Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dritan Prifti to speak at Harvard

Below is a list of interesting speakers being presented by the informative Kokkalis Program at Harvard.

Note, especially, the talk on April 21st by Albanian government official, Dritan Prifti, who was, himself, a former graduate student at Harvard!


Seeing it like a Citizen: Bosnian Municipal Leaders on Building Peace and Prosperity

1:00 p.m.
Vlado Alilović, mayor of VitezMuharem Grabus, president of the Vitez Municipal Council and the Vitez SDA Municipal Board
Zdravko Krsmanović, mayor of Foča and founder of "Nova Socijalistička Stranka"
Obren Petrović, mayor of Doboj
Nye AB, Taubman Building (5th floor), John F. Kennedy School of Government, 79 John F. Kennedy St., Cambridge, MA
Space is limited: please RSVP to ilyana_sawka@hks.harvard.edu.

A Lecture by Albania’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Energy
4:15 p.m.
H.E. Dritan Prifti, minister of economy, trade and energy of Albania; MC/MPA ‘00

Weil Town Hall, Belfer (ground floor), John F. Kennedy School of Government, 79 John F. Kennedy St., Cambridge, MA

The Kokkalis Program also brings the following events to your attention:

The Roma and their Plight in Europe and Beyond: A Visual Exploration of the Roma in Europe and the United States
7:30 p.m.
Jud Nirenberg, contributing writer, Romani Politics in Contemporary Europe
Cabot Lecture Hall 7th Floor, Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, 160 Packard Avenue, Medford, MA

Co-sponsored by Mediation Way and the Fletcher School (European Affairs Society; Fletcher Youth Initiative; International Negotiation & Conflict Resolution Club). For more information, contact gonca@mediationway.org.

It’s Easy Being Green: Prospects for the Green Party in Germany and Europe
6:30 p.m.
Cem Ozdemir, co-chairman, Alliance 90/The Greens (German Green Party)
Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University, 27 Kirkland St. at Cabot Way, Cambridge, MA

Co-sponsored by the Boston Eric M. Warburg Chapter of the American Council on Germany, the German-American Business Council of Boston, Inc., and the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies. Reservations recommended: RSVP to Ellie Falk by Monday, April 5 at efalk@acgusa.org or (212) 826-3636.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Albanian Folk Tales / The Serpent

This story has been found extant and still flourishing in popular narrative in both Italy and the Himalayan region of Asia. Choosing a version which is geographically in between, below is a Balkan one collected in Albania.


The Tale of the Serpent

There was once a hunter who, while passing by a quarry, noticed that a serpent was trapped by a large stone or rock.

The snake called out when it saw him: "Please help me, lift the stone."

The hunter answered: "I cannot help you because you are likely to devour me."

The reptile asked again for aid, promising that he would not eat the man.

And so the man released the snake. It immediately made a movement towards him, as if to attack.

"Did you not promise not to eat me, if I let you go?" the man asked.

The snake said: "Hunger is hunger."

"But," said the hunter, "if you are doing something wrong, what has hunger to do with it?"

The man then suggested that they should put the matter to the adjudication of others.
They went into some woods where they found a hound. They asked him whether he thought that the snake should eat the man, and he replied:

"I was once owned by a man. I caught hares, and he would provide me with the very best meat to eat. But now I am old, and I cannot catch even a tortoise, so he wants to kill me. Since I have been given evil in return for good, I claim he should eat you."

"You have heard," said the snake to the man, "That is the judgment."

But they decided to take three pieces of advice, not one, and continued on their way. Presently they met a horse and asked him to judge between them.

"I think that the serpent should be allowed to eat the man," said the horse. It continued: "I once had a master. He fed me for so long as I could travel. Now that I am feeble and cannot continue my duties, he desires to kill me."

The serpent said to the man: "We now have the unanimity of two judgments."

Further along, they came cross a fox. The hunter said: "Dear friend, come to my help! I was passing a quarry and I found this huge serpent under a stone and almost dead. He asked me to release him. I got him out, and yet he now wishes to eat me."

The fox answered: "If I have to give a decision, let us return to the place where you met. I have to see the actual situation."

They went back to the quarry, and the fox asked for the rock to be placed over the serpent, to reconstruct the situation. This was done. He asked: "Is this how it was?"

"Yes," said the serpent.

"Very well," the fox told him, "You shall now stay there until the end of your days."


-- Taken from WORLD TALES, Collected by Indries Shah. Submitted to Frosina by Jim Gregory

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Retired Albania Submarines Up for Sale

Tirana | 05 March 2010 |

Russian Whiskey Class Submarines

The Albanian government announced on Thursday that it has put up for sale as scrap metal two retired Soviet made submarines – once the glory of its navy fleet.

The Albania navy once had four Soviet built Whiskey class submarines docked in the Pashaliman base in Southern Albania.

The subs were donated from the Soviet Union in 1958, three years before Albania withdrew from the Warsaw Pact and the Soviets abandoned the Pashaliman base.

Officially the submarines were retired in 1998, after they were looted a year earlier following the anarchy caused by Albania’s Ponzi scheme crisis.

Apart from the two subs that have gone on sale, one of the submarines sank in the Pashaliman base in 1997, while the remaining ship is to be transformed into a naval museum.

The WWO and Ms. Kosova/2009

I was intrigued by the following announcement by The World Water Organization
and the fact that Ms. Marigona Dragushi, Ms. Kosova/2009, will make a special appearance at the upcoming "Drinking Water for Haiti" Concert at the Lincoln Center in New York.

Read on...


Dear All,

The World Water Organization (WWO), in line with its humanitarian mandate, has been effectively engaged in many ways to provide drinking water to the needy Haitians following the recent devastating earthquakes in their country.

As part of this humanitarian endeavor, a group of South Korean artists, led by Prof. Dr. Hai-Kyung Suh, one of the world's most renowned Pianist, is going to perform a concert at the Lincoln Center in New York for the benefit of the Haitians in need of drinking water, entitled: "Drinking Water for Haiti". This event will begin by a Special Appearance of Ms. Marigona Dragusha, Ms. Universe Kosova 2009 / Second runner up Miss Universe 2009, who is the World Water Organization Goodwill Ambassador. Meanwhile, His Excellency Ambassador Waheed Waheedullah, the Architect and the Desinger of the Peace Process and Independence of Kosova will also be in attendance. For detailed information on this event, please visit our web site at: theworldwater.org or explore the following links:


Tickets for this event shall be purchased from the Lincoln Center either in person or on line through the above-mentioned link.

Looking forward to having the pleasure of your attendance.

Thank You,

The Executive Board,
The World Water Organization

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Here's a very worthy cause announced by Mark Kosmo* that everyone -- Albanian or non-Albanian -- should support!


Medical help for Albania

Please see the attached links for more information regarding the work in Albania of Dr. Kenneth Leavitt who is Chief of Podiatry at New England Baptist Hospital here in Boston. Dr. Leavitt will be returning to Albania in May, and MAAS/BESA has been asked to help publicize his efforts and also to help raise money. The focus if his efforts are to:

1) Help expand the Department of Orthopedics at the Mother Theresa Hospital; and
2) Perform additional surgery on an Albanian boy (Gerti Kaziu) so that he can walk normally again.

We hope that this will help plant the seeds for additional cooperation in the future in Albania in cases where we can help in the health field. Donations are welcome, as explained in the attached links. Please forward this email to others working in Albania and/or in the medical profession who might be interested to help.



*If you don't already know who Mark Kosmo is, please know that Mark is an activist who has done much for the Albanian community in Massachusetts. For example, Mark was very instrumental in forming MASS/BESA some time ago that has become an umbrella organization consisting of several Albanian-oriented groups.

To learn more about MASS/BESA, contact Mark directly:

Mark Kosmo
617-372-0931 (phone)
617-262-2340 (fax)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Free or Low-cost info from U.S. Government

Since I founded Frosina some 15 years ago, I have made it a regular practice to produce and post ADVISORIES to Frosina's website www.frosina.org that would provide a wide range of useful data for Albanian and other immigrants arriving in America. Just below is the most recent Frosina Advisory offering valuable information - much of it Free - about America, health, and other matters of interest and assistance to newcomers.


A Frosina Information Network Advisory

WINTER-2010 Consumer Information Catalog
Free and Low-cost information from U.S. Government

Albanians and other newcomers to the USA should be aware of the
WINTER-2010 Consumer Information Catalog from the U.S. Government Printing Office that provides data about Americana – Health – Cars and other useful info.

Almost 100 booklets are free of charge (except for a $2.00 service fee to accompany an order) with other costs beginning at 50 cents and up per booklet. Shown below are only a few of the new WINTER-2010 listings along with costs for the new booklets. Multiple copies of some FREE titles are also available – call toll-free 1-888-878-3256 for more information.

1. Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants 101T ($10.00)
This comprehensive guide contains practical information to help immigrants deal with everyday life in the United States, as well as a basic introduction to the U.S. system of government. It also gives new immigrants TIPS on how to get involved in their new communities and exercise their rights as citizens or permanent residents. 122 pp. 2007 USCIS

2. The Constitution of United States & Declaration of Independence
100T ($2.75) Learn more about the foundations of our country’s freedom with the full text of both historic documents. 48 pp. 2006 HOUSE

3. Consumer Action Handbook 568T (FREE) Use this updated guide to get help with consumer purchases, problems, and complaints. Find consumer contacts at hundreds of companies and trade associations; local, state, and federal government agencies; national consumer organizations, and more. 172 pp. 2009 FCIC

4. High Blood Pressure 623T (FREE), Pap Tests 599V (FREE), Mammograms 548V (Free), Cell Phones 509V (FREE), Medicine and Pregnancy 600V (FREE), Buying Contact Lens 543V (FREE), Birth Control Guide 598V (FREE)

5. Buying a Used Car 301V ($1.50), Nine Ways to Lower Auto Insurance 305V ($1.50)

View Catalog listings by punching in Federal Citizen Information Center at www.pueblo.gsa.gov. Mail your order to: FCIC-09D, PO Box 100, Pueblo, CO 81002, or go Internet: order publications online, and save the $2.00 service fee!

Phone: Call toll-free 1 (888) 8PUEBLO to place an order M-F 6 am to 8 pm ET _____________________________________________________________________________________
The Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC) was established to help Federal agencies and departments develop, promote, and distribute useful consumer information to the public. One of the ways to do this is by publishing a new Consumer Information Catalog four times a year. Each quarter, FCIC searches out the best new consumer publications and reviews those already listed in the Catalog for accuracy.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Book Review: Rescue in Albania

I had never met Harvey Sarner in person but we became good friends via the telephone and postal mail. As a result of our long distance association, it was my pleasure and good fortune to collaborate with Harvey on his book "Rescue in Albania" depicting Albania's heroic salvation of Jews during the Holocaust. Because I had turned over my own research files on that same subject to Harvey, and because I reviewed and corrected the galleys of the book before it was printed, Harvey graciously designated me the co-publisher of his "Rescue in Albania."

After Harvey's death, in my capacity as co-publisher, I was pleased to authorize a Croatian language translation of "Rescue in Albania" that was subsequently published as "Spas U Albaninji" by an Albanian intellectual group in Zagreb.

Regrettably, our original book "Rescue in Albania" is no longer in print, but I believe you can find another version of it online.

I had asked the eminent British Albanolog Antonia Young to review "Rescue in Albania" that appears below:


Rescue in Albania: One hundred percent of Jews in Albania Rescued from Holocaust

Reviewed by Antonia Young

Sarner's hardback book is a revision of his pamphlet, The Jews of Albania (Brunswick Press, l992. 44p. plus photographic plates) which he wrote with Joseph Jakoel and Felicita Jakoel. Both publications give a brief history of Jews in Albania and emphasize their exodus in l99l. The later work concentrates on possible reasons for the exceptional situation of Jews in Albania during the Second World War in that not a single Jew was taken to any of the Nazi concentration camps. This accounts for the extraordinary fact that by War's end there were more Jews in Albania than before, due to an influx of Jews fleeing from other countries c not only surrounding countries, Yugoslavia and Greece, but also from further afield, Germany and Austria for example (p. 32c3). Initially Albania was seen (as, more recently, it has been seen by Asians) as a loophole into other parts of Europe. However, as the Nazi stranglehold over each European country tightened it became harder for Jews in transit through Albania to find another destination.

Sarner discusses the extremely tolerant situation between all religions of pre-War Albania, one which has brought frequent comment and citation of the phrase of the publicist and writer Pashko Vasa (l825c92) "The religion of Albanians is Albanianism". This phrase was also used by Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha to disclaim Albanians' need for any religion and the justification for his proclamation of Albania as the world's first atheist state, implemented l967c90. Hoxha's atheist stance placed people practicing any religion as equally culpable. Hence anti-Semitism did not exist in Albania.

Central to Sarner's history is Josef Jakoel (l922c9l), spiritual head of the Jewish community in Albania, whose perseverance in his faith managed to prevent the very small Jewish community in Albania from completely losing touch with their roots and with each other although travel even within Albania during the Communist period was extremely limited, and the few Jews were scattered between Tirana, Durres, Vlora and Shkodra.

In l990 it was possible for the first time since the War for Albanians to leave their country even for short periods. By this time Jakoel was too sick to undertake investigations abroad on behalf of Albania's Jewish community. His daughter Felicita was chosen and left for Greece to make contact with the Jewish Agency and continue on to Israel, despite this entailing her visiting a country with no diplomatic relations with Albania. She was able to set in motion the exodus of Albanian Jewry to Israel which came about in l99l when 300 "Jews" left for Israel (some were gentiles married to Jews c a situation which the small isolated Jewish community had come to accept).

A second important theme of Sarner's account is the story of Albania's "Righteous" (those non-Jews identified and honored by the State of Israel as people who risked their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust). Sarner gives details of some of these people and families (Moslems and Christians) who housed and hid Jews, some for years; he remarks on the extraordinary generosity of those hosts, their refusal to accept recompense and their ungrudging giving even in situations of extreme danger. Not only were Jews offered hospitality by individuals and families; the Albanian government also heeded the code of honor for guests and refused to obey the command of the Italian occupies to expel all foreign Jews, and even provided a small stipend for needy refugee families (p. 40). Sarner himself was impressed by the indelibility of the Albanian code of honor when interviewing members of a family who each confirmed the importance of a guest's life before their own (p. 50); "there are no foreigners in Albania, there are only guests", he was told (p. 63). The author finds the key to this universal care and protection for the Jews in the roots of Albanian civilization: the priority given to The Guest.

This has also been observed by Dr. Kazuhiko Yamamoto in his research where he likens Albanian reverence for guests to the Japanese Guest God. In both societies honor is at stake should there be any question that any guest, for any length of visit, is not given the very best care and attention. This is also at the root of the Kanun (the set of laws codified by the l5th Century nobleman Lek Dukagjin, and strictly adhered to this day). These oral laws were finally written at the turn of the twentieth century. Several sections specify the correct conduct of a host. Article XXXI (b) notes that a woman may be shot in the back for betrayal of hospitality.
Legend also has it (p. 8) that 2,000 years earlier a shipload of Jews destined as Roman slaves, but shipwrecked on Albanian shores received traditional hospitality. These would have been the builders of a synagogue whose remains Sarner claims were found at the ancient Illyrian port of Dardania (p. 9).

Sarner's informative slim volume gives a brief history of Albania, a few current statistics, a short bibliography, a useful map (p. 30) showing the four Albanian vilayets within the Ottoman Empire (until l878) (explaining the strong Albanian links with the Jewish community of Janina), and some interesting photographic illustrations. One can ignore several minor typographical errors, but Sarner cannot claim Miranda Vickers as a Jew by naming her Martha in his bibliography!

The Albanian Nastradin Hoxha

When I was a young lad and began to “stretch the truth” after my mother would ask where I had been or why I was late getting home, she invariably shook her finger at me and called me in the Albanian language: "Nastradini!" She had recognized that I was, sometimes, a teller of tall tales. But, it wasn't until I became much older that I realized what it was she meant by calling me "Nastradini."

The fictional Albanian "Nastradini" or "Nastradin Hoxha" folktales stem from the real life character of Nostradamus, a 16th century French apothecary and reputed soothsayer, who published collections of prophesies that have since become famous worldwide. As his legend grew, Nostradamus metamorphised into a legendary, satirical figure known under a variety of names throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. He was eventually brought to Europe as Nasreddin Hodja by the Ottoman Empire and became well remembered for his amusing anectdotes. Much of Nasreddin's actions have been described as illogical yet logical, simple yet profound. The messages of Nastradin Hoxha can be best described as conveyed by a method of profound simplicity. Here’s an example:

Budalla! (Fool!)

Once, a philosopher had an appointment
to match his wits with Nastradini
to see who was the master.
He prepared himself single-mindedly
the way one does - for this encounter;
and he was all set; but of all things,
when he came to call, he found no one home.
In supreme high dudgeon,
he pulled a big chalk from his pocket
and marked Budalla!
on the door, and stalked off.
When Nastradini came home and saw
What the philosopher had done,
he hurried off to his house.
“I ask your forgiveness,”
said Nastradini to the philosopher,
“for not finding me at home when
you came to see me.
I had forgotten our appointment
until I saw you had written your name
on my door.”