Photographs By John Murray

A wide variety of traditional Albanian breads stuffed with cheese and spinach are being baked in ovens and are served hot at the 30th anniversary celebration of the Albanian American Cultural & Islamic Center at 106 Columbia Blvd in the Overlook section of Waterbury. The Albanian Labor Day Festival continues today (Sunday)from 11 am to 11 pm.

A group of young Albanian-Americans have formed a band out of the Albanian Community Center and they call themselves “Grupi Rinia”, which translates to “youth band”. The band members are Ramazan Shira pictured here playing the clarinet, Muhamet Halil: drums, Islam Etemi: singer, and Shkelqim Dalipi: keyboard. The group is keeping Albanian cultural traditions alive.

Bekim Sejdiu, Consulate General of the Republic of Kosovo, said Albanians make up 11% of the city of Waterbury, and that they are making a postive impact in their new home. 

Xhervat Limani is an Albanian actor from Struga, Macedonia, and delivered a spellbinding monologue about the history of the Albanian people. Limani travels throughout Europe performing, and for the last several years has called Waterbury home.

A group of young women danced the traditional dance of Albania – the valle – with the golden dome of a orthodox Jewish temple looming in the background. Waterbury’s population continues to diversify, with the Albanian population swelling to 12,000 in the past two decades.

Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary spoke at the festival and said he has been awed by the scholastic accomplishment of Albanian children in the Waterbury public school system. O’Leary welcomed several high ranking Albanian diplomats to the festival, and with the help of Saranda Belica (an Albanian from Struga who works on his staff), O’Leary bravely pronounced the names of Selim Lika, Consulate General of Montenegro, Adrian Neritani, Former Ambassador of Albania to the United Nations, and Bekim Sejdiu, Consulate General of the Republic of Kosovo. Standing next to Mayor O’Leary is Paul Pernerewski, the president of the Waterbury Board of Aldermen.

In addition to gyros, lamb shank, stews and stuffed breads, the Albanian festival has a tremendous variety of desserts and cookies. Pictured here is a platter of baklava, one of the delicious treats of the Balkan Peninsula.