By Ermira Babamusta/*
It is a privilege to be a guest at Vatra, a place I consider family, and to be gathered here at such a historic location – the Immaculate Conception Center in Little Neck, New York, where Mother Teresa was a guest and gave a speech 43 years ago to the seminary graduates.
It is such an honor that we are gathered here today to celebrate our identity and our values.
Today I want to talk to you about some of the prominent Albanian historic figures, the legacy they left behind, and principles of success.
We as Albanian-Americans have the best of two worlds:
Firstly, we live in a great country that promises the American Dream to everyone – set by ideals such as democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality.
As the forefathers of the great American nation signed the Independence of Declaration on July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia, they proclaimed “all men are created equal” with the right to “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”
Thomas Jefferson said: “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time. The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.”
George Washington said: “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God.”
As Americans each one of us has an equal opportunity to these rights and liberties that empower us to become successful in our life endeavors.
Secondly, as Albanians we are ancient Illyrians, we are one of the oldest civilizations, speaking Albanian, one of the oldest languages in the history of humanity, and the oldest European language.
In a document found in the Vatican Library dated back to 1250 AC, ‘Arbania’ is mentioned as well as “Albanenses populi” (people of Arberor).
“Their Metropolis were found throughout Epirus, as well as in a large part of Western Macedonia, with ancient centers such as: Metropolia of Albanopolis, Aulon (Vlora), Butrotum (Butrinti), Croja (Kruja), Dyrrachium (Durres), Larta (Arta), Lissus (Lezha), Ochrida (Ohrid), Scodra (Shkodra).
At that time Albania as a province was divided into two parts: The Upper and the Lower Albania. The upper Albania included a large part of Macedonia, the entire western part of Macedonia and ended up in north on the borders of the Kingdom of Serbia and Dalmatia, with access to the Adriatic and Ionian seas. In the south it stretched to Livadhja. (Oculus News, Albania of 1250 in Vatican Library)
Albanian is one of the ancient languages of the Balkans older than Greek and Latin. Austrian linguists such as Norbert Joel, Stefan Schumacher, Joachim Matzinger have worked tirelessly to document this little studied language and to prove that it developed many Balkan languages.
Schumacher and Matzinger completed the first lexicon of verbs in Old Albanian. They used old Albanian literature, a 1500 page text mainly from forgotten Catholic sources, dating from 16th to 18th centuries. (FWF, Old Albanian: Living Legacy of a dead language?)
“Until now, little research has been carried out on these texts, as we are dealing almost exclusively with Catholic religious literature, which was first forgotten and then became taboo in the Communist era,” Matzinger said.
“Following the fall of Communism, this literature has once again emerged from the shadows, but, so far, there has been a lack of money and of background knowledge about [Albanian] Catholicism,” he added.
The Austrian researchers believe that Albanian was pivotal to the development of other languages including Greek, Bulgarian, Macedonian and Romanian. (Balkan Insight, Claims about Old Albanian Leave Scholars Lost for Words)
Today we take pride in the fathers of the Albanian nation and the prominent figures in the history of Albania and of the Albanian People.
There are many of these historic figures, I will mention a few, which my father, Professor Neki Babamusta, engraved in me since I was a little girl.
Skënderbeg: the National Hero of the Albanians who fought for independence, who organized the League of Lezhë; and is considered the “Hero of Christianism”.
Ismail Qemali: the founder of the modern Albanian state in 1912.
Mother Teresa (Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu): Noble Peace Prize winner, who was declared a Saint by Pope Francis on September 2016.
The prominent figures of the Albanian National Awakening (Rilindja Kombetare) such as: Naim Frashëri, Abdyl Frashëri, Sami Frashëri, Mit’hat Frashëri, Jeronim de Rada, Ndre Mjeda, Asdreni, Zef Skiroi, and many other distinguished writers who were part of the movement.
Faik Konica: a great writer and political figure, prewar Albanian Minister to Washington.
Isa Boletini: the Kosovo Albanian Nationalist figure, who joined the League of Prizren, and participated in the Albanian Independence Declaration in Vlorë (November 1912).
Bajram Curri: “Hero of Albania” who fought for the independence of Albania and the incorporation of Kosovo in the 1913 Treaty of London.
Lekë Dukagjini: Albanian nobleman known for the code of law “Kanuni i Lekë Dukagjinit” in northern Albania.
Pal Engjëlli: Catholic clergyman; Archbishop of Durrës and Cardinal of Albania; in 1462, wrote the first known sentence retrieved so far in the Albanian language.
Shote Galicia: People’s Heroine of Albania, who fought for unification of the Albanian territories and for rights and equality in Kosovo.
Azem Galica: Albanian National Hero who fought for unification of Kosovo with Albania and to free Kosovo from Serbian rule, against repression and inequality in Kosovo.
Adem Jashari: National Hero, the symbol of the Albanian Kosovar independence.
Hamëz Jashari: Hero of Kosovo.
Ibrahim Rrugova: the first President of the Republic of Kosovo.
Albanians today have excelled academically and professionally. I was honored to be a part of two great events that honor inspirational and success stories:
1) The Albanian Excellence under the patronage of the President of the Albanian Republic Bujar Nishani and Flora Nikolla.
In September 2016 Albanian Excellence presented: “Albanian Women of New York” (Zonjat shqiptare në Nju Jork) dedicated to all successful Albanian-American women that have excelled in their professions.
It showed the achievements distinguished Albanian women, mothers, teachers of the new generation, activists and community leaders. It was a privilege to be honored amongst other incredible Albanian women.
2) Also, we also just concluded the 6th Edition of New York Albanian Film Week organized by Mrika Krasniqi. I had the privilege to host and announce the winners.
The film festival has screen more than 300 Albanian films in United States and it has welcomed over 2000 artists from Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, Greece, Italy, U.K., etc.
A few days ago on May 26, 2017 the festival honored legendary Hollywood filmmaker Peter Malota with the Excellence in Arts Award for his lifetime achievements and contributions, as well as other winners for their achievements in art.
There are no limitations to what the mind can do. Success doesn’t just come and find you. You have to go and get it!
I’m thankful to our Albania for giving us the fighting spirit, that keeps us going forward no matter what. It has also given us virtues like “bujari” and “besa” (hospitality and friendship) two key human relationships based on love and faith among friends, that reflect Albanian culture.
I have been blessed to have been given many great opportunities in United States, which has defined who I am today. I am forever grateful to U.S. for molding in me values and virtues so I can become a productive individual in society and have a life purpose.
I worked in a leadership position for the Obama Administration in both 2008 and 2012 campaigns in Florida, Philadelphia, Denver (CO) and Ohio. I have also worked for United Nations, the Peace-keeping department, the United States Congress both the House and the US Senate: Senator Tom Harkin and Congressman Mark Kennedy.
I have invested my time and efforts in higher education: I have completed two master’s degrees, and an advanced graduate UN diplomacy program from LIU in New York; a mastery program from Harvard in “National intelligence and security studies”. Currently I’m defending my doctoral dissertation on the Rule of Law in Kosovo at WVU for my Ph.D. in Political Science.
Along the way I have had many mentors, leaders, professors, family friends like Senator Tom Harkin, Jeanne Buster, Stanley Kusz, and the support of my family, parents and friends. I am strong today because of their love, support and guidance.
I am also thankful to Vatra (Dr. Gjon Bucaj , Dr. Skender Murtezani, Dalip Greca) the powerful lobby for the Albanian diaspora; and to the Voice of America, Elez Biberaj, who are keeping us connected to our roots and traditions.
We are forever grateful to the American leadership for supporting the rights of Albanians and to the outstanding American and world leaders for being the voice of peace, democracy and partnership in the world, such as: Congressman Eliot Engel, Senator Harry Reid, President Clinton, President George Bush, President Obama, Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Army General Westey Clark, Vice President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Chancellor of Germany Agenla Merkel, etc.
After working with some of the most successful people I have uncovered five core principles that prevailed in the man and women who achieved greatness on their own.
So how can you achieve success in life?
First: Have a dream, in your heart and mind, see within yourself what goals you want to attain. Nothing is impossible in life. It takes hard work, loyalty, dedication, commitment and faith to succeed.
Second: Believe in yourself and in your greatness. Use your imagination; make an action plan how to achieve your goals, and establish great habits that lead you to accomplish what you set out to do.
Third: Be grateful. Gratitude is a core principle of successful people. Being grateful for what we have gives us happiness and harmony for tomorrow.
Fourth: Be persistent. Not giving up is winning half the battle. We learn from our strengths and weaknesses, mistakes and achievements, struggles and joys, and along the way we push forward and make progress.
Fifth: Be passionate. Find something that truly speaks to your heart and go for it. Give your contribution and leave your mark no matter how big or small it may be.
In closing I leave you with two quotes from Sami Frasheri and Fan Noli, the Archbishop and Head of the Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America, who also served as the Prime Minister of Albania.
“Liria është thelbi i shрirtit dhe i mendjes ; aty ku s’ka liri, mendja dhe shpirti thahen si bima pa ujë.” – Sami Frasheri.
“Vetëm shkenca dhe arti e ngre njeriun në shkallën e Perendisë”. – Fan Noli.
What are you contributing today? What efforts are you making to succeed?
Thank you for having me and I wish each one of you success, blessings and happiness. God bless Vatra!
* Speech by Ermira Babamusta, as guest speaker at the Vatra, Queens Chapter Meeting on June 03, 2017, at the Immaculate Conception Center, Little Neck, NY