(Remarks by Harry Bajraktari – Vatra PanAlbanian Federation’s 106th Anniversary Dinner –June 1st 2018)
Good evening ladies and gentlemen,
I want to congratulate the Vatrans on the 106th anniversary. Happy birthday to Vatra!
Vatra is the oldest Albanian organization in the world.
We’re all proud of this legacy that began with Noli and Konica. And we hope that Vatra will continue to flourish for another 100 years.
We are gathered tonight to honor two of the most respected members of our community, Dr. Sami Repishti and Dr. Elez Biberaj.
We honor them for their work and their contribution to the democracy in Albania and freedom and independence of Kosova.
Dr. Repishti, Dr. Biberaj: I congratulate you both on being the honorees tonight.
It is an honor for me to introduce at the podium, my good friend, Dr. Sami Repishti.
A human rights advocate, a former political prisoner, a fighter against Fascist and Nazi ideologies, against Communist dictatorship, against Serbian oppression, a college professor, an author of many books and articles, and a community leader, Dr. Sami Repishti has done it all.
He was born in 1925, in Shkodra. His grandfather is one of the signatories of the historical Memorandum of the League of Prizreni. His father was an esteemed religious leader, a member of parliament, and a patriot who fought as a volunteer against the Serbian and Montenegrin invaders in 1912-13.
As a young man, Dr. Repishti had to quit school to provide for his family, when his father arrested by the Italian Fascists died under torture. He joined the ranks of the resistance, but he did not become a communist. He believed in democracy and he wanted to unite the Albanian nation.
For his political activities, he was arrested, tortured, and sentenced to 15 years in prison. After he was released, he escaped to Yugoslavia.
There he faced political persecution for the second time. He was jailed for his patriotic activities and for his vision of a united Albania.
The most important time of his life began when he moved to the United States, in 1962.
He received his Ph. D. in French Literature from the City University of New York and has taught foreign languages until he retired as a professor of French in Adelphi University.
For more than half a century he has been a leader of the Albanian-American community.
He was one of the first Albanian-Americans to testify in front of the US Congress, in 1965. He was a leader and co-founder of many Albanian-American organizations, including Kosova Relief Fund, the Civic League, the National Albanian American Council and many others.
His articles have appeared in many newspapers in US and Europe, including our own newspapers Dielli and Illyria.
I’m honored to call him a friend. Together we have made a difference in Washington DC in helping the Albanian nation in the last 30 years.
We have lobbied together the American officials
for freedom and independence of Kosova,
for democracy in Albania and worked very closely with American officials until it became a member of NATO.
We have worked tirelessly together to promote human rights, freedom, and democracy for all Albanians in the Balkans.
We have marched together in rallies, we have sat together in meetings in the White House, State Department, Pentagon and Capitol Hill.
We have supported with our community our great friends in Washington DC, President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Senator Bob Dole, Congressman Eliot Engel, and many many others.
In 1991, I founded Illyria.
From Day One, he was part of the newspaper and still is today, with many important articles in both English and Albanian.
In 2000, Dr Repishti traveled with me to Kosova for the first time since Kosova was free.
It was very emotional for him to be in a free Kosova. He had worked so hard for this dream to become a reality.
We went to Prekaz, Peja, Prizreni, Mitrovica, Ferizaj and Prishtina and the people throughout Kosova had heard about the work that Dr. Repishti had done for over 50 years.
They were grateful for his contribution.
Throughout the visit, he took notes and published a book to document our trip.
Dr. Repishti is also a husband to Diana, proud father of Daren (a doctor) and Hava (a lawyer). He is also a happy grandfather of five grandchildren.
We, at Vatra, tonight, are honoring ourselves by honoring Dr. Repishti for his work for our community and the Albanian nation.
God bless you Dr. Repishti and God bless your family!
God bless the Albanian nation!
God Bless America!
(Fjala e Harry Bajraktari – Nderi i Kombit në 106 vjetorin e Federatës Panshqiptare “Vatra”, mbajtur në New york, më 1 qershor 2018)