It has been a long journey to this moment! I am home at last!
KA QENË NJË UDHËTHIM I GJATË DERI NE KËTË MOMENT! MË NË FUND JAM NË SHTEPINË TIME!
Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen:
It is with great joy and pleasure that I “Welcome You All” here, this evening, for the official opening of the new premises of the Ivanaj Foundations and their Cultural Center, built here, in Tirana, on the grounds that the Ivanaj brothers, Martin and Mirash, owned since the origins of ‘Tirana e Re’, 81 years ago.
Forced, as I was, to live abroad after the occupation of our residence during WWII, and subsequent isolation for decades of Albania from the rest of the Western world, I never thought that one day I would be able to return here, and see again my home from where, at the age of 5 ½ years old, I saw my Father Martin and Uncle Mirash leave one day, never to return, or be united with them again.
More than ½ a century later, one of my dreams to see Tirana again became a reality, when I was able to come back to Albania, and have returned to it almost yearly since 1993. My 2nd dream was realized 2 years later when I was able to arrange for the remains of my father Martin, who died in exile, to be reburied in Albanian soil, right next to his beloved brother, and my adoring uncle Mirash. They both now rest in peace at Sharre e Kombinat, united in death, as they were throughout their lives.
The last of my 3 dreams that I have had for decades, however, took close to 25 years to be accomplished, surmounting indescribable hurdles of all sorts throughout this time span to re-obtain physical possession of my properties. Here I wanted to create appropriate facilities, such as these, to become operative in providing programs, projects, and activities in the fields of culture and education for Albanians of all ages, but in particular for the country’s younger generations. This Center now truly represents the values of the Ivanaj Brothers.
What I have mentioned so far would not have been possible without the help of many, many people, throughout my entire life, but, on top of them all, I owe everything to my Italian Mother, Giuseppina Pogliotti, who maintained alive in me the love for Albania and my paternal side, even after becoming a widow, after only 8 years of marriage.
I wish my mother, who sacrificed so much for me, was here to witness this historic evening – but I have a feeling she is with us now and she is very pleased.
I am delighted that you could join me this evening for this ribbon cutting ceremony. My list of due thanks is a very long one. It spans on both sides of the Atlantic, and includes also friends who are no longer with us. I have been fortunate to have had all sorts of help and moral support from many people, who also volunteered their services throughout the years, and some of them continue to do so.
They range from American friends, who have also provided financial support and counseling to the Ivanaj Foundation in NY to the now, many Albanian ones that I have met and lent me a hand in whatever they could do throughout the years here, including, most recently, the developer of this great structure, Adrian Hajro, who cared to build this complex with the best materials and standards.
However, none of us would be here today if it was not for Dr. Luan and Mrs. Pertefe Leka, who came looking for me way back on their first trip to NY in 1993. Since then they hosted me several times in Tirana during the initial difficult times and conditions when Albania opened its doors to the western world, acquainted me with, and guided me through the chaotic way of living those days. Their help has been instrumental in helping me grope with what I wanted to accomplish upon my return to Albania, and voluntarily remained at my side all along.
Mrs. Leka is still the Vice President of the Ivanaj Foundation Institute of Tirana, and I am delighted that with her husband, Dr. Luan, other Board Members could join us this evening: Mrs. Ani Rizo, Mr. Rezart Spahia, Mrs. Aferdita Prroni, Mr. Dhimitraq Rizo, and our pro-bono Legal Counselors of Frost & Fire Consulting, as well as the Financial Services firm of Mrs. Edlira Bracellari.
Now let me briefly introduce our Staff, the bright and young members of our Institution, who are committed to our goals, eager to be of service and to maintain these premises, and also fretting to carry out the new projects and programs that we have in mind.
Mrs. Entela Bodinaku is our Exec. Assistant to the Director (interim served by me)
Eng. Klevis Begaj is our Facilities & Logistics Superintendent
Miss Jona Silici is our Admin. Assistant
Miss Ani Drishti is our front desk Receptionist
Mrs. Mimoza Elmezaj takes care of all of our internal needs and the Custodial & Cleaning services to maintain operative our floor.
We still have to complete some offices’ furnishings, but some empty space has already been used this evening by a first exhibit on our premises of the art work of Albanian well know painter: Anastas Konstantin. All our areas, however, are fully functional, and they are: our spacious and comfortable Staff section, the Training rooms, the Library, and this great hall, available for all sorts of events.
We are reorganizing our web and other media sites, where we will post our updates and, by next year, also our calendar of events and activities on a monthly basis. Subscribe to it, to know what we do and plan. It’s free, and it may bring some surprises, as we go along.
A couple of projects will soon be announced, meantime, feel free to drop by or contact us for more information and involvement. We are prioritizing new ideas and programs that we have on our long ‘to do’ list while we continue to develop some others, already in collaboration with other organizations and institutions.
The Ivanaj Foundations of NY and Tirana have a common mission and goals and one new Cultural Center, who will interact with:
- a) public and private sectors, b) educational institutions, and c) non-profit organizations
In its aim, it will support:
- youth and seniors
- young entrepreneurs
- foreign and domestic researchers
- artists and entertainers
Thus, the plans of this Center are :
- to provide Unique Services such as :
- crucial programs in a friendly and technically supporting environment;
- encouragement and enhance development of young entrepreneurial ideas.
- to develop Activities such as:
- study and publishing of materials of cultural and historical values;
- creation of opportunities for greater cultural and educational advances through training, seminars and conferences;
while offering Novel Programs such as:
- a national volunteer initiative by recruiting and training young and mature individuals that can serve other institutions as well;
- programs for seniors to support this under-served group in Albania;
- a business incubator hub to support young entrepreneurs, including facilities, resources and legal and tax advice on setting up their businesses through our partners and friends.
Now that you have seen our premises, and heard a bit of what we plan to do, we hope that you will keep us in mind and remain in contact for future developments that we are always willing to discuss, for eventually possible partnership in projects of mutual interests, obviously always within the boundaries of culture and education, as indicated in our motto posted in our ground floor lobby.
I even provided an Honor Wall (facing our elevator on this floor) which is also waiting to be inscribed with additional names of our greatest future contributors.
Thank you very much for coming and celebrating my family and our deep and abiding love for Albania tonight. Enjoy the rest of this evening with us.
Founder & President
The Ivanaj Foundations of New York & Tirana
October 10th, 2017
Return to: Cultural Center Opening Event