By L. Zherka/ Yonkers/ NEw York
“A Thirst For Freedom ”
It was with a sense of pride that I was straddling my bike down East McLean Avenue last November 28th in 2012. For I was seeing Albanian flags practically on every corner. It wasn’t a coincidence either that I was also on my way to my parent’s home in Yonkers to celebrate the 100th Albanian Independence Day, or “Flag Day” as we call it. When I informed my mom about what I had seen down this traditionally Irish neighborhood, poignantly she said that somehow felt the same way about President Obama winning the election. Meaning, that there’s a fist time for everything.
Though year later I still remember how surprised I had been at the time. However, there is some prescedence. Long ago Central European Balkanites helped settle the Green Isles, along with other migrating peoples. Which is probably why we share the tradition of the bag pipes, flute, frame drum, and even those “funny looking” kilts. A lot of people also wonder what is the image that sits in the center of the Albanian flag. In fact, the two headed eagle was a christian standard that was used over 500 years ago, and so it was used again in 1912 after the country again regained it’s independence. Beaneath one Albanian flag blowing in the cold wind I remember seeing a man having a conversation in the familiar Irish baroque. This too was heartening to me, since I grew up in New York City with so many Irish friends. But also because through my blood coursed the knowledge that we are not so different. Born in America I too have a thirst for freedom, and for a “cold one” every now and then.
Seriously though, I owe my thanks to the McLean Avenue Merchants Association and to Henry Dgonbalaj, the key member who is also of Albanian American descent and spirited the week long tribute to the thousands of Albanians who live in the area and call Yonkers “home”. Also to Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, who in the final hours provided the logistical support that was so crucially needed. Henry is also responsible for helping to bring the new 911 Memorial to The City Of Yonkers. The Memorial touchingly stands in Conner Park, located at the corner of McLean and Central Avenues; and directly across from Dgonbalaj’s real estate office which has been in the same location for over a decade. Mr. Dgonbalaj joins an illustrious cadre of immigrant businessmen who have found success in this country. Hereby proving for so many of us that this is still the land of opportunity. Which is why the American and Albanian flags were flown together.
Albanian Flag Day on McLean Avenue. Photos taken by the author.
November 12, 2013, Yonkers, New York/