Friday, January 8, 2010

Not to get old…

- Shpëtim Agur Çilotaj is a rare boy, a good friend for everyone who knows him closely or has worked with him, - this is what my Cham friends from Fier told me a year ago.

These words were confirmed even by Gramoz Nimani (Naim), a common friend from Durrës, whom I trust because he has followed me for the Cham ideal even in the most difficult days, when he was ill and almost dying from languor.

And so instinctually I began watching Shpëtim, before deciding to open the friendship doors to him. And now he is a pleasant surprise for me, as a man of letters, who sees life from an artistic point of view and of course, even for other friends with a long experience in recognizing people, the same as me. And I am emphasizing not unintentionally, I don’t easily make mistakes regarding my tastes. At least, until today, I have never disappointed the readers. I think I’ll not disappoint them even with the personage I chose to present with such sympathy. I am saying it again: Shpëtim Çilotaj is really a charming boy, physically and especially in his interior. Believe me because I’m not insisting in vain, that’s why you should be curious to follow me in every detail, and you will be convinced that you have in front of you a main personage, really dignified for the Albanian society. A 35 year old man that blooms in his peak age, a friend full of virtues and a successful businessman - this is the right description of the man that advances impressively through this writing rows and in our imagination, honored reader…

Shpëtim Çilotaj was born in June 24, 1974 in the city of oilmen, in Patos (Fier), where he passed his childhood and got educated. So he finished the elementary and high school in his birthplace and graduated in Business Administration, Management in the University of Elbasan. And not in vain he chose this graduate school. It is understood, he was incited by the family gene. His grandfather, Laze Bilaj was a trader and his nephew, Shpëtim, this successful businessman, inherited it. His father, Agur, today is a well-set pensioner although he is 67 years old. Unlike his grandfather Laze, he worked as an oilman obliged by the conditions the former communist dictatorship had assigned, like all the townsmen of Patos, this oil-bearing zone. Shpëtim’s mother, Zonja, worked in construction.

Shpëtim is the smallest of three brothers. They have a sister, who is the brothers’ and parents pet as the last-born child of this typical Albanian family, which has been established in Patos about three hundred years ago. Grandfather Laze Bilaj took care of Shpëtim as the smallest of the boys, telling him his life experiences and teaching him how to be a devoted man for himself, his family and society. So he taught him how to imbibe the best characteristics and values of their clan, generation after generation and how to take values from the Cham coevals’ values.

Who doesn’t know Laze Bilaj in Patos and Fier, especially the Cham families that were established there in 1945, after being violently deported from their homeland, Chameria, by the Greek chauvinistic bands. As it is known, today the Chams, due to their rare genetic abilities, comprise a large part of Patos and Fier population. They came traumatized by the genocide the Greeks practiced upon their country and community. But they rapidly adapted themselves, handled trade and artisanal works, survived, were reproduced, and left many descendants to ensure the continuity of their own gene. So the Chams survived their number increased in Patos as well as in many areas of Albania, where they had set up their dwellings, expanding and strengthening the friendly relations with natives…

Shpëtim grew up and got educated as a Cham child among the numerous Cham families that had already enhanced their friendship with his grandfather Laze Bilaj, their host. The whole zone honors Laze for his hospitability toward the Chams. He supported and helped the Chams to build their homes and trade, as Chams’ most preferred tool to secure their living. And so they were so attached and fraternized that today Chams and natives don’t differ. Through the years the family traditions were mixed together and today it’s difficult to distinguish Shpëtim Çilotaj from a Cham guy and conversely.

In March 2002 Shpëtim Çilotaj created “Çilotaj” LLC company centered in Fier and with branches in some districts, which, due to Shpëtim’s managerial capacities grew, expanded and created capitals as one of the most durable businesses in Albania. Later, based on this company, was created “Çilotaj Group” ltd, centered in Fier and with branches in Vlora, Durrës, Tirana etc...Today, this successful company has production and construction lines and many other objectives. Shpëtim Çilotaj says their company is connected with the Turkish company “Kurum”, owner of former metallurgical combine in Elbasan and trades its iron, having exclusivity for Tirana and Southern Albania. “Çilotaj Group” ltd cooperates even with the Lebanon company “FK Cement” and they have exclusive rights to sell the cement of Fusha Kruja factory in the districts of Fier and Vlora. This company has set up the wiring line in Fier for iron rifling and retraction and the iron hollow production line for concrete platforms and building basements. In Tirana, this company deals with palace construction, while in Golem Beach it builds touristic objects. So they work hard with the aim to expand even more the building possibilities of the company which today has over 100 employees…

This company includes even the physical preservation society “Çilotaj Security” with administrator Gramoz Nimani or Naim Nimani, as all his friends know him.

- Now we have taken the presidency of Albanian Boxing Federation, - says proudly Shpëtim. – Don’ think we are inexperienced in this field. We have given evidence that we know how to manage sport clubs, because we have had before the direction of “Teuta Box” of Durrës and we were successful. That’s why we decided to see beyond it. But you have to know that this coincides with my biggest hobby, which is sport…

Shpëtim speaks with passion for his free time when he totally dedicates himself to sports games, soccer, volleyball and basketball, not only to keep his body in shape as an athlete, but also for pleasure, relaxation and to regain forces for tomorrow when he should be back at his construction works. Shpëtim says he makes a vivacious and exciting life. He likes reading, watching movies, he likes music, and he is so passionate about fast cars that he doesn’t leave the wheel easily. He would like racing, if he was given the possibility. He likes travelling in tourist places, not only for business purposes, when he has to travel and go to different places to meet foreign partners for the expansion of investments in Albania.

- Shpëtim Çilotaj, - tells me Naim Nimani, our common friend, - isn’t simply a systematic state taxpayer, but, with that noble spirit, he is also a philanthropist; he helps anyone who needs help from him, particularly vulnerable social categories. He cooperates with the Red Cross and provides financially many cultural activities etc. So, he works hard in many directions to keep up the dignified personality he has... However, he knows well that we, as his friends, have him under strict surveillance to prevent his spirit getting old prematurely as many others.

This guy is also committed to the Cham ideal, just like a worthy successor of Chameria, - say my Cham friends and I feel even more confident while portraying the features of this character so loved by the social opinion around him. For the sake of truth, I had noticed even before Shpëtim’s readiness to support even with his passionate words the Cham ideal, but when my friends say he is a good friend of Chameria, I raise my hands up and think I haven’t make a mistake portraying him with such certainty.

This is Shpëtim Agur Çilotaj, the guy whose spirit never gets old. I don’t know what else to say… If my friends have lied to me, if my eyes and my experience lied to me, I’m sorry: if they lied to me I lied to you, honored reader…

Elim Xanxari

(Translated by: Lorena Uliu)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Together in a front for the Cham ideal

(Impressions from Servet Mehmeti,
former director
of the Patriotic Political Association “Chameria”)

The rivers flow in eternity from faraway fountains, fruit of God. The rivers’ bottoms are their lands and nobody can take them out, as it is the territory of the Cham Albanians. It’s their land, given from God. It’s sufficient to read the poem “Cham ballad” of the dissident Cham writer Bilal Xhaferri and everything is clearly understood. He writes:

The rainbow, like a tearful greeting of goodbye,
Disappeared beyond the distances,
Over the flame crests,
in the rain…
Beyond the distances disappeared in flames Chameria
And all our streets lead to north.
Wails the Mediterranean wind over the ancient epyriot lands,
over the dear ancestral lands.
In the abandoned pastures are grazing the thunderclaps.
The unpicked olive-groves thunder like the waves along the hillocks.
And everywhere the Cham land,
covered by the clouds,
groans tearful and bloody,
left lonesome,
without godhead.
We are shown the way by the bullets that whistle in darkness.
We are lightened the way by the flames that have swallowed up all earth.
Behind our backs the windstorm hits the ramshackle house doors.
And the streets reach and reach the north.
We, a deported population, walk along the rain…
Goodbye, Chameria!

But why did the Cham population suffer such barbaric actions, why was it massacred violently, why did this calamity strike these people of mother Chameria?! They loved Albania, their nation. But the violence and the barbarism of the bad and evil people, such as the Greek chauvinists, unstrapped them from its trunk. Besides Bilal’s poetic spirit and the injustice toward the Cham population, it was even the blind judgment of the people, who didn’t appreciate the freedom and the right. Bilal Xhaferri, like the Chams, has been victimized by the communist dictatorship. The dictatorial system persecuted him, even though he went away, went far away to save his dignity, the dignity that was the life itself for him.

Bilal Xhaferri went on developing his literary and publicistic activity in America. His creations had a big echo at Diaspora’s press. In particular echoed “Eagle’s wing” magazine created and published by him. But even in America, the dark shadows of communism didn’t left Bilal in peace, opposing him by all means, and so he was prey to their violence. Regardless of this situation, Bilal went ahead with his activity at service of the country, with a more special zeal. Unwittingly, he had against him two countries: the maternal Albania, which was leaded then by a communist clique and the neighboring Greece that had ousted his brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers from their own lands. So, Bilal’s work was extinguished at the very peak of his attempts. It was extinguished a dignified successor of Hoxhë Tahsini, Abedin Pashë Dino, Muharrem Rushiti etc., men who have illuminated the history of Albania.

Even Bilal illuminates with his light the issue of the Cham pain. We hereby should thank the former Chairman of the Parliament of Albania, Mr. Pjetër Arbnori, the writer Shefki Hysa, director of the Cultural Association “Bilal Xhaferri” and editor of “Eagle’s wing” magazine, the relatives and the well-wishers that enabled the return of Bilal Xhaferri’s bones in Albania.

A group of intellectuals, headed by the writer and editor Shefki Hysa, as a sign of consideration for Bilal Xhaferri’s works and creations, which shed some light on the reality of the Albanian pain, created the Publishing House “Bilal Xhaferri”, as a necessity to widely inform the public for the work of a big writer, a big patriot at service of the Cham issue. The Publishing House “Bilal Xhaferri” was opened and quickly strengthened, and in 1993 was created even the Cultural Association “Bilal Xhaferri” and began being published “Eagle’s wing” magazine, which was published before by Bilal himself in America. These institutions were a new support, a new wing of the Patriotic Political Association “Chameria”. I have so evaluated these endeavors as director of “Chameria” Association during 2003-2006.

“Eagle’s wing” (Krahu i shqiponjës) magazine has given a special help to introduce and propound the Cham issue before people’s opinion. It is known for its social, cultural, historical values and especially for the patriotic opinion that predominates in its writings. During 2004 “Chameria” Association intensified the collaboration with “Eagle’s wing” magazine for treating and approving in parliament a resolution for the solution of the Cham problem. So the press, the televisions and the pan-Albanian opinion would be aware of this problem. Unfortunately the resolution wasn’t approved owing to the Greek pressure. The most typical example was the former Prime Minister, Fatos Nano, who inhibited its approval.

In this difficult period, excepting the unusual activity of “Chameria” Association’s structures, was necessary even the contribution of the Cultural Association “Bilal Xhaferri” and that of “Eagle’s wing” (Krahu i shqiponjës) magazine, especially the contribution of its director, the writer Shefki Hysa, coordinator of all the contacts, the meetings and the conversations with deputies, parliamentary groups and parliamentary commissions of the Parliament of Albania.

The collaboration and the cooperation between such structures of the Cham community have been and actually are an indispensable exigency and they ought to be appreciated, mostly when a national issue, like the Cham issue, needs a solution. I want to stress that it’s quite necessary the coordination of actions between “Chameria” Association, the Institute of History for Chameria and the Cultural Association “Bilal Xhaferri”, so to act as a powerful organism and with one purpose, inside and outside Albania, for the solution of the Cham issue. We should align ourselves in a front, for the sake of the Cham ideal. Furthermore, it’s required a good organization and the strengthening of the organism’s structures from the bases to the center.

They have to become the real chiefs of the Cham community. Only in this way the Cham issue can find a solution, as an ideal of all the patriotic and honest Albanians, as a pan-national objective. I am stressing one more time that the solution of the Cham problem, the return of the Chams in Chameria, in their ancestral motherland, will come only as a result of the collaboration between these organizations that represent the Cham community.

So the Cham community can become a compelling factor in Albania and abroad and it can achieve its objective concerning the Albanian state’s politics and this one will so feel responsibility and constitutional obligation for the national issue, a necessity and an exigency for our national prestige and pride. The solution of the Cham issue is based on the politics that the Albanian state will pursue regarding Greece and other international partners. It must keep its body straight in the treatment of this issue. Only in this way the Cham ideal can be finalized. Let’s work together and let’s hope for a safe future.

Servet Mehmeti
Former director
of the Patriotic Political Association “Chameria”

March, 2009

Translated by Endri Hysa

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

“Bilal Xhaferri” Mission

(Impressions from Pjetër Arbnori,
Chairman of the Parliament of Albania)

Honored friends of the defunct Bilal Xhaferri!

I am expressing myself not as the Chairman of the Parliament of Albania but as your friend, as a coeval and a co-sufferer of big men like Bilal Xhaferri, the well-known poet, prosator and publicist, as Mr. Shefki Hysa defines him. Shefki Hysa has been so zealous in his mission for the exaltation of this brilliant figure, consigned to oblivion by the communist dictatorship, which did the same with many other patriots, which did the same with Pjetër Arbnori.

I am expressing myself as honor member of the Cultural Association “Bilal Xhaferri” and as Chairman of the Commission for the Ceremony Organization for the return of Bilal’s bones in Albania. I was in charge of this duty and I think I have done well.

I know from experience that it isn’t easy to deal with such complex figures as that of Bilal Xhaferri. It is one of the most difficult missions that a smart man can undertake. Mr. Shefki Hysa had the courage to be in charge of this mission and he succeeded in arousing the Albanians’ memory for the extraordinary talent of Bilal Xhaferri. Shefki managed to bring him back in the native land and now he reposes in his birthplace, Saranda.

I think that with this human act, Mr. Shefki Hysa, the Publishing House “Bilal Xhaferri” and the Cultural Association “Bilal Xhaferri” have completed their mission for the Cham issue. They have served to Chameria like nobody else, of course with our help and yours too. Anyway, in my opinion, “Bilal Xhaferri” mission can be defined as complete, notwithstanding the fulfillments and the fineries that time and other patriots following Mr.Shefki Hysa will bring…

Pjetër Arbnori
Chairman of the Parliament of Albania

May, 1995
I haven’t made a praying to die!

(Impressions from Qani Biraçi,
former director of the Patriotic Political Association “Chameria”)

It’s just a little to talk about my friend Shefki Hysa, and he doesn’t like the fact of talking about him. It’s sufficient to talk about Bilal Xhaferri and the activity of the Cultural Association “Bilal Xhaferri” and he feels satisfied. He says that his friends have fulfilled the duty toward him if they support the mission he leads.

According to my opinion Shefki Hysa is a simple man, idealist, and very zealous to open new streets in literature as a writer and very persistent as a patriot, to give support and justice to the martyr population of Chameria.

I know Shefki Hysa since the creation of the Patriotic Political Association “Chameria” in 1991. His writings at “Chameria” newspaper were a balsam for the Cham population. The storybooks and the novels published by him had the flavor of Chameria and we, as Chams, enjoyed them so much.

I knew Shefki when he leaded the Publishing House “Bilal Xhaferri” and the Cultural Association “Bilal Xhaferri”. I knew him when le leaded “Eagle’s wing” magazine too, where he wrote so much about Chameria, and I began to appreciate him more.

The Cultural Association “Bilal Xhaferri”, under the direction of Shefki Hysa, was becoming day by day a strong support for Chameria. In 1994, in a difficult period, when segments of the Albanian state left without offices the Patriotic Political Association “Chameria”, my friend, Shefki Hysa offered for interaction the offices of his association, notwithstanding the misunderstandings and the tensions with some Cham headmen, who were concerned for their own interests rather than the exaltation of the Cham ideal.

When I was the director of the Patriotic Political Association “Chameria”, Shefki Hysa participated in every activity, giving an extraordinary contribution for our organization and for the Cham issue. I have a lot of beautiful memories from the work and friendship with the writer Shefki Hysa. We passed together a difficult period. It was when the structures of the Patriotic Political Association “Chameria” didn’t work and its case was empty. The entire activity was sabotaged for the individual interests of some former directors.

It was necessary to start everything from the beginning or the solution of the Cham problem would go adrift. The branches of the association in districts and the central direction in Tirana needed to be revivified. After the new elections in these branches, it was necessary to organize an impressive convention, so to inform the international and the Albanian opinion that the Patriotic Political Association “Chameria” existed and it was acting too. I was in charge of this duty, but how would I achieve it? How would I go in the districts?

My friend Shefki Hysa was willing to help me one more time. He put at my disposal his car and some friends’ vehicles and he accompanied me everywhere. We travelled day and night from one place to another and briefly we managed to revivify the structures of the association. It began to work and its budget increased.

We had daily contacts with America and other countries, where our friends acted. We strengthened the contacts with foreign embassies in Albania, especially with the American, Italian, German and Turkish diplomats, with many politicians and diplomats in the world, especially with the Internationalist Party, which was leaded by the Italian Euro deputy Marko Panela. A resolution to support the solution of the Cham issue was approved in this party convention.

Meanwhile, with our encouragement the senator Hillary Clinton organized a special session in the American Senate for the Cham issue, where the Greek party was called too, and it gave its explanations. So the Cham issue, with our work, was becoming more international.
It was the time when we were working really hard for the organization of a spectacular convention and Shefki was always near me. The convention was a big success and echoed everywhere for all that certain elements tried to annul it. I was elected General Director.
After the event different elements began to arrange meetings in coffee-bars and they opposed the working of “Chameria” Association. This fact demoralized me and I was thinking to resign. As always, I could count on my friend Shefki. But at the very peak of our association’s achievements I resigned. The clan that constrained me to resign took “Chameria” Association and after a year of direction, the association almost didn’t exist. All the structures were merged.

After the event, Servet Mehmeti, the after director, Shefkiu and me, tried to revivify the Patriotic Political Association “Chameria” again but someone managed to destroy this regeneration.

I have had and I still have an anxiety in my soul: During the activity of “Chameria” Association I wanted Shefki Hysa to be continuously part of its leading structures, but “the serpents”, those who poisoned the continuation of our work, didn’t accept. They were afraid of his ability, zeal and sensibility.

I am sorry, my friend, Shefki Hysa that even now all the structures of “Chameria” Association collapsed and its voice is hardly listened. I am really sorry as to weaken and fall sick of this wound but I am appealing to you:

Don’t stop this vigor, my brother!

Remember that I am alive and I haven’t made a praying to die!

Qani Biraçi
Former Director
of the Patriotic Political Association “Çamëria”

March, 2009