A History Of The Albanian Community In Romania And Its Organization ALAR

President of ALAR

Documents speak of an Albanian presence on Romanian land no earlier than 1595, when a report sent to the imperial Councillor Pezzen, by his agent Giovanni de Marini Poli on 14/24 March, highlights the arrival in Cervenavoda of 15,000 Albanians and their families; they had asked for permission from the voivode Mihai Viteazu to settle down in Ţara Românească (Wallachia) and some 1,500 of them had joined his army. Yet, Albanians have arrived here in successive waves of immigration both before, and after, that date. During the 12th and 13th, as well as 19th, centuries, Albanians were making a living here as merchants or handicraftsmen, while some of them, enrolled in the princely and boyar's guard troops, were the famous arnaouts (initially called arbanashi). The arnaouts have been the foremost social and political scion of the Albanian community. During the Revolution of 1821, Albanians fought in Tudor Vladimirescu's army. Albanians have found a warm shelter, and a fraternal welcoming, on Romanian land across centuries. The famous arnaout guard troops aside, they have set themselves apart as silver jewellers, armourers, lawyers, bankers, grocers, furriers, dyers, bakers, innkeepers, confectioners, constructors, chemists, engineers, doctors, officers, professors, linen workers, wheelwrights, carpenters, etc; generally their professions led them to settle down in cities. On the other hand, history also acknowledges them as high officials with sundry offices, active in Romanian and European culture. Especially noteworthy are the humanist Elena Ghica (Dora d'Istria), the family of the hospodar Vasile Lupu, Naum Veqilhargi, Constantin Draco (secretary of the hospodar Constantin Brâncoveanu), Constantin Caraiani – counsellor for reorganization of schools under the reign of Grigore Alexandru Ghica, Constantin Sakellarie – Prussia 's consul in Bucharest, Alexandru Ghica – high treasurer, and many others. In Romania the end of the 19th century witnessed an Albanian movement for national renewal, strongly backed – emotionally and financially – by the Albanian community in Romania, then numbering a few thousands members, most of them established in Bucharest, Constanţa, Ploieşti, Piteşti, etc. As a result, many cultural and patriotic societies were founded, such as: Drita (The Light), Dituria (The Science), Bashkimi (The Union). They were headed by Nikolla Nacio, Mihail Grameno, Asdreni (Aleks Stavre Drenova), - who has written the Albanian national hymn on Ciprian Porumbescu's musical piece, "Our flag bears the word Union". The same period saw the establishment of the first bilingual reviews in Albanian and Romanian, and even of trilingual ones, in Albanian, Romanian and French; these 30-odd reviews were edited under the aegis of various intellectual circles of the Albanian community. During the 1920s, here lived those who were to become eventually trailblazers of culture in Albania: the poets Lasgush Poradeci, Mihail Grameno, Asdreni as well as Ali Aslani, the writer Mitrush Kuteli, the diplomat Nik Pema, the poet and prelate Fani Stylian Noli – who then went on to become the archbishop of Albanians in the USA. He was the one to hold the first liturgy at the church "Dintr-o zi", an Orthodox church in Bucharest, which was given to the Albanians in Romania between 1912 and 1947. Honorary members of the Albanian community in Bucharest were B. P. Hasdeu, academician V. Urechia, later on Tache Ionescu and Dimitrie Butculescu. Moreover, at the request of the leaders of the Albanian community in Bucharest, Nicolae Iorga wrote, in French, the first history of the Albanian people. At the beginning of the 20th century, a normal school, with lessons being taught in Albanian, was founded in Bucharest, at the boarding school in Principatele Unite Street; it prepared school teachers for Albania. In those years, the Albanian community in Bucharest was the most stalwart organization of the Albanian diaspora. It used to organize various festivities, gatherings, balls, and used the revenues to pay for the above mentioned reviews and the personnel of the normal school, as well as to help the old people. On November 5, 1912, two of the future founders of modern Albania arrived in Bucharest: Ismail Qemali – deputy of Berat by the Ottoman Porte, and Luigj Gurakuqi. At a meeting held at the Continental Hotel, in the presence of the leaders of the Albanian community from Romania, it was decided that Albania's independency was to be proclaimed on November 28, 1912; this happened indeed in the Albanian city of Vlora (native city of Ismail Qemali), in the presence of the delegates of the Albanian colony from Romania, at a popular assembly with delegates from all Albanian territories. Under the communist regime, the Albanian community from Romania was, to a certain degree, dispersed. Many of its members had either died during the war or had returned to Albania, Macedonia or Kosovo. Others had emigrated to the USA or Turkey. Besides, from 1953 onwards any form of organisation was banished – and remained so until 1989. Still, Albanians continued to toil for Romanian and universal culture: writer Victor Eftimiu; actor Chiril Economu; doctor Ibrahim Themo – who considerably improved the sanitary standards in Dobrudja; architect Stavru Opari; professors Nicolae Djamo and Lucia Djamo Diaconiţă; doctors Anastase Opari, Theodor Economu; Nikola Nacio, Tanţi Economu; Mircea Dumitriu – European champion in yachting, etc. Nowadays other Albanians distinguish themselves in Romanian culture and sports: Cornel Stavru – a seasoned tenor; poet Cezar Ivănescu; playwright Vlad Zografi (son of Nicolae Djamo); painter and national yachting champion (2004) Vlad Dumitriu; writers Kopi and Ardian Kyçyku, etc. On June 30, 1999, the Association Liga Albanezilor din România (League of Albanians from Romania, ALAR) was founded in Craiova. It is a Romanian legal body, non-governmental, non-profit, whose goal is the public representation, promotion and defence of the interests of the ethnic Albanians. On Nov. 26, 2000, ALAR won seats in the parliamentary elections, and also became a member of the Council of the National Minorities in Romania promoted by the Interethnic Relations Dept. of the Romanian Government. On Nov. 28, 2004, ALAR won yet another term in the parliamentary elections. From 2000 and until now (2006), the deputy of the Albanian minority, and president of the ALAR has been professor Oana Manolescu; she is also the director of the cultural magazine and press organ of ALAR, "The friend of the Albanian", founded Nov. 2001. In March 2006 the magazine had reached its 53rd issue. ALAR were also determined from the very beginning to solve, by legal means and through their parliamentary deputy, social and humanitarian problems of all Romanian citizens of Albanian origin, as well as the integration problems of Albanian pupils that came to study in Romania, while also helping old men and refugees; in addition, it initiated a campaign to maintain ethnic and cultural identity. ALAR owns a publishing house, "Privirea" (The Look) and publishes books: "An alphabet of Albanian poetry", "The road of hope", "The peace within", "Love will bring us together", "The table of elements in verse", "Mountains are our own", "Albanian cuisine", etc. As a spiritual heir of the cultural societies of the early 20th century, ALAR brings to a successful end its rationale of preserving and promoting the ethnical identity of Albanians from Romania.

by Oana Manolescu