Tirana – September 22, 2003

This morning a scientific and cultural conference, sponsored by The Martin and Mirash Ivanaj Foundations of New York and Tirana, in collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, the Academy of Science, the Archives of State, and the Public Library, took place in the halls of the National Historic Museum in Tirana.

It was on this date, 50 years ago, Prof. Dr. Mirash Ivanaj, died while serving a 7 year sentence as a political prisoner. This conference not only commemorated him for the dedication to his country as a teacher and Minister of Public Education, but also his older brother, Dr. Martin Ivanaj, who, as a jurist and lawyer, as well as Head of the Court of Cassation, contributed a great deal to the civil and penal systems of Albania. They both devoted their entire lives to the country and both were members of the Council of State of Albania during the 1930s.

The opening consisted of two special presentations on the part of the current Minister of Education, Prof. Luan Memushi, and the Head of the Academy of Science, Prof. Ylli Popa, which were much appreciated by the public. Greetings emailed from the U.S. for this occasion were read to the attendees, and the Ivanaj Foundations mission and goals were projected on the screen in English, while being articulated in Albanian. The speeches with the following themes were then addressed by:

  • Uran Butka : “Prof. Mirash Ivanaj – great national personality”
  • Dr. Shaban Sinani: “Prof. Mirash Ivanaj – model statesman”
  • Prof. Iljaz Gogaj: “ Prof. Mirash Ivanaj – director, reformer of the state gymnasium in Shkodra”
  • Dr.Jorgo Bulo: “Literary inheritance of Prof. Mirash Ivanaj”
  • Dr. Nevila Nika: “Dr. Martin Ivanaj – jurist of state”
  • Dr. Kaliopi Naska: “Archival assets of the Ivanaj brothers”

Drita Ivanaj, president of the Ivanaj Foundations in New York and Tirana, ended the program with a brief presentation that recalled the transition from the early days of her life in Tirana to today’s fulfillment of a life long dream of creating these entities to preserve Albanian history and to help Albanian youth in forging a better future for themselves and the country. Her thoughts produced emotional moments among many of the attendees.

The conference officially ended when Minister Memushi, on behalf of President Alfred Moisiu, who was on a visit to the U.S., presented Drita Ivanaj with the highest Albanian “Honor to the Nation” medal, awarded to her uncle, Prof. Mirash Ivanaj, with the following presidential dedication: “Renowned figure of the nation and the Albanian culture, great reformer of the education and the national Albanian school, unbent warrior of independence, fighter of freedom and national social progress”. Decree No. 3963 – Tirana, 09/15/2003.

A reception followed in the main hall of the National Historic Museum where an exhibition of a large number of documents and photographs of the Ivanajs’ was mounted by the Archives of State.

A large turnout of the public attended. This included a great number of Albanian intellectuals, scholars, writers, historians, teachers, students, and people from the northern city of Shkodra and Montenegro, as well as local personalities, a representative of the U.S. Embassy, and both private and public media (ie: TVSH, Teuta, Arberia, Shjiak, Vision Plus, Tirana Sot, Panorama, etc.) .
A special guest was Irfan Tershana, now a spry 99 year old ex teacher, who was hired by Mirash Ivanaj, when he was Minister of Public Education, to work at the Gymnasium “28 Nentori” in Shkodra.

All afternoon and evening TV programs broadcasted and reported on the event.  Detailed reports on the speeches will be published in the future in a book of proceedings.