BY FAN S. NOLI/
First of all, I want to thank you for inviting me to come to this memorial service. This gives me a good opportunity to talk to you at some length about Faik Konitza and the problems in which he was interested.
CAUSE OF FAIK KONITZA’S DEATH
Faik Konitza had been suffering from high blood pressure for ten years and was under the care of his friend Dr. Oden, one of the most distinguished physicians in Washington. Like all Albanians, blessed with a good appetite, Konitza did not follow his doctor’s advice, and this is the reason that he died unexpectedly though he was not very old and appeared to be in the very best of health.
WAS NOT ALONE WHEN HE DIED
Faik Konitza had a stroke on Monday, December 14, 1942, at about five o’clock in the afternoon. His servant, Mrs. Hattie Williams, helped him to his bad and telephoned at once for his secretary, Mrs. Charlotte Graham to, and for Dr. Oden. The latter came at once at once saw that Faik Konitza was a very sick man; therefore he advised Mrs. Graham to stay with Faik Konitza and to let him know of any new developments. Mrs. Graham stayed with him all of that night and it seemed to her that he was sleeping peacefully. When she approached his bed to wake him up at about eight in the morning, she saw that Konitza had already passed away in his sleep. Mrs. Graham immediately informed Dr. Oden, the Department of Sate and myself. As you see , it is not true that Konitza died alone, with nobody at his side during his last moments.
THE FUNERAL EXPENSES
As soon as I received the sad news I got in touch with Mr. Vasil Pani, acting president and treasurer of Vatra, Mr. Peter Tyko and Dr. Andrew Elia, and we decided that the funeral would take place on Sunday, December 20, in Boston, Mass. There wasn’t much time, so we four took all the responsibility. Tuesday evening, December 15, Mr. Vasil Pani, Mr.Peter Tyko and I had a meeting at my home, and we decided to ask the various branches of Vatra to contribute the money necessary to the funeral. Vatra’s members answered promptly and generously. They collected not only the money for the funeral but also enough to pay all of Konitza’s personal bills and to put his library in storage.
When King Zog heard of Konitza’s death he sent a cable to Vatra, expressing his desire to settle the funeral expenses himself. But the members of Vatra felt that the King should not be asked for any contribution because they wanted to be the ones to pay their last tribute to their departed leader.
Dr. Andrew Elia took charge of the details of the funeral, and performed his task with devotion as an old friend of Faik Konitza. In the general confusion of that tragic event, somehow or other, a misunderstanding arose from a long distance telephone conversation between Washington and Boston, to the effect that Faik Konitza’s body would be sent to Albania by the American Government at the end of the war. Of course all Albanians were delighted by this piece of news, and it was for this reason that I mentioned it in my funeral oration in order to express our appreciation and gratitude to the State Department. We are all sorry for this unfortunate misunderstanding.
There has been a rumor that we have not taken care of Konitza’s library. This is not true. After his death, his secretary stayed in the apartment and looked after Konitza’s rare and valuable books which he had collected with the zeal of a true book-lover. On the day of the funeral Vatra delegates from all over the United States took steps to save these books. A few days later, Mr. Vasil Pani and Mr. Peter Tyko went to Washington and pecked the library into thirty-two wooden boxes which they stored in Vatra’s name at the Fidelity Storage of Washington, where we pay twelve dollars a month rent. The library will remain there until the end of the war, when it will be sent to Albania, according to Faik Konitza’s expressed desire.
KONITZA’S LAST WORD’S
According to his secretary, Konitza repeated these words several times on his death-bed:”There is no answer.” What was this answer that Konitza was expecting? At first we thought that he was worrying about an answer from the State Department concerning the recognition of an Albanian government in exile under the leadership of King Zog. We know definitely that he was contemplating writing such a letter, because he had mentioned it in a telephone conversation to Dr. Elia but death prevented him from carrying out his intention. What really happened was this: Faik Konitza had asked the King, a few days before he died, for appropriate credentials in view of the situation prevailing in Washington. So this was the answer that Konitza was expecting when the end came.
KONITZA’S LAST ACT
We had thought that Konitza’s last act was a request to the State Department for the recognition of an Albanian government in exile. Instead, we now know that we made jointly on November 19th (1942), which was the declaration for a United Front. And I want to say a few words today about this United Front. First, let me tell you that the United Front is not just a whim of mine, as Mr. Chekrezi maintains. Not am I its originator. It was suggested to me by my friend, Mr. Tajar Zavalani, of London. Later on I discussed it Mr. Chekrezi, who approved of it whole-heartedly, and asked me to win Konitza for it, which I did. We agreed to meet with Faik Konitza and discuss the details. The very next day, however, without informing us of his change of heart, Mr. Chekrezi began to attack us in his paper for boosting King Zog, although he himself had assured us that he had no objections to the King’s leadership.
THE UNITED FRONT
The United Front, dropped by Mr. Chekrezi, was taken up by the Albanians of America in general with enthusiasm. For instance, it was unanimously approved by Vatra’s convention. It was also approved by Mr. Chekrezi’s organization with a joker. This joker was used by the latter to sabotage the United Front at the meeting of the two committees of “Vatra” and “Free Albania” that met on the 12th of July, 1942, in the hall of at George’s Church in Boston. But the popularity of the United Front was proved beyond a doubt by the mass meeting, held in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Worchester. Furthermore, the last camping of Vatra gave us added evidence that the people want the United Front which we advocate and not the civil war that Chekrezi is preaching. The people certainly showed this when they gave Mr. Chekrezi about one fifth of what he had demanded. Such facts as these prove clearly that the United Front enjoys the full support of our people as a whole.
THE DANGER OF PARTITION
Before last December some of us may have had doubts about the necessity of the United Front. But Mr. Eden’s last declaration in the House of Commons has left no room for doubt. From this declaration we learn that partition of Albania is a real and not an imaginary danger. Mr. Eden told us very plainly these three things: First that Albania has no frontiers; second, that the fate of Albania will be settled by Yugoslavia and Greece, who openly advocate the partition of Albania; third, that Albania will not be represented at the Peace Conference which is going to discuss that partition. The worst of it is that this third implication is found not only in Mr. Eden’s declarations but also in Mr. Hull’s and Mr. Molotov’s declarations concerning Albania. I hope with all my heart that Albania’s international situation is not as black as I see it. But Mr. Eden’s declaration made me much more pessimistic than I was when I talked to you here in New York eight months ago, on the 13th of June 1942. Only people who are unable to understand the full implication of Mr. Eden’s declaration can afford to be optimistic. Perhaps we ought to be grateful to him for being so frank and for warning us of the dangers that hang over Albania, while the declarations of Mr. Hull and Mr. Molotov might have lulled us to sleep in a fool’s paradise. From this point of view, Mr. Eden’s declaration is as momentous as the secret treaty of London concerning the partition of Albania, which was published by Lenin in 1917.
THE GOVERNMENT IN EXILE
Now that we fully realize the dangers we must unite to avert them. In the first place, we must have an Albanian government, represented at the Peace Conference, to protect the right of Albania and prevent its partition. Of course, the recognition of an Albanian government in exile is not an easy matter because Albania’s enemies are very strong. But with a United Front we have at least a fighting chance; without it we have hardly a chance. Therefore whoever opposes the United Front is unwittingly an enemy of Albania and helps those who would dismember the country. The time has come for you to make your choice and do something about it.
NO TIME TO LOSE
It is necessary to organize the United Front without delay because peace may come very quickly. It is quite possible that the downfall of Germany may be as unexpected as that of France. Usually both French and German generals stop fighting when they see that there is no longer any hope for victory. Thus the Germans stopped fighting in 1918 and thus the French stopped fighting in 1940. Therefore we have time to lose. The official recognition on an Albanian government in exile is a matter of the first importance. It cannot wait. It is a matter of life or death for Albania.
NO PERSONAL AMBITION
The opponents of the United Front seem to believe that this idea is motivated by personal ambitions, so I will take this opportunity to tell you what my ambitions really are. They have nothing to do with political offices because Albania has already given me all the offices I could dream of. Once is enough. I have no desire to repeat the experiment. On the other hand, I hope I have made it quite clear that I am not a candidate for any office the United Front might offer me. My present ambitions happen to be along lines in which Faik Konitza excelled-namely literature of Skanderbeg, Ali Pasha of Janina and Mehmed Ali of Egypt. Speaking about literature reminds me of the poem on Skanderbeg, written by the American poet, Longfellow, to which Konitza called our attention about 26 years ago. Longfellow, mentions the flag of Scanderbeg in this poem –that Flag discovered by Faik Konitza-so I will conclude by reciting this masterpiece, which I translated into Albanian and dedicated to him many years ago with these words:
“TO Faik Konitza
The Master of our Mother Tongue
And the Knight of our National
As a token of respect
This Work is Dedicated
By a Comrade in Arms”
(Bishop Noli’s address at the Memorial Service for Faik Konitza in New York, March 7, 1943, delivered in Albanian-Reprinted from Dielli No. 5571, June 19, 1943)