Xhevat Limani is an Albanian actor born in Struga, Macedonia, who now lives in Waterbury, Connecticut. During a Labor Day Albanian Festival in Waterbury, Limani opened his heart about his love of Struga. The following is a translation of his speech, which was delivered in Albanian. Photograph by John Murray

   Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, fellow countrymen..

   Good evening and welcome to the Annual Albanian Labor Day Festival, this year celebrating 30 years since the formation of the “Hasan Prishtina” cultural center here in Waterbury, Connecticut. A special thank you is in order for the founding members of the cultural center, and all community members present and past, who worked so hard to maintain and manage the cultural center with such great success.

   During my whole career in theatre, film, television, radio, newspapers, and festivals all around the world I have presented myself as an Albanian artist. Tonight, allow me to step aside and present myself at a local level. Given that I was born in Struga, allow me to present myself as a Strugan artist.

   The people of Struga (Strugans) are known as hard working and honest, bright and patriotic compatriots; but they have one character defect; that they present themselves in too a modest fashion. I have an order for you, Strugans before me: leave beside your modesty, keep your head up high, and be more proud than any other Albanian.

Struga sits on the northern edge of Lake Orhid, one of the oldest and most beautiful lakes in the world.

   Struga is a city of Gods – where Kadmi, King of Tebë; and Harmonia – the wife of Kadmi (daughter of Aresi and Aferdite), gave birth to their son, Ilir; on the coast of Lake Ohrid, where the Black Drin River flows from 2460 years ago. And thus Iliria began in Struga.

   My fellow Strugans, keep your heads up high and be proud that the Black Drini River which for centuries has cut through the center of Struga, has also connected the Ghegs and Tosks; the blood of the Arbërors. This city is the symbol, and the best example of civil, lingual, dialectal, traditional, and matrimonial harmony.

   All cities are Ilirian and Albanian, but our Struga has the history to be held up high as a center of Albanianism. Struga has Lake Ohrid, with its crystal clear water, where the species of native trout is one of the most rare and delectable fish in the world. The lake has eels that swim from the Adriatic ocean, through the Mediterranean, and end up in the Atlantic ocean, in Sargas, where they spawn, and return to the Black Drin River in Struga.

 The Black Drin River flows right through the heart of Struga.

   Our city has western and not oriental architecture; wide boulevards and houses without walls, but with beautiful balconies full of flowers, and swallows nests that represent the love and harmony of a household in Struga.

   Struga is proud of the work done by  Rilindje, or “Re-birth” movement leaders Dr. Ibrahim Temo and Dervish Hima; two Strugans who fought for the independence of Albania from the Ottoman empire.

   Struga is very proud that during the declaration of Albanian Independence in Vlore on November 28th, 1912; there were 8 Strugans present, 3 of which were signers of the Declaration: Dr Murtezan H. Ali Struga, Nuri Sojliu-Bakalli, and Zydhi Ohria. There were only 40 signatures on the declaration.

   Struga is proud of the high level of education and success of its citizens, with more architects and doctors, economists and professors, PhD’s and politicians, poets and artists than many other cities.

   Struga is the only city that does not have the unemployed. It is a shame in the code of honor of Struga to be without work. Struga is the only city that does not have oriental ‘tea houses’, which personify laziness. Struga is proud of the activists who took a stand during the Kosova crisis, and for leading the movement for basic freedoms and civil rights for Albanians in Macedonia, who continue to be oppressed by slavo-communist politics.

   Struga dreams of Albanian freedom, with the intention of rejoicing in peace and harmony afterwards, just as our Mother Teresa preached. I have a lot to speak about on the city of Struga, but I do not want to digress too far with my love and patriotic Strugan voice.

   Ladies and gentlemen allow me to say that we are a democratic people, and our choice is the West. When slavo-communists wanted our heads because we could not endure slavery in our independent hearts, we were forced to immigrate, leaving behind our homeland, in tears and in pain. 

   But our choice was America. The United States is a place of freedom and democracy that always protects its citizens, majority or minority. The United States defended our people when Milosevic and the Serbian regime, with the help of Russia, began its campaign of mass genocide, with the intent of taking our ethnicity off of the soil that our ancient culture called home.

   But our allies, our forever biggest ally, the United States came to our defense. Our integration to the American society is another page of our history that we should thank the United States for. But our war is not over. With the help of the United States, we dream of Albanian Unity. We have one language, we have one flag, and we want to live in one land: Albania, and she must never collapse.

   God bless you all, my fellow compatriots, and God bless all Albanians where ever they are in the world. God bless the United States of America, the hero and savior of Albanian lands.