Holocaust” held earlier this year at the UN Headquarters, and urged to have the same platform advocate for ‘the Albanian victims of Cameria. “We Albanians take pride in our rescue of the Jewish population during World War II, in helping them survive the Holocaust.” Similar to the UN Mission of Albania’s homage to all the Jewish victims, we “urge you to organize an event dedicated to honor the lives of those innocent victims we lost in the hands of Greek General and Nazi collaborator Napoleon Zerva.” Seventy-five years later, the Greek government has not apologized nor does it acknowledge the genocide on the innocent Albanian population. The team of writers for the final draft will include members of the Dibra organization. In the draft letter addressed to Congressman Engel, copied to New York City Councilman Mark Gjonaj, President of Albanian American Lobby Joe DioGuardi, heads of government of Albania and Kosova states, the writers will urge Mr. Engel to introduce a resolution in Congress to honor the innocent victims and ask the Greek government to apologize and recognize the genocide by taking the first step in allowing the survivors to return home for the first time in 75 years.
Albanian American Organization Chameria (A.A.O.C) a Non-Governmental Organization, based in Chicago and members of the Cham Albanian community will be joining the parade. Some of the logistical items that were raised and discussed at the meeting included the program of the Parade Week and the accommodations for the production team and the costumographer who are traveling from Albania. The Top Channel journalist, Marin Mema and a crew member are filming a documentary covering the parade week and visits with the community organizations. The co-founder of Folk Tradition, designer Edlira Sula will be bringing the costumes of the Chameria region to the parade. Another issue involved parade items and promotional products such as Albanian and US flags, knitted scarfs, bandanas and more. With regards to personal vehicles, there is a $500.00 fee to obtain a car permit. The discussion over the sound system and entertainment list draw constructive debates as the community representatives shared the experiences of past years’ parades. As the Parade Performance Program is being finalized, the Albanian Roots has asked each organization to bring a singer or celebrity from their region. Some associations such as Ana Malit and Dibra have made their $500.00 donation.
Due to the high volume of activities in the weeks leading up to the parade, the Gala Event of the Albanian Roots will be rescheduled. The new date will be in the fall of 2019.
All of the attendees at the meeting were engaged in collaborative discussions and provided valuable input to the agenda. The next and final meeting will take place on June 2 at 6 pm. The Albanian Day Parade is on June 8 2019!
A BRIEF COMMENT AND SOME EXCERPTS FROM PAPERS RELATING TO THE FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, THE PARIS PEACE CONFERENCE, 1919
The Pan-Albanian Federation of America Vatra will be joining the community organizations at the parade dedicated to the victims of Chameria. Founded on a national program, Dielli has continuously raised awareness on the issue based on documents and data in support of the truth. It is in the interest of knowing the history and the facts in relation to the Treaty of Berlin (1878) and the Conference of London (1913) that we provide a few excerpts from the papers relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, the Paris Peace Conference (1919) as background of the genocide on Chameria population in 1944. Included with the statement, there were the names and maps of the Albanian villages leveled by the Greek bands in 1913. The conclusion reads as a warning for the atrocities that occurred two decades later: “the massacres suffered by the Albanian populations inhabiting districts [that were] annexed […] give just cause to fear the fate in store for them, and their only hope of peace would be emigration or death.”
“The Treaty of Berlin has justly been called “Albania’s Funeral Treaty”. Nevertheless, the mutilations made by it might be called scratches, when compared with those later inflicted on Albania by the Conference of London of 1913. This Conference not only settled the Kalamas line (repudiated by the Albanians, as stated above), but also gave Greece the whole region from Arta to Cape Stilos. This region, which is known as the Chameria and is between 30 and 40 kilometres long, had a population of 63,000 before the Balkan War—40,000 being Albanians, 14,000 Christian Albanians, and 9,000 Greeks (or speaking Greek among themselves).
At the time of the territorial readjustment of the Balkans in 1913, our country was sacrificed for the sake of its neighbours, because the imminent danger of a European conflagration had to be averted at all costs. But now that the conflagration is over and the questions connected therewith are being settled by the triumph of the rights of nationalities, we are fully convinced that the rich districts which are wholly Albanian and as such necessary to the existence of Albania, will in justice be restored to their mother country.
The Conference is certain to appreciate the difference between our own legitimate desire for the return of brother Albanians to the Albanian family and the unjust claims of our neighbours, who, not content with having snatched from us so much wholly Albanian territory by force, now ask permission from the Congress to take yet more away.
Much emphasis is laid on the Greek sympathies of orthodox Albanians. In contradiction to this we bring forward the opinion of Lord Hobhouse, who accompanied Lord Byron to Albania and at the beginning of the 19th century wrote as follows concerning the populations forming the Ottoman Empire:—
“Only the Albanians are conscious of nationality; all the other peoples of the Empire are grouped according to religion”.
Our opponents claim precisely that part of Albania which was burnt out by the Cretan bands of Zographos and disguised Greek soldiers under the command of Greek officers. This is clearly shown by the sketch which I have the honour to submit to you,6 and which gives the names of the villages concerned.
It is a curious fact that the Greeks set fire to precisely those villages which they considered and still consider Greek. On this subject M. Vaucher, correspondent of “L’Illustration,” writes:—
“The whole region of Kolonia has been laid waste since Greek bands passed through it in 1913. Names marked on the map are merely memories, for in reality they are only represented by shapeless ruins marking the site of Mussulman villages.”
The excesses and massacres suffered by the Albanian populations inhabiting districts annexed by the above-named States give just cause to fear the fate in store for them, and their only hope of peace would be emigration or death.
The probable fate recalls the words of Tacitus: “Ubi solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant”.
PAPERS RELATING TO THE FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, THE PARIS PEACE CONFERENCE, 1919, VOLUME IV Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/45 BC–38
ALBANIAN CLAIMS Statement by Touran Pasha, Report for February 24, 1919