By John Murray

Albanian Independence Day is celebrated on November 28th and is a national holiday in Albania, and for ethnic Albanians scattered across the globe. The local Albanian community in Waterbury celebrated the holiday, and their annual Mayor For the Day ceremony at Waterbury City Hall a day later this year since Thanksgiving fell on November 28th.

There are an estimated 12,000 Albanians living in Waterbury, and Mayor Neil O’Leary siad they represent everything right about America. “The Albanians are hard working and value their children’s education,” O’Leary said, and the mayor has hired two Albanians to work in his administration; Aulona Hoxha in the Citizens Service Center, and Saranda Belica in the Mayor’s Office. 

Ismail Vinca, left, was choosen as the Albanian Mayor for the Day. Vinca was born in Veleshta, in the Municipality of Struga, Macedonia, which has a large population of Albanians. Three times more Albanians live outside of Albania, (in Macedonia, Kosovo, Greece and the United States), than reside in the country (estimated 3 million population). Mayor O’Leary and Ismail Vinca are laughing in this photograph after the mayor worked his way through several difficult pronunications of Albanian names. “I’m getting pretty good at this,” O’Leary quipped, which was humorous, because he’s not. (But he tries)

The crowd ouside City Hall sang the national anthems of the United States and Albania during the brief and frigid flag raising ceremony.

Mayor O’Leary has forged an exceptionally close bond with the Albanian community in Waterbury and attends the festivals held by the two local community groups, one on Raymond Street in the South End (comprised of mostly ethnic Albanians from Albania), and the group on Columbia Boulevard (which is comprised mostly of ethnic Albanians from Struga, Macedonia).

After the ceremony Mayor Vinca greeted Waterbury firemen who came out to help celebrate Albanian Independence Day.

Albanian nationalism is very strong and ethinic Albanians around the world dream of the day where geo-political borders are rearranged to form a Great Albania which would unite Albanians in Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania. Time will tell…..