Author Archives: zach

A Message from Van Christo

I am deeply offended and saddened after viewing groups of young Americans on TV waving swastika flags and Heil Trump placards on Saturday, August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia

From 1944-1946, I served in the US Navy on frosina-paypalboard the U.S.S. Chaffee DE230 in the Pacific, where my ship was torpedoed by a Japanese bomber. I fought as did my fellow servicemen and women to defeat Nazism. Thousands of Americans gave their lives during WWII to preserve the freedom of those who had suffered so greatly under the horrific Nazi scourge. After the surrender of Germany and Japan in 1946, we brought our still damaged ship to California and I soon came home to proud Albanian immigrant parents who came to this country to get away from bigotry and oppression.

The Albanian community was proud that their sons and daughters defended their new homes in the USA. Yes, we won the war, but how have we now lost sight of our WWII victory so much that it has resulted in thousands of Neo Nazis in today’s America?

More disheartening is that the President of the United States has disgraced himself and his presidency by drawing equivalency between the white supremacists, Neo-Nazis and KKK members to protestors and people like Heather Heyer.

I am now urging our congressional delegation and community leaders in Massachusetts to denounce the President’s shameful remarks and demand that the United States Congress condemn President Trump’s remarks and take an immediate and forceful stand against this racism and violence now in America.

Help Support Frosina!

The Honorable Van Christo

Van Christo at his home in Brookline, MA

Donate Now!

Dreams aren’t really just for those who can afford to dream;

Sometimes, dreams are for small things such as…

…Advising a new immigrant about his/her first-time credit card, or

…Translating a letter that says “accepted for Medicare,” or
…Directing someone over the telephone to free legal counsel, and…

Occasionally, really big things such as…

Helping a man get a job, health insurance, and a successful kidney transplant, or

Finding a doctor, health insurance, and chemotherapy treatments for a sick teenager, or

…Helping a new arrival to successfully apply for political asylum.

So, with your help, Frosina can continue to make those dreams happen! Visit our donate page and help now!

AlbCon DataBit: Albania and the Albanians

Albanian Dancers, Watercolor.

Albanian Dancers, Watercolor

Contemporary sources show that 14th century Albanians were invariably identified as a tribal peoples, with no state of their own.

Thus, depending on their location and to which civilization they subscribed, they could be identified under the following criteria:

Arnaut (Turkish)
Arbanas or Arbanensis (Greek)
Epirotarum or Albanensis (Italian)
Arber, Arben, Arberesh, Epirotas (Native peoples/Albanian)

According to a report by historian Shefqet Pllana, Sami Frasheri in his Kamus-al-Alam maintains that the wording “Dhu lKarnejn” (owner of the two horns) was an appellative attributed to Alexander the Great of Macedon, the very name which Skanderbeg bore in the Islamic form. This second explanation may be the truer, since the theory of the Macedonian-Albanian and Epirot-Albanian continuance is strong not only among Albanians but among all the peoples of Europe.

This opinion agrees with the work of Marin Barleti who writes: “When the people saw all those young and brave men around Skanderbeg, then it was not hard to believe that the armies of [Sultan] Murat were so defeated by the Albanians. Indeed, the times when the star of Macedon shone brilliantly had returned, just as they seemed in those long forgotten times of Pyrrhus and Alexander.”

Origin of the Double-Headed Eagle
The double-headed eagle is a symbol used by several cultures. It is broadly associated with the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire, among other civilizations.

The two heads are understood to represent the sovereignty of the leadership (secular and religious) over both east and west areas of the world.

Several Eastern European nations adopted it from the Byzantines and continue to use it as their national symbol to this day, the most prominent being Russia.

Time Capsule: 70th Anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima

The Honorable Van Christo

Van Christo at his home in Brookline, MA

The morning was bright and sunny, as I pushed briskly through the revolving glass doors of the Boston VA building, I noted a small group of men standing inside. Seated a bit closer and slumped in their chairs were two older men wearing faded baseball hats and jackets, looking straight ahead, not speaking to each other. I studied them for a brief moment, guessed that they were probably waiting for ride, but thought to myself that they both looked really old.

Then, it occurred to me that they were both probably WWII veterans just like me. But, I didn’t feel old as I was wearing a suit , tie and sporting a new straw hat, that my wife, Jane, had given me on our 40th wedding anniversary. I figured that the two seated men and me – the three of us – probably served in WWII . Impulsively, because, I guess I felt proud of them, I turned to them and snapped a military “hand salute” as I walked by. Both men seemed startled, attempted to rise, but fell back in their chairs while slowly raising their right hands to return my salute.

About an hour or so later I left my appointment with a VA Audiologist who had fitted me with hearing aids, and, as I approached the front exit door and passed the still-waiting small group of men, one of them yelled, “Attention – Officer on Deck!” Then, four of the standing veterans quickly stood up at attention and saluted me as I passed.

I returned the salute, smiled and walked outside to the VA parking lot. I smiled because I was not an officer.

February 10, 1944
The whole country was behind America’s war effort, because, WWII was clearly a battle between the good guys and the bad guys.

I finally enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the age of 16. Back then, the minimum age to join U.S. military services was 18, however, because the U.S. Navy had suffered heavy losses at Pearl Harbor and the Battle of the Coral Sea where many American ships were either sunk or damaged, only the Navy had lowered its enlistment age to 17 and a half.

Because I was born in Albania, I was unable to produce proof of birth because of the war then raging in Europe. I desperately wanted to join the U.S. Navy although I was only 16, and, for weeks, I badgered my mother, and, especially, my father, to swear in front of a Notary Public that I was 17 and a half years old ,the legal age to join the Navy. My mother, often tearfully, always resisted my entreaties insisting that I was much too young. She even brought in a heavy-gun uncle who pointed at me shouting NO! NO! NO!

Gradually, I wore down all resistance. My parents relented so my father and I went to a Notary Public where, right hand raised, my father swore that I was17 and half years old. I felt a bit smug because I believed I had put one over on the Navy recruitment officer. I was only slightly disappointed that he barely glanced at the notarized paper as he swore me in to join the U.S. Navy.

Because of America’s urgency to push recruits into the fleet as soon as possible, I was given only five and a half weeks of Basic Training – instead of the customary 12 – at the Sampson, NY, Naval Base. After a 5-day leave – barely long enough to show off my new Navy uniform to family, friends and, especially, a couple of girls that I hoped to impress, I returned to Sampson and was immediately shipped by troop train to Charleston, South Carolina, to attend pre-commissioning school where I learned I was to serve on board a new destroyer escort to be commissioned on May 23, 1944, as the U.S.S. Chaffee, DE 230.

January 23, 1945
I was standing Quartermaster Watch during American landings in the Philippine Islands to regain control from the Japanese, where my ship was patrolling Luzon’s Lingayen Gulf. At 11:15pm, a squadron of three Japanese “Betty” torpedo bombers was spotted by the Chaffee’s radar.

The battle stations alarm was sounded as the Chaffee readied for an attack. Two of the Japanese bombers, or bogies as we called them, disappeared over the horizon, but the third plane made a wide turn in the direction of Lingayen harbor where other U.S. Navy ships including the battleship USS Pennsylvania were anchored.

The Chaffee’s skipper, A.C. Jones, ordered the ship to turn towards the oncoming Japanese bomber, but, too late, as the “Betty” dropped its torpedo and struck the Chaffee in the bow below the waterline. Although the Chaffee sustained damage, there were no fatalities, and the Chaffee sealed off forward compartments filling with water.

On most military vessels over 1500 tons, there are two locations from which the ship could be guided, steered and propelled. The primary location was the Pilot House, or Bridge located at the top front of the ship. The secondary location, used in an emergency, was a facility called After Steering, located below decks in the stern of the ship.

After hearing a loud horn signal from the Bridge, the helmsman at the After Steering station – immediately engages a clutch, and after a momentary shudder of the ship, he assumes both steering control and compass course directions of the ship. This feature proved to be critically important during the war in the Pacific corridor, as the pilot house was invariably the primary destination and target of all Japanese Kamikaze suicide pilots. I was proud that the battle station chosen for me on board the Chaffee was the helmsman at After Steering, as I was then only 17 years old, and the youngest sailor on the Chaffee.

During the attack, I couldn’t see the action from below deck, but I could feel the torpedo hit as the ship heaved up slightly in the bow and then rolled sideways for a few moments until it righted itself and proceeded steady on course.

On the morning following the torpedo attack, two officers from the Chaffee boarded the battleship Pennsylvania, seeking to acquire spare parts to make temporary repairs to the bow. But when the Chaffee officers came aboard the Pennsylvania, they were greeted like royalty since the crew of the Pennsylvania believed that the Chaffee intentionally intercepted the Japanese torpedo in a heroic effort to sacrifice itself to protect the Pennsylvania that represented a huge and easy target.

But that was not really the case since the Chaffee got hit by the torpedo because it couldn’t get out of the way fast enough! Had the Chaffee not received the hit, the torpedo would certainly have struck the Pennsylvania in its Forward Boiler Room thus causing serious damage, or maybe even sinking!

When our two officers returned from the Pennsylvania to the Chaffee, they brought back 6 gallons of ice cream from the grateful crew of the Pennsylvania. For this actual wartime encounter between the Japanese torpedo bomber and the Chaffee, our crew was awarded the Philippine Liberation Medal with Bronze Star.

August 6, 1945
I was standing Quartermaster watch in the Chaffee’s Pilot House when a radioman bounded up the stairs from the Radio Shack just below. He rushed by me, jumping up the 3 steps leading to the Flying Bridge where he handed the skipper a radiogram stating that an American bomber had dropped a single bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, causing massive destruction and enormous casualties.

As the skipper read the message aloud to those standing on the flying bridge, we were all quiet – there were no cheers, no shouts of joy, just a single voice that said, “I think it may be some kind of a radio bomb.”
My buddy said, with a certain amount of fear in his voice, “Just one bomb, what the fuck is that?”

September 2, 1945
The Chaffee was anchored in Buckner Bay, Okinawa, when it was announced over the PA system that the Japanese had surrendered. The shouts of “Hooray”, “Wow!” and Holy Shit, sounded everywhere aboard the ship .
For me, there was a moment of disbelief as it slowly began to sink in that the end of the war would mean going home!

The Chaffee, was anchored in Leyte Gulf, in the Philippines. when we received orders to depart for Pearl Harbor, and, then, on to San Francisco, where I would receive final orders to proceed to a Receiving Station – the Fargo Building in Boston – to be processed for final discharge from the U.S. Navy.

Entering Pearl Harbor, we cruised by in total silence as we witnessed the U.S.S. Missouri and other sunken U.S. Navy ships bombed during the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. We were also aware that there were thousands of American sailors still entombed in the sunken battleship Arizona. The crew quietly saluted as we passed by.

After we tied up, most of the Chaffee’s crew was given liberty ashore where we wore our long stowed-away dress white uniforms, and headed to a highly recommended restaurant, where we ordered big steaks with all the trimmings, along with drinks, drinks, drinks.

Van Sotir Christo is appointed Honorary Consul of Albania in Massachusetts

The Honorable Van Christo

Van Christo at his home in Brookline, MA

Citing more than 50 years of service to Albania and the Albanians, H.E. Ditmir Bushati, Foreign Minister of Albania, appointed Van Sotir Christo of Brookline, Massachusetts, as the new Honorary Consul of Albania in Massachusetts. The U.S. Department of State confirmed his new appointment in January, 2015.

Christo was President and Creative Director of Van Christo Advertising in Boston, Massachusetts, from 1960 to 1994 serving hi-tech/industrial clients in the USA, Canada, and the UK . His agency won numerous citations and recognitions including two CLIO Awards and two International Broadcasting Awards.

After the fall of Communism in Albania in 1994, Christo perceived a need for an organization to assist Albanian immigrants arriving in Massachusetts with housing, medical, educational, and other issues that arose as they attempted to find their way in a new country. In 1994, he formed the Frosina Information Network, a non-profit organization that provided valuable counsel and assistance to hundreds of Albanian and other immigrants. Christo was appointed to the Massachusetts Governors Advisory Council on Refugees and Immigrants by Governors Weld, Cellucci, and Swift.

In 2008, Christo’s wife, Jane Christo, as General Manager of NPR radio Station WBUR in Boston, received a Medal of Gratitude from Albania’s President Alfred Moisiu for her work in training Albanian and Kosovar journalists in both their home countries and the USA after the fall of communism. In 2012, her husband, Van Christo, was awarded the Order of Mother Teresa Medal from Albania president Bamir Topi for aiding Albanian immigrants arriving in America and for calling attention to the plight of Kosovars then under a repressive Serbian regime.

Christo is a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, where he served in the Pacific as a Petty Officer on the U.S.S. Chaffee, DE230. In January, 1945, the Chaffee was struck in the bow by a Japanese torpedo intended for the battleship, U.S.S. Pennsylvania, BB38. For this heroic action, the Chaffee crew was awarded the Philippine Liberation Medal with Bronze Star. Christo is a Founding Member and Commander Emeritus of the Albanian American War Veterans of the United States (AAWV) in Massachusetts.

Christo and his wife Jane reside in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Donate to the Frosina Winter Fund Drive!!!

Van Christo

And now dear friends, some words from Van Christo:

Dreams aren’t really just for those who can afford to dream;
Sometimes, dreams are for small things, such as…

Advising a new immigrant about a first-time credit card, or
Translating a letter that says “accepted for Medicare,” or
Directing someone over the telephone to free legal counsel, and
Occasionally, really big things such as…
Helping a man get a job, health insurance, and a successful kidney transplant, or
Finding a doctor, health insurance, and chemotherapy treatments for a sick teenager, or
Helping a new arrival to successfully apply for political asylum.

We do it all, but we can’t do it without you! Learn more and donate now!

Edi Rama: Take back your city with paint

Edi Rama at TEDTalks

Edi Rama at TEDTalks

Here is a fascinating account of how the artist in Edi Rama beautified the image of Tirana:

Make a city beautiful, curb corruption. Edi Rama took this deceptively simple path as mayor of Tirana, Albania, where he instilled pride in his citizens by transforming public spaces with colorful designs. With projects that put the people first, Rama decreased crime — and showed his citizens they could have faith in their leaders

Full story here:

The Albanian Cinema Project

Viktor Gjika’s “Nëntori i Dytë”  (“The Second November,” 1982) and Fatmir Koci’s “The Land of Eagles” (2007) are showing March 29 at the Directors Guild of America Theater.

Viktor Gjika’s “Nëntori i Dytë” (“The Second November,” 1982) and Fatmir Koci’s “The Land of Eagles” (2007) are showing March 29 at the Directors Guild of America Theater.

The film scholar and critic Cole Hutchison from Brooklyn, New York has written a fascinating article on the History of Albanian Cinema and a movement called the Albanian Film project which strives to preserve and restore Albanian film.

Please take a look at this article at Cinespect for more information:

Albanian Art Exhibit Comes to Boston

My friend and Art teacher, Bill Commerford is preparing An Albanian Portfolio, a series of Albanian themed watercolor paintings. When he finishes them, I want to exhibit his collection somewhere in Boston.

He sent me this beautiful card and tribute with a copy of one of his Albanian paintings.
An Albanian Portfolio Bill Cummerford2
I will let you know where you can see his entire collection as soon as he finishes them!


Albanian Icons: John Belushi

John Belushi

John Belushi

In an ongoing series profiling prominent and influential Albanians around the world, I’d like to present for your consideration, the great Albanian-American comedian John Belushi.

From his iconic characters of Jake Blues from The Blues Brothers and Saturday Night Live’s The Samurai Futaba to his classic spoofs of Star Trek and other popular culture references, he entertained millions and influenced generations of comedians.

Here is a clip of John Belushi’s Saturday Night Live audition:

Here is a live clip of John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd as the Blues Brothers:

John was born in Chicago, IL to a small, middle class Albanian-American family. He grew up in the Chicago suburbs and was raised in the Albanian Orthodox Church.

He lived a tumultuous personal life, and we lost him in his prime at age of 33.

For more information, please see:

John Belushi Wikipedia Article:

John Belushi on IMDB:

Vanity Fair Article on John Belushi:

Drugs, John Belushi, and the Making of The Blues Brothers: