Monday, November 28, 2011

About Albania's National Holiday - November 28th

Urime 28 Nentorin
Rrofte Diten e Flamurit

Van and Jane Christo


According to a news release distributed this date by the National Albanian American Council (NAAC)- - below is a statement from USA Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, about November 28th, Albania's most celebrated national holiday:

“Our two countries share a long history of friendship and cooperation. Today, we are strengthening this partnership as we work side by side in NATO and encourage stability in the region and around the world. We continue to support Albania’s integration into the European Union and we encourage Albania’s political leadership to work together to ensure their country moves forward. The Albanian people want a transparent government, accountable leadership, and strong democratic institutions that will help build a prosperous and secure future. The United States will continue to stand firmly with the people of Albania as we work together to achieve these goals.”

“As you celebrate this special day, know that the United States is a partner and friend. I wish all the people of Albania the very best and look forward to deepening our partnership in the years to come.”
- Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State

Monday, November 21, 2011

Van Christo Dita E Flamurit Speech in 1992

The following is a Dita e Flamurit (Albanian Independence Day) talk that I gave in 1992 at a commemorative dinner hosted by the world famous Albanian American restaurateur ,Anthony Athanas, at his well-known, flagship Anthony's Pier 4 Restaurant located on Boston's historic waterfront.

Van Christo


Dita e Flamurit (Albanian Independence Day)

We are here today to celebrate the historic date of November 28th, 1912, where in Vlora, in southern Albania, the venerable Ismail Qemal officially proclaimed the independence of Albania after almost 500 years of Turkish subjugation. It is especially important now to review some of the events leading up to that day because the spotlight is once again on the Balkans. The current war in what was formerly Yugoslavia is perilously close to Albania and the two to three million ethnic Albanians in Kosova and Macedonia. Even back in 1911, the political situation in the Balkans was very complex because at that time the Ottoman Empire (of which Albania was a part) was crumbling, and what were then Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece began implementing plans to annex parts of Albania.

Back in 1911, a group of deputies in the Turkish parliament led by Ismail Qemal began to petition the Turkish government to acknowledge Albania's national rights and sovereign borders which Turkey had divided - for purposes of administration - into the four Albanian vilayets (provinces) of Shkodra, Kosova, Manastir, and Janina. However, the Turkish government dissolved its parliament in order to exclude and silence the Albanian dissident members. In April of 1912, the Albanians of Gjakova began a general uprising which quickly spread to other regions of the vilayet of Kosova and then into northern, central and southern Albania. Led by Isa Boletina and Bajram Curri, Albanians took up arms and defeated Turkish armies while liberating key cities in Kosova and northern Albania. Albanian armies led by Themistokli Germenji in Korcha, Salih Butka in Kolonje, and Elmas Xhaferi in Vlora, each defeated Turkish forces in those regions.

On July 22nd, Albanian insurgents led by Hasan Pristina marched victoriously into Prishtina, and the then-existing Turkish government was compelled to resign. A new Turkish government was formed which sought to stop the fighting and to begin negotiations with the Albanians in each of the above-mentioned Albanian vilayets of Shkodra, Kosova, Manastir, and Janina. This offer was a ruse by the Turks only to "divide and conquer" so it was immediately declined, and the Albanians resumed fierce fighting and quickly liberated Shkup, Peshkopia, Permet, and other strategic Albanian cities. The Balkan war of 1912 created a critical situation for the Albanians when Serbian, Montenegrin, and Greek armies began marching on Albanian territories.

Ismail Qemal hastily called a convention of Albanian delegates to a now-liberated Vlora even as Serbian armies were capturing Tirana, Montenegrin armies were marching on Shkodra, and Greek armies were moving from Himara towards Vlora, itself. Ismail Qemal, then, on November 28th, from the balcony of the convention site, hoisted the double-headed eagle flag of of the 15th century Albanian folk hero, Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg, as the new flag of Albania, and for the first time in the 20th century, Albania proclaimed its own national government and independence after almost 500 years of Turkish domination.

And now, 80 years later, we again see an unstable Balkan situation caused, in large part, by the collapse of communism as a major political force in Albania. Albanian- Americans and others are apprehensive because of the vulnerability of Albania and the fragility of the fledgling Albanian democratic government. Many Albanian-Americans are also apprehensive about some instances of divisiveness and intolerance in our own community. I would urge all of us to nurture and encourage the finest of our American democratic ideals in the new Albania. The Albanians have courage and fortitude, and they are going to need our help in rebuilding their country. Religious and political diversity are now encouraged and protected in Albania just as they are in the United States.

We would do well to positively encourage and protect that rich cultural, religious, and political diversity exemplified by new Albanians who are coming into our American communities so that they can have the same opportunities that we have had to be judged by our deeds and accomplishments and not by our religion or our politics.

It is now evident that neither the 500 years of Turkish domination of Albania nor the 50 years of the most repressive communist communist regime in the modern world can conquer the Albanian spirit. Like our grandfathers and great grandfathers before us we must, while acknowledging and protecting our differences, stand together to protect the freedom and prosperity of all Albanians. We must do what we can as Americans to protect not only the freedom but even the lives of our brothers and sisters in Albania, Kosova, and Macedonia. Today, the date of November 28th, 1912, has especially important significance for Albanians everywhere they are located in the world. On every November 28th, may we continue to celebrate the freedom and independence of Albanians everywhere.

Rrofte Dita e Flamurit. Rrofte Shqiperia. Rrofte Amerike. Rrofte Kosova Republike.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Van Christo: My WWII Military Experience

Albanian American War Veterans (AAWV) Annual Meeting / Anthony’s Pier 4 Restaurant, Boston/November 12, 2011

A Memento about my own U.S. military service during WWII

Van Christo

I am honored to address this American Albanian War Veterans meeting of which I was a Founding Member back in 1946. At this time, may I ask that each Albanian American veteran present here today to please stand up so I can introduce them and ask in which branch of military service and theatre of war did they serve.


Thank you. I served in the U.S. Navy during WWII as a Petty Officer on board a Destroyer-Escort, the USS Chaffee, DE230, for almost 18 months in the Pacific. During the invasion by American troops of the island of Luzon in the Philippine Islands that was a Japanese stronghold, my ship, the Chaffee, was patrolling Luzon’s Lingayen Gulf, when, on the night of January 23, 1945 at 11:15, a squadron of three Japanese "Betty" torpedo bombers was spotted by the Chaffee’s radar. The order for battle stations was given as the Chaffee readied for attack. Two of the Japanese bombers, or bogies as we called them, disappeared over the horizon, but the third plane made a wide turn back in the direction of the harbor where my ship and other U.S. Navy ships including the battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) were present. The captain of my ship ordered the Chaffee to turn towards the oncoming Japanese “Betty” bomber that dropped its torpedo and struck our ship way up forward in the bow. Although the Chaffee sustained damage, there were no fatalities, and the ship was able to seal off the forward compartments.

My battle station was After Steering, so, although I didn’t see the Japanese bomber from my location below decks, I could feel the impact as the ship lurched dramatically when it was hit by the torpedo. At that time, on any vessel over 1500 tons, there were always two locations from which the ship could be guided or steered. The primary location was the Pilot House, or Bridge, that is located at the top on the front of the ship. The secondary location is a facility called After Steering, which is located below decks at the very end (Fantail)of the ship. Upon a loud horn signal from the bridge, the helmsman, or person steering the ship at the After Steering station, immediately engages a clutch, thus assuming both complete steering control and compass course directions of the ship. This feature proved to be very important during the war in the Pacific corridor, as the pilot house was invariably the primary destination and target of all Japanese Kamikaze suicide pilots.

I was very proud that the battle station chosen for me on board the Chaffee was After Steering, as I was only 17 years old, and the youngest sailor on the Chaffee.

Since I didn’t see the torpedo strike our ship from my battle station below decks, some of the above details are taken from the ship’s log of Commander. A.C. Jones, former Captain of the USS Chaffee, that were provided to me by Robert H. Christ , a Signalman on the Chaffee.

On the following morning after the torpedo attack, two officers from the Chaffee boarded the Pennsylvania, hoping to acquire spare parts to make temporary repairs. But when the Chaffee officers came aboard the Pennsylvania, they were greeted like royalty since the crew of the Pennsylvania firmly believed that the Chaffee intentionally intercepted the Japanese torpedo in a heroic effort to save it from striking the Pennsylvania that represented a huge and easy target. But that was not really the case since the Chaffee inadvertently got in the way of the torpedo! However, when our two officers returned from the Pennsylvania to the Chaffee, they also brought back 6 gallons of ice cream from the grateful crew of the Pennsylvania. For this actual wartime encounter between the Japanese torpedo bomber and the Chaffee, our crew was awarded the Philippine Liberation Medal with Bronze Star.

A Joint Reunion of the USS Chaffee and the USS Pennsylvania took place in Louisville, Kentucky, on November 7-10, 2008. Since the Battleship Pennsylvania had a crew of about 3500 while the crew of the Destroyer-Escort Chaffee was only about 200 men, present at the 2008 Reunion were 600 people representing the Pennsylvania while there were only 5 original crew members of the Chaffee present. Nonetheless, on one wall of the huge Reunion dining hall were two mammoth banners with the names of the Pennsylvania and the Chaffee hanging side by side.

There, in a nutshell, you have heard a small portion of my own military experiences in the U.S. Navy during WWII. However, I believe we should have a permanent record of the experiences of all former Albanian-American members of WWII, Viet Nam, Korea, and wherever else they served America in areas of conflict and danger. A good place to begin is to record their names and photographs prominently in each Albanian religious and civic organization so they will not be lost to the generation of new Albanians who will know nothing of their wartime experiences, heroism, and sacrifices.

Finally, we may want to consider removing the word “war” from our organization's official name (American Albanian War Veterans) to accommodate all former Albanian American members of the military who served the United States of America.

American-Albanians have served many times with distinction in the service of America, so we should provide a lasting tribute to them so they will not be completely forgotten.

We owe it to them.

Thank you.


Van Christo, Quartermaster Second-Class (QM2c)

Duties of Quartermasters (QMs)

Quartermasters (QMs) stand watch as assistants to officers of the deck and the navigator; serve as helmsman and perform ship control, navigation and bridge watch duties. QMs procure, correct, use and stow navigational and oceanographic publications and oceanographic charts. They maintain navigational instruments and keep correct navigational time; render "honors and ceremonies" in accordance with national observance and foreign customs; send and receive visual messages; and serve as petty officers in charge of tugs, self-propelled barges and other yard and district craft.
The duties performed by QMs include:
• conduct weather observations;
• determine compass and gyro error;
• compute tide and tidal current data;
• keep logs and records; determine their ship's position by visual and electronic means;
• compute times of sunrise and sunset;
• follow the nautical rules-of-the-road to prevent collisions at sea.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Albanian American War Veterans Luncheon in Boston

The Albanian American War Veterans (AAWV), founded in 1946, will host an annual luncheon at 12 noon on November 12, 2011 at Anthony's Pier 4 on Boston's historic waterfront. The 65-year old veterans organization was the result of an initial appeal by Dr. Andrew Elia who had served as a Lt-Commander in the US Navy as a Medical Officer on a supply ship during WWII.

According to his daughter, Dorothy Howells, Dr. Elia was the model for the ship's doctor in the book "Mr. Roberts" by Thomas Heggen that was later produced as a successful play on Broadway and later as a movie starring Henry Fonda as Mr. Roberts and William Powell as the ship's doctor modeled after Dr. Elia. When the play "Mr Roberts" opened in Boston, author Tom Heggen, introduced Dr. Elia from the audience and invited him and his wife, Dr. Dhimitra Tsina Elia, to meet the cast members backstage.

Back in 1946, over 100 Albanian-American WWII veterans responded enthusiastically to Dr. Elia's appeal for a veterans group that led to the official foundation of the AAWV. Over the years, the AAWV participated actively in various Veterans Day observances and ceremonies at the Massachusetts State House and other governmental locations where the Albanian Americans distinguished themselves by their presence and by proudly displaying the American and AAWV flags.

The AAWV luncheon meeting will be opened by Commander Ronald Nasson after which, AAWV Founding Member, Van Christo, will provide a short history of the AAWV.

For reservations to the AAWV luncheon at Anthony's Pier 4 on Saturday, November 12, 2011,
please call Virginia Kosmo at 1 781 894-2721 or Ron Nasson at 1 508 66

Friday, November 4, 2011

“Orthodox Missions and the Resurrection of the Church of Albania”

Metropolitan John (Pelushi) of Korca

EFOM Missions Lecture - 7:00 pm, Thursday, November 17, 2011
Maliotis Center, Hellenic College
Brookline, Massachusetts

METROPOLITAN JOHN OF KORCA (Albania) grew up in the only country in the world that closed all churches and mosques and forbade any expression of religion from 1967-1991. Coming from a Bektashi (Islamic) family, he discovered Christianity and was baptized during one of the most dangerous periods in Albania’s communist history. He eventually emigrated to the USA, where he studied at Holy Cross and returned to Albania to serve as Dean of the Resurrection of Christ Theological Academy, and then Metropolitan of Korca.

Maliotis Center/Hellenic College / 50 Goddard Ave. / Brookline, MA 02445
Phone:(617) 731-3500 /(617) 850-1200

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

BOSTON: Celebrate Albanian Indepemdence Day!!

Dear friends, you are cordially invited to the 99th Albanian Independence Day celebration on Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 1pm at Anthony's Pier 4 in Boston. Join us for a pleasant afternoon with a rich program.

1:00pm - Cocktail with Cash Bar
2:00pm - Dinner
- Dance Performance by Saint Mary's Dance Group under the Choreography
of Dhimitraq Demiri
- "Anthony Athanas" Community Award Presented to Ronald V. Nasson
3:00pm - Dancing with American and Albanian Music by DJ Helios

Adults - $60
Children - $30
Business advertising - $40 to $100

Send Payment made out to:
Boston AANO Independence Day 2011
P.O. Box 437
Sharon, MA. 02o67

Anthony's Pier 4 Restaurant Address : 140 North Avenue, Boston, MA 02210

New England Clam Chowder,
Glover Salad,
Roast Sirloin Strip of Beef with Baked Potato & Mixed Vegetables,
Baked Alaska with Meringue & Strawberry Sauce,
Wine, Coffee, Tea

Questions: call Klodi Pepi 617-642-6857 or Frankli Zdruli 617-678-3305
or send email to

Part of the proceeds benefit AANO Scholarship Fund