By: Veneta Callpani, New York
We are living in the age of technology and it is amazing how much this has changed our lives and will continue to change the lives of future generations. As an Albanian living in America, I can say that the greatest gift that life has given me is the experience of a new language, a new culture, and new ideas. The ability to integrate into to a new culture while preserving the best aspects of my culture has been the key to moving forward and making a difference.
Although it is possible to access information about current events, this is not enough when it comes to our motherland, especially for those of Albanian descent who are born in America. Preserving our traditions is not the greatest challenge we face. Our greatest challenge is passing those traditions on to future next generations. It is true that the younger generation can read about Albania on the internet. Indeed, people can learn about Albania’s history and can read the latest news from there. They can even keep their grandparents up to date with what is happening in Albania. But the question remains: how much of what they learn will they value and understand? The brain does not store facts or images in a file that can be accessed in the same way as with a computer. Instead, the brain stores concepts and perceptions which may change over time and which are shaped by our experiences and feelings. It has been scientifically proven that learning from experience creates longer lasting memories. Thus, the best way to keep and pass on our traditions, our history, and most of all the love for our country, is to meet periodically. We need to stay connected in order to keep the love for our country and our people flowing through our veins.
I will never forget the day I joined The Society of Albanian-American Writers. At that time, I felt incredibly homesick but on that day, I felt like I had come home. Since then I have been part of the Society and I love attending meetings, events, and community related activities. The Society of Albanian- American Writers was founded in 2001 as a bridge to connect Albanian-American writers and to reinforce the power of intellectual and spiritual energy that we share. It is an ongoing process that keeps us united, and through our books and activities, we clear away the dust that covers us.
The Society of Albanian-American Writers has accomplished a lot. In 2016, the Society’s president, Adnan Mehmeti, published a book that includes all of the organization’s activities up to that point. In 2017, the Society published the anthology “Rozafa’s Milk” edited by Texas native Diane Durant. Appearing for the first time in English, this book is a collection of poems by members of The Society of Albanian-American Writers. It includes a short biography of each author. These poems are a treasure that belongs not only to Albania, but to the whole world. As Durant says, “It is my hope that “Rozafa’s Milk not only contributes to our understanding of the poetic experience, but that this small collection of poems also opens our collective minds to a greater human experience by amplifying both the words and the lives of these nineteen poets into a voice we can all hear, if we just listen.”
Another remarkable moment came in 2018 when Albania’s Minister for the Diaspora, Pandeli Majko, Kosovo’s Minister for the Diaspora, Dardan Gashi, and the Permanent Representative for Albania at the United Nations, Besiana Kadare (the daughter of Ismail Kadare) met with the members of The Society of Albanian-American Writers. Emphasizing the importance of promoting the value of our art and literature, Majko suggested that we organize a yearly meeting that would focus on Albanian books. Also, it was suggested that the Society should open the first Albanian Library in New York. Richard Lukaj, along with other Society members, was willing to contribute to this. The library will be the headquarters for Albanian-American books and culture that will open a new door to a better future. This will help encourage members of our community to get together to promote our work. It will also give Americans a chance to learn more about us.
Fruitful projects require time and effort, but where there is a will, nothing is impossible.