Ladies and Gentlemen, honored guests in this special evening for the founders, friends and supporters of the Martin and Mirash Ivanaj Foundations.
I am certain that many of you already know plenty about the life of the Ivanaj brothers, whose name graces the foundation. Both lawyers by training, they are distinguished personalities in the history of Albania who have a valuable contribution in the fields of education and rule of law. But my goal this evening is not to recount their history. This has been and will be done by historians and the official institutions of this country who have bestowed on the Ivanaj brothers the highest honors.
For me, what makes these brothers more personal and contemporary is their return to the newly nascent and poor Albania with their strong desire to contribute in its development, after their graduation at La Sapienza University, one of the best universities in Europe of that time. At a time when Albania needed many qualified professionals, the return of the Ivanaj brothers after they completed their education, although not unique, was nonetheless a rare act. And, almost 100 years after their return to this country, this continues to be a current theme.
Given that I too am one of those few who have chosen to return to Albania after 15 years of education and experience in USA, it is my personal belief, a belief that is reinforced by Drita’s history and the history of the Ivanaj family, that the desire to return to contribute is not something that is born in vacuum.
Such a feeling is nurtured to the children since they are little from their families, from the educational system during their academic development and from the society in general during their life. It is a feeling that must have been so strong within the Ivanaj family that even Drita’s Italian mother, widowed all too young, felt it was her mission to keep Drita’s Albanian identity alive, albeit she was only five years old when she left Albania. It is this feeling that compelled Drita to continuously contribute to Albanian causes as an integral part of various diaspora organizations such as the Albanian American Women Organization and the National Albanian American Council (where I met her) as well as the President of the Ivanaj foundations, without getting anything in return other than moral satisfaction.
This is a feeling that stems from a deep understanding of who we are and where we come from, the pride of what we are, acknowledging both our strengths and our weaknesses. Thus, it is not by happenchance that the mission of the Ivanaj foundations is inter alia to: “to encourage the dissemination of knowledge in Albania’s intellectual, juristic, and scientific traditions; nourish the education of the Albanian people about its valiant history, and aid in its documentation.” It is a mission that the Ivanaj brothers lived and breathed throughout their lives and remains relevant and current to this day after almost 100 years.
At a time when cosmopolitanism and globalism are trendier, if this feeling is named as “patriotism”, often is viewed as anachronism and with furrowed brows. I call it “self-respect”. And there few people that I know who respect more themselves, their family tradition and the mission that is engrained in their family name more than my friend Drita Ivanaj, and the Foundations that she spearheads.
Board Member & Legal Counsel
M & M Ivanaj Foundation Institut
October 10th, 2017
Return to: Cultural Center Opening Event