Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A New Year's Wish / Mesazh per Motin e Ri

A Wish for the New Year

"Peace to you, to those you love, and to the world"

<strong> - Van and Jane Christo -


Mesazh per Motin e Ri 2010:

"Paqe per ju, per ata qe doni, dhe neper boten"

- Van dhe Jane Christo -

Monday, December 28, 2009

The recent movie, Invictus, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon chronicles a brief span in Nelson Mandela's career when he first became President of South Africa. Invictus is a poem by William Earnest Henley that inspired President Mandela and helped him endure 30 years of imprisonment on Robbin Island. I thought you would be egually inspired.

Following the Henley poem is an Albanian language version "I PAMPOSHTURI" by the noted and taleted Albanian poet, Merita Bajraktari McCormack, who captured the true essence and spirit of Henley's inspirational poem.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be,
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears,
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
how charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

- William Ernest Henley



Kësaj nate të errët që më ka mbështjellë
Meterrin e saj të zi si fundi i një pusi të pa anë
Unë falënderoj cilado qofshin ato Perëndi
Për shpirtin e pamposhtur që më dhanë

Mbërthyer keq, në këtë mjerim, prej fatit
Unë nuk dridhem, as bërtas duke u turrur
Prej kamxhikeve të jetës kokën e kam të përgjakur,
Por qëndroj kryelartë dhe aspak i përulur

Përtej këtij vendi plot zemërime dhe lot
Nuk ka më vend për tmerre dhe hije
Ndaj dhe kërcënimi i viteve,
Më trim do të më gjejë sa herë që të vijë.

Nuk po pyes se sa e ngushtë do jetë porta
Apo sa e gjatë akuza për n'amshim
Sepse unë, jam i zoti i fatit tim
Unë, jam kapiten, i shpirtit tim.

Shqipëroi për “Frosina” Merita B.McCormack
March 21 2010

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Jews of Albania and their salvation during the Holocaust

Van Christo

In her book, Escape Through the Balkans: the Autobiography of Irene Grunbaum (University of Nebraska Press, 1996), translated and edited by Katherine Morris, Irene Grunbaum describes, in the extensive section on Albania, her parting thoughts as a Jew after having been protected and sheltered by Albanian Muslims and Christians during Nazi German WWII occupation of Albania: "Farewell, Albania, I thought. You have given me so much hospitality, refuge, friends, and adventure. Farewell, Albania. One day I will tell the world how brave, fearless, strong, and faithful your sons are; how death and the devil can't frighten them. If necessary, I'll tell how they protected a refugee and wouldn't allow her to be harmed even if it meant losing their lives. The gates of your small country remained open, Albania. Your authorities closed their eyes, when necessary, to give poor, persecuted people another chance to survive the most horrible of all wars. Albania, we survived the seige because of your humanity. We thank you."

Too little is known worldwide about the fact that only Albania in Europe protected its own Jews during the Holocaust while also offering shelter to other Jews who had escaped into Albania from Serbia, Austria, and Greece. Yet, an American Jew named Harvey Sarner of Palm Springs, California and London, England, who, after finding out that Albanian Muslims and Christians risked their own lives to shelter Jews, made it his personal business to know more about those extraordinary Albanian humanitarian deeds. While much of Europe was willingly giving up its Jews to the Fascists, Sarner was amazed to learn that the Albanians, whose renowned hospitality is deeply steeped in their traditions and culture, went to great lengths and personal risk to shield Jews from Nazi German occupiers of Albania during WWII.

With the advent of democracy in 1991, almost all of Albania's Jews emigrated to Israel and it was there that Sarner learned of their heroic rescue after reading the names of Albanian Muslim and Christian saviors of Jews listed and commemorated as "Righteous Among the Nations" at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Moved by such humanitarianism, Sarner arranged, at his own expense, a joyful reunion between the Albanian Jews and their Albanian Muslim and Christian rescuers in 1992 in Israel. Again, at his own expense, Sarner also made it possible for an Albanian-Muslim, Ledio Veseli, to attend a university in the USA as his personal expression of gratitude to the Albanian rescuers. And Sarner didn't stop there: he was so impressed by the obvious warmth between seemingly disparate peoples that he was moved to research the history of the Jews in Albania from Roman times to the present day story of Joseph Jakoel, the Albanian Jew who led his people to from Albania to Israel in 1991. With the help of Jakoel (who passed away in 1995), Sarner assembled a compelling history of Albania's Jews and their amazing survival in his 1994 limited-edition booklet "The Jews of Albania."

I first learned about Sarner after reading a short article about him in "Albanian Life" - a mazazine published in London. After contacting the editor who gave me Sarner's address, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Sarner was an American who divided his time between California and the UK.

After writing to Sarner seeking to purchase copies of "The Jews of Albania", he generously donated a quantity for fund-raising purposes to Frosina, a non-profit, IRS Section 501(c)(3), humanitarian organization that I formed in 1994 to provide assistance and counsel to Albanian newcomers arriving in the USA and also to help dispel misconceptions that even some educated people have about Albania and the Albanians.

In 1997, Sarner updated his book by publishing "Rescue in Albania: One Hundred Percent of Jews in Albania Rescued from the Holocaust" which more fully described how and why not one single Jew was taken to a Nazi concentration camp in Albania. After turning over my research files on Albania's Jews to Sarner (having originally intended to write my own article about that little-known subject), he graciously permitted Frosina to serve as co-publisher of the new book.

Sarner, born in New York City, served earlier as an attorney and has a long list of credentials and honors. The author of seven books and countless articles, Sarner has received numerous awards and citations including the Order of Merit Medal from the President of Poland. An Honorary President of the Albanian-Israeli Friendship League, he is also a Board Member of the Jewish Foundation for Christian Rescuers, and co-producer and writer of a documentary "Jews of Albania" with Israeli TV.

On February 1, 1995 during ceremonies unveiling the names of Albanian protectors on its "Rescuer's Wall" at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, the-then Museum Director, Miles Lerman, gratefully declared "Albania was the only country in Europe which had a larger Jewish population at the end of the war than before it!"

An Israeli-Albanian concert was held in1995 in Tirana, Albania, to commemorate the protection of Jews by Albanians during the Holocaust. Participants were the Kibbutz Orchestra of Israel, the Opera Orchestra of Tirana, the National Choir of Albania, and the Israeli-Albania Society. The idea for the commemoration came from Stephen Moskowitz, a Fulbright Scholar and former English Lecturer at Tirana's Polytechnic University who, after learning of the little-known Albanian humanitarianism towards the Jews, broached the subject of a joint Albanian-Israeli commemorative concert in Albania with conductor Doron Salomon when he attended a performance of the Kibbutz Orchestra in Macedonia.

After plans and preparations were finalized, the Israeli-Albanian concert was performed on November 4, 1995, in Tirana's Pyramid Center where the Kibbutz Orchestra was joined by members of the Opera Orchestra of Tirana and its leader, Bujar Llapaj, who conducted the national anthems of Israel and Albania before handing the baton to Maestro Salomon who led the orchestra and the National Choir in Mozart's Requiem.

An Albanian, Apostal Kotani, also wrote a book about Albania's Jews titled "The Hebrews in Albania During Centuries" that was published in Tirana, Albania, in 1996 wherein he cites case-histories and lists the names of some 98 Albanian Muslims and Christians who protected Jews during the Holocaust. As further evidence of legendary Albanian hospitality and religious tolerance, it may be interesting to note that the majority of the Albanian rescuers of Jews were Muslims.

Seasons Greetings from Frosina

Happy Christmas and a Joyous New Year to all of our Albanian and non-Albanian friends!


Gezuar Krishtlindjet dhe Motine E Ri Gezuar 2010!

Jane and Van Christo

Monday, December 21, 2009

Luljeta Lleshanaku's reading in NYC

Dear friends,

We thought the Albanian community would be interested in Luljeta
Lleshanaku's upcoming reading in New York City, where she'll be
making a stop on her world tour, in between appearances at literary
festivals in Hong Kong and Ireland!

We're hoping you'll find a place to list the reading in your
newsletter, on the website: but especially that you'll attend the

Lucy Kenyon
Events Coordinator, Posman Books

212 627 0304: store
434 242 2724: cell

Thursday, December 17, 2009

William St.George Art Exhibit/Boston

Dear friends:
William St.George has been a longtime friend and creative associate dating back to my early Van Christo Advertising Agency days on Boston's Newbury Street. Bill is, without question, a talented and notable artist, so I invite - indeed, urge - visitors to this Frosina Blog to attend the Opening Reception of the works of William St.George and Yvette Stenzel this evening!

Opening Reception
Thursday, December 17, 2009
6-9 pm
St.George Gallery
162 Boylston Street, Suite 49
Boston, MA 02116

Gallery Hours: Mon.-Sat., Noon-5:30pm -

Monday, December 14, 2009

ÇAMERIA: An Albanian Region Divided Between Greece and Albania

The Epirus, or Çameria, area in southern Albania and northern Greece has constituted the main focus of potential dispute between Athens and Tirana. The Greeks consider the southern extremity of Albania to be northern Epirus, while the Albanians consider the northwest corner of Greece to be southern Çameria. Although neither government has pressed for territorial revisions in recent memory, both regions are inhabited by minorities whose conditions and treatment have given rise to some concern and interstate discord. Claims over Çam numbers have ranged from 90,000 to over one million but are believed to be understated because Athens has not considered the local Albanians to be a separate ethnic group and has completely hellenized the majority of Orthodox Christian Albanians. They have not been entitled to any special minority rights and have been prevented from establishing any educational, cultural, or political associations inside Greece.

Since the democratic breakthrough in Albania in early 1991, the Albanian Çams organized as a pressure group within Albania on behalf of their co-ethnics in Greece. In March 1991, the first national conference of the Çameria Political Association (CPA) was held in Tirana with many of its activists drawn from the Albanian community who had been expelled from Greece after the war. The CPA intended to bring to international attention the neglected linguistic, cultural, and educational rights of Orthodox Albanian Çams who have been subjected to a Greek policy of assimilation. The group has also launched campaigns on behalf of Çam exiles in Albania. It has encouraged the expansion of contacts with compatriots in Greece, the return of exiles to their family areas, and the payment of compensation for property and land that was illegally taken from them during their expulsion.

Since 1991, Albanian activists across the political spectrum have become more outspoken on the Çameria issue vis-a-vis Greece. Historic grievances over Greek repression of Orthodox and Muslim Albanians earlier this century have been aired, and Athens has been criticized for its ongoing assimilationist pressures against Orthodox Albanians who still reside in the Çameria/Epirus region. Although the Greek authorities have denied that any Çam problem exists, Çam representatives have continued to urge the Albanian government to take up the issue with Athens at the highest bilateral levels.

Excerpted from pages 185 and 186, Nations in Turmoil by Janusz Bugajski, Westview Press, 5500 Central Ave., Boulder, CO 80301-2877

* * * * * * * *

A small section of Çameria consisting of 7 villages and the town of Konispoli belongs to Albania while the rest of Çameria was awarded to Greece by the Conference of Ambassadors in London in 1913. The main Çam towns in Greece are Filati, Gumenica,Paramethia, Margellici, and Parga. In the 16th to 17th centuries, Çameria turned into an area of fierce revolts against Ottoman rule. In the 18th century, the process of forced islamization began -- part of the Suli and Parga populations fled to Greek islands to escape conversion. During 1820-1850, the region again took part in uprisings against the Ottomans. In 1854 and 1877, the population successfully resisted attacks by Greek Andartes. During the Balkan Wars, Greek troops intervened in Çameria. Military troops were sent by the (provisional) government of Vlora (Albania) to assist the local population, but the decision of the Ambassadors Conference assigned Çameria to Greece.

After WWII, the Greek government expelled by force thousands of Muslim Albanians to Turkey on the pretext that they were Turks because of their religion. At the end of WWII, the terror exercised against the local population forced 25, 000 Çams of Muslim faith to leave their homeland and seek temporary asylum in Albania. Çam dances, especially men's dances, are renowned. Some Çam dances, called Çamiko, are also used by the Greeks.

Excerpted from pages 149-50, Fjalori Enciklopedik Shqiptar, Akademia Shkencave e RPS te Shqiperise, Tirana, Albania, 1985( (Translated from Albanian into English by Agron Alibali)

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Frosina Infobit

Code of Leke Dukagjini / Kanun i Leke Dukagjinit

The Code of Leke Dukajini was a body of customary law by which the northern clans of Albania were ruled from about the 15th up to the beginning of the 20th Century, or even later. Although attributed to Leke Dukagjin, it evolved over many centuries --before, during, and after his lifetime. Presumably the formulation of the Code conformed to the needs of the times. Leke Dukagjin (1410-81) belonged to the family of the Dukagjinis, feudal rulers whose domain in the 14th and 15th centuries extended from the Zadrimi to the confluence of the Black and White Drin Rivers. After Skanderbeg's death in 1468, Leke Dukagjin was one of the principal figures of the war waged against the Ottoman Turks.

The Code is divided into the following sections: Church, Family, Marriage, House, Livestock and Property, Work, Transfer of Property, Spoken Word, Honor, Damages, Law Regarding Crimes, Judicial Law, and Exemptions and Exceptions. In general, it would be correct to say that observance of the Code by all with due regard to its implications and consequences would assure safe living and passage, although with a very limited choice of alternatives. The smallest violation, however, could and probably would have disastrous or even possibly fatal consequences.

A Franciscan priest, Shtjefen Gjecov, began collecting the works that first appeared in printed form in 1913, and the completed Kanun was published in 1931 after his death. From time to time during the annals of history, various figures (some of the political and scientific dissertations of Benjamin Franklin come to mind) have transcended then-existing laws by devising their own codes of ethics or rules for society to follow. When pondering the conduct and manners by members of various modern-day elected bodies of government, it might be both prudent and timely to review the ancient excerpts below from the Code of Leke Dukagjini's Rules of Assembly:

(English translations below by Agron Alibali)

1113. The Men gathered in an assembly sit in a semicircle so that each person may see everyone else and if someone is called on to speak, his path is clear among the Chiefs and the Elders. / Burrat e bashkuem ne kuvend rrijn ne gjymes rrethit; ashtu qi te mund te shofin shoqi shoqin e, po u thirr kush, te ket shteg per me u duke nder Krene e Pleq.

1115. Regardless of how long the Men of the land are at the assembly, a stranger has no right to associate with them. / Sa te jene ne kuvend burrat e dheut, s'ka tager kush i huej me u perzie nder ta.

1117. The Chiefs and the Elders sit at the Assembly according to rank and seniority. / Krenet e Pleqt rrijn ne kuvend mbas priject e tagrit.

1118. At an Assembly, when one person speaks, the others must listen and remain silent. / Ne kuvend, sa te flase njani, tjeret do te ndigjojn e te heshtin.

1122. Offensive language is not permitted at an Assembly. / Fjala e rande nuk bahet ne kuvend.

1123. The Kanun forbids insults to anyone at the Assembly; if someone insults another person, a fine up to 5 sheep is imposed on him. / Kanunja s'ban qi te shahet kush ne kuvend; po bani kush ket pune, do te gjobitet mje ne 5 desh.

1124. If someone calls another person a liar at an Assembly, a fine of up to 500 grosh is imposed on him. / Po i tha kush kuej se rrene ne kuvend, do te gjobitet mje ne 500 grosh.

Page 202 The Code of Leke Dukagjini, Gjonleka Publishing Co., New York, NY 1989

Page 69 Historical Dictionary of Albania, Raymond Hutchins, The Scarecrow Press , Inc., Lanham, MD and London, 1996

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What is the Heart of the Matter?

It can be when a recent Albanian immigrant completes an English language course and is able to land a full time job...

Sometimes, it’s when a new arrival in Boston realizes there’s free medical care for a chronically ill child...

Or, when we assisted the family of a severely depressed woman in finding appropriate Albanian-speaking medical help...

Many times, it’s by aiding callers and visitors to locate certification of Albanian parents and grandparents who may have held American citizenship before returning to Albania in the 1920s and 30s...

Then, it’s even the simple act of assisting a music student with her research project by providing copies of the four existing arias of the Vivaldi opera "Scanderbeg" *

But, it’s always knowing that YOU are there to help me do all of the above and more.

Please contribute what you can reasonably afford so we can continue this valuable work together. Remember your donation to Frosina is tax-deductible!

Thank you.

Van Christo

For a donation of $25.00 or more to Frosina, receive the following:

A. “Kor’ I Usterit Folksongs of Southern Albania CD” – Worcester Men’s Chorale conducted by Van Christo sings favorite songs of the Korcha region

B."Portrait of a Nobleman in Albanian dress” – A 4” x 6” framed print of Lord Byron in color by the famous London portrait painter, Thomas Phillips

C."Scanderbeg” A 4” x 6” framed print of the 15th Century Albanian folkhero

Now, For a donation of $50.00 or more, you can receive this NEW gift from Frosina

D. NEW!! "Oborin ne shtepia e Vancit” (Courtyard at Vanci’s home) An “8” x 10” signed, framed print of Van Christo's drawing in Himara, Albania

Please indicate your choice of gift by letter A, B, C, or D in the lower left-hand corner of check, and mail to:

Frosina Information Network, 162 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

*See “Van Christo Uncovers Two Scanderbeg Operas” by Del Brebner under “Articles” at

Note: Before graduating from the College of Liberal Arts at Boston University, Van Christo attended the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School. His works have been exhibited at the Copley Society in Boston, the Cambridge Art Association, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and other venues. Most notable, perhaps, was the longtime exhibit of one of his scratchboard reproductions at Michael's Pub on New York City's East Side, made more famous, of course, because of Woody Allen's frequent jazz clarinet appearances.

Frosina Information Network / 162 Boylston St. / Boston, MA 02116 / Tel: 617 482-2002 / Fax: 617 482-0014 / /

Friday, December 4, 2009

Albanian Recipes

Elli's Veal or Chicken with Walnuts
(Gjellë me Arra të Ellit)

A particular Albanian dish that my wife, Jane, and I had once enjoyed at the home of Bardhyl Pollo and and his wife, Elli, in Tirana, instantly became my favorite of all favorites. The attractive and charming Elli, knowing of my propensity for unique Albanian food, had invited us to their home for dinner where we were served one of the most delectable meals it has been our privilege to eat. That evening, I cast all good manners aside as I requested a second helping!

Clearly, Elli has a gourmet-chef's touch, so I implored her to give me the recipe in order to share it with others in America and elsewhere. She graciously agreed, and the dish that I have named appropriately "Elli's Veal or Chicken with Walnuts" appears below for all to enjoy!

Elli's Veal or Chicken with Walnuts (Gjellë me Arra të Ellit)

Serves 4 people


- 2 tablespoons flour
- 15 finely crushed shelled walnuts
- 2 beaten egg yokes
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 1/4 lb. stick butter
- 2-3 lbs of Veal or Chicken meat
cut up in 1" cubes

Cooking Instructions:

Place the meat or chicken in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until tender. Then remove the meat setting it aside in a dish while leaving the remaining juices in the saucepan. In another saucepan, add the flour and stir over heat until it becomes light brown in color (do not overcook!) and add the half a stick of butter. Then, add the finely crushed walnuts, minced garlic clove, and the two egg yokes, stirring constantly. Add the juices from the other saucepan and stir until all the ingredients thicken. Immediately remove from the heat to avoid solidifying the egg yolks. Then fold in either the meat or chicken. Pan fry the remaining half stick of butter until brown and pour over the four servings. Good eating!

Return to listings

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Theodhor Sina Grundo of Voskopoja: 18th Century Founder of Albanian Theological Art

>Author: Nedia Thellimi

Voskopoja (Albania) was an important center that remains to this day as an abundant storehouse of art works by artists, both known and unknown. Studies show that some of Albania's most distinguished artists had created works in Voskopoja including Anton Shipska (in the church of Saint Prodhon), David Selenica and his apprentices, Kristo and Konstandini (Saint Koll), Konstandin and Athanas Zografi (various churches),the Agrafan painters - Teodori, Anagnosti and Steriani (Saint Thanasi), and Jeremanaka Kostandini with his valuable icons (1703). How many artists rendered their creations in the 36 small and large churches of Voskopoja? There is no doubt that the number of painters is greater than those cited above.

All the artists who worked in Voskopoja, both Albanians and foreigners, devoted their lives and artistic endeavors to provide the churches with magnificent paintings and icons. Alas, time and mother nature have taken their toll by burying the hard labors and talent of the artists under church ruins. I was recently able to collect some data gleaned from the writings of a distinguished German Balkanologist who had visited Albania and Voskopoja on September 3, 1889, about a very talented but little known Albanian artist. The German visitor stated that when he visited the church ofSaint Prodhon , he saw an amazing wood carving of major artistic value that was created by the Albanian artist, Theodhor Sina Grundo , who was not only a sculptor, but also a fresco painter and engraver. Because the German was in Voskopoja for only a brief period, it is understandable that he was unable to explore all of Grundo's works

(see G .Vaigand-Dei arumunen-Leipsikg, 1895, pg 106).

The artistic works of Theodhor Sina Grundo are also found in Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, and, perhaps, elsewhere. Not far from Budapest there is an island called Cepel where all the frescos in the church are painted by Grundo (1765). It is interesting that along with a painting of Saint Naum, he painted another Albanian saint, Saint Nikodimin, from Vithkuq (Albania). Grundo's works also include two icons of tremendous artistic value - one inVesherbal, the other in Beograd (1773).

When Professor Dhimiter Shuteriqi went to Hungary for a short visit in 1957, he saw the works of Grundo in the village of Rockovo, 30 kilometers away from Budapest in a church named Saint Mary Teotokoss. There, he discovered paintings signed by Grundo in 1771. Researchers say that Grundo contributed to other churches as well including churches across the Sava and Danube rivers in Serbia and Hungary (see Macedonian Saints by Grozdonov ). Grozdonov states that Grundo is the founder of Albanian Theological Art.

Excerpted from Nje Piktor Pak i Njohur i Shekullit te XVIII Nga Voskopja. (A Little-known 18th Century Artist from Voskopoja) by Nedia Thellimi, Koha Jone, Kor‡e, Albania, 1995. Submitted by Victor Emanoil. English translation by Marinella Misho.