Albanian Independence Day celebrated throughout the borough

Tony Signorile, Morris Park Community Association member, Vincent Forras of the Gear Up Foundation, Gjon Bucaj, vice president of the Albanian American Community Association, Councilman Jimmy Vacca, Mark Gjonaj, co-founder of AACA , and Jerome Ragussa of the Belmont Merchants Association enjoy dinner at Maestro’s Caterers. Photo by Walter Pofeldt

Hundreds attended the borough’s Albanian Independence Day celebration on Saturday, November 28. Albania broke free of the Ottoman Empire in 1912. Festivities took place throughout the day. Proud Albanian Americans raised double-headed eagle flags in Belmont at E. 187th Street and Crescent Avenue.

“It was fantastic, a huge success and with only three days notice, a spectacular turnout,” said Mark Gjonaj, co-founder of the Albanian American Community Association (AACA).

In Belmont, Gjonaj delivered a speech on the history of the Albanian people.

“Albanian Independence Day is also known as Albanian Flag Day and is celebrated annually by Albanians throughout the world,” Gjonja told a crowd. “One cannot help but recognize the contributions of the Albanian community and the positive impact we have on this state and country. Albanians are proud of their rich history but we also love our new country, the United States.”

Noteworthy attendees included Ambassador Ferit Hoxha, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Albanian to the Untied Nations, Avni Spahiu, Ambassador of the Republic of Kosova, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, Senator Jeff Klein, Councilman Jimmy Vacca, Arthur Avenue merchant Jerome Reguso, representatives from the Council of the Republic of Albania, Miss Kosova, Miss Albania, and members of the Morris Park Community Association. United States Marine Corp Private First Class Zeco Sujak of Pelham Parkway raised an American flag, while children raised an Albanian flag.

Later on November 28, hundreds of Albanian Americans and friends packed a sold out Maestro’s Caterers to eat and to watch Albanian musicians and dancers perform.

“Tears came to my eyes seeing Italian Americans and Albanian Americans join together for this celebration,” spectator Minkie Amoroso said. “The entertainment was incredible.”

Reach reporter Amanda Marinaccio at 718 742-3394 or amarinaccio@cnglocal.com

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