Category Archives: About

Information about the Frosina Information Network and it’s founder, Van christo

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!




VOA Interview with Van Christo

Greetings:
I was interviewed recently on VOA about the placement of a plaque honoring the Pan-Albanian Federation Vatra on the site of the building on Tremont street where it was first housed back in 1912. Although the entire video interview with me was conducted in English. I believe you may still get enough of it notwithstanding VOA’s Mr. Ikonomi’s Albanian voiceovers. Still, it may be worth a look.,

Van Christo

Van Christo: My WWII Military Experience


Albanian American War Veterans (AAWV) Annual Meeting / Anthony’s Pier 4 Restaurant, Boston/November 12, 2011

A Memento about my own U.S. military service during WWII

Van Christo

I am honored to address this American Albanian War Veterans meeting of which I was a Founding Member back in 1946. At this time, may I ask that each Albanian American veteran present here today to please stand up so I can introduce them and ask in which branch of military service and theatre of war did they serve.

(Introductions)

Thank you. I served in the U.S. Navy during WWII as a Petty Officer on board a Destroyer-Escort, the USS Chaffee, DE230, for almost 18 months in the Pacific. During the invasion by American troops of the island of Luzon in the Philippine Islands that was a Japanese stronghold, my ship, the Chaffee, was patrolling Luzon’s Lingayen Gulf, when, on the night of January 23, 1945 at 11:15, a squadron of three Japanese “Betty” torpedo bombers was spotted by the Chaffee’s radar. The order for battle stations was given as the Chaffee readied for attack. Two of the Japanese bombers, or bogies as we called them, disappeared over the horizon, but the third plane made a wide turn back in the direction of the harbor where my ship and other U.S. Navy ships including the battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) were present. The captain of my ship ordered the Chaffee to turn towards the oncoming Japanese “Betty” bomber that dropped its torpedo and struck our ship way up forward in the bow. Although the Chaffee sustained damage, there were no fatalities, and the ship was able to seal off the forward compartments.

My battle station was After Steering, so, although I didn’t see the Japanese bomber from my location below decks, I could feel the impact as the ship lurched dramatically when it was hit by the torpedo. At that time, on any vessel over 1500 tons, there were always two locations from which the ship could be guided or steered. The primary location was the Pilot House, or Bridge, that is located at the top on the front of the ship. The secondary location is a facility called After Steering, which is located below decks at the very end (Fantail)of the ship. Upon a loud horn signal from the bridge, the helmsman, or person steering the ship at the After Steering station, immediately engages a clutch, thus assuming both complete steering control and compass course directions of the ship. This feature proved to be very 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 very proud that the battle station chosen for me on board the Chaffee was After Steering, as I was only 17 years old, and the youngest sailor on the Chaffee.

Since I didn’t see the torpedo strike our ship from my battle station below decks, some of the above details are taken from the ship’s log of Commander. A.C. Jones, former Captain of the USS Chaffee, that were provided to me by Robert H. Christ , a Signalman on the Chaffee.

On the following morning after the torpedo attack, two officers from the Chaffee boarded the Pennsylvania, hoping to acquire spare parts to make temporary repairs. But when the Chaffee officers came aboard the Pennsylvania, they were greeted like royalty since the crew of the Pennsylvania firmly believed that the Chaffee intentionally intercepted the Japanese torpedo in a heroic effort to save it from striking the Pennsylvania that represented a huge and easy target. But that was not really the case since the Chaffee inadvertently got in the way of the torpedo! However, when our two officers returned from the Pennsylvania to the Chaffee, they also 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.

A Joint Reunion of the USS Chaffee and the USS Pennsylvania took place in Louisville, Kentucky, on November 7-10, 2008. Since the Battleship Pennsylvania had a crew of about 3500 while the crew of the Destroyer-Escort Chaffee was only about 200 men, present at the 2008 Reunion were 600 people representing the Pennsylvania while there were only 5 original crew members of the Chaffee present. Nonetheless, on one wall of the huge Reunion dining hall were two mammoth banners with the names of the Pennsylvania and the Chaffee hanging side by side.

There, in a nutshell, you have heard a small portion of my own military experiences in the U.S. Navy during WWII. However, I believe we should have a permanent record of the experiences of all former Albanian-American members of WWII, Viet Nam, Korea, and wherever else they served America in areas of conflict and danger. A good place to begin is to record their names and photographs prominently in each Albanian religious and civic organization so they will not be lost to the generation of new Albanians who will know nothing of their wartime experiences, heroism, and sacrifices.

Finally, we may want to consider removing the word “war” from our organization’s official name (American Albanian War Veterans) to accommodate all former Albanian American members of the military who served the United States of America.

American-Albanians have served many times with distinction in the service of America, so we should provide a lasting tribute to them so they will not be completely forgotten.

We owe it to them.

Thank you.

U.S. NAVY

Van Christo, Quartermaster Second-Class (QM2c)

Duties of Quartermasters (QMs)

Quartermasters (QMs) stand watch as assistants to officers of the deck and the navigator; serve as helmsman and perform ship control, navigation and bridge watch duties. QMs procure, correct, use and stow navigational and oceanographic publications and oceanographic charts. They maintain navigational instruments and keep correct navigational time; render “honors and ceremonies” in accordance with national observance and foreign customs; send and receive visual messages; and serve as petty officers in charge of tugs, self-propelled barges and other yard and district craft.
The duties performed by QMs include:
• conduct weather observations;
• determine compass and gyro error;
• compute tide and tidal current data;
• keep logs and records; determine their ship’s position by visual and electronic means;
• compute times of sunrise and sunset;
• follow the nautical rules-of-the-road to prevent collisions at sea.

Mission Statement

The Frosina Information Network is an Albanian immigrant and cultural resource. It is a non-profit, humanitarian organization dedicated to helping fulfill the needs and aspirations of persons of Albanian origin and others who have emigrated to the United States by providing some counseling and referral services. It is Frosina’s goal to nurture the Albanian communities of Massachusetts and other Albanian communities across the USA by disseminating information about a broad range of subjects that can benefit émigrés such as career possibilities, English as a Second Language (ESL) Programs, immigration lawyer listings, sources for certifying Albanian and other European university diplomas, job hunting on the the internet, etc., as well as providing non-legal counsel to facilitate the smooth integration of Albanian newcomers into American society until they achieve self-sufficiency.

Although Frosina primarily serves an Albanian constituency, many of theAdvisories that it regularly produces and distributes both in print form and on its WebSite www.frosina.org are utilized advantageously by other ethnic groups such as Hispanics and Asiatics.

It is also a vital and important objective of Frosina to educate people who are not of Albanian origin about Albania and its rich history, its varied and beautiful arts, through education and information that present the virtually unknown culture of this interesting and ancient Balkan people in fair, non-political, and non-sectarian positions.

Frosina’s founder and Executive Director, Albanian-born Van Christo, is a Member by appointment to Massachusetts Governor A. Paul Cellucci’s Advisory Council on Refugees and Immigrants and Massachusetts Health Commissioner Howard K. Koh’s Refugee and Health Advisory Committee.

Frosina actively solicits financial contributions to help support its varied activities on behalf of Albanian and other newcomers to the USA.

Because Frosina has been awarded Section 501(c)(3) status under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, all donations and gifts are deductible for income tax purposes and will be most welcome and greatly appreciated!

The Frosina Foundation

To me, it’s especially interesting to note that, in 1994, emigres from Albania to America are having some of the very same problems that Albanian emigres to America had in 1924 – some 70 years earlier – when they began to arrive here in small but significant numbers. In those early days, it was usually Albanian men who came first to this country to find work in the factories and mills of New England and other American cities. Men crowded together in tenements in the poorer sections of cities to share expenses. Five, ten or twelve men often lived together in a single flat, the Konak, where to save money they cooked their own meals, washed and mended their clothes and repaired their shoes. The Albanian worker lived in self imposed poverty — even greater than that which his meager earnings imposed upon him — sending his wages home, saving them against the day of his return to Albania or using them to further the national cause.

My father and some of your fathers and grandfathers were among those earlier emigres who came to America to seek a better life. But although those Albanian men came to America for economic reasons, most of them had no real intention of remaining in this country. Their main goal was to work to save enough money here to take back to Albania so they could live better there. Some of you old enough may still remember the common Albanian expression those men used back in those days “Mot ne vilajet” meaning “Next year, back in Albania.” But as they became settled in America, they slowly began to identify with the new country. Perhaps more of the spirit of American democracy and independence had entered into them than they themselves were aware. They did return to Albania but this time to find wives to bring back to America their now permanent home. Some of the factory workers had saved enough money to begin small enterprises in America — shops, restaurants, and the like.

However, there was one major difference for those Albanian emigres 70 years ago:

Then there were no really established Albanian-American communities so those early emiges sought each other out and banded together to help find employment and create their own social organizations. By becoming even more conscious of their Albanianism in America, they worked hard to establish churches and societies to perpetuate their identity as Albanians and to help their motherland. Indeed, as members of the Pan-Albanian association called Vatra, those new Albanian-Americans, who were at or near the bottom of the economic ladder in America earning anywhere from $5 to $15 a week, once raised over $150,000 to send back to Albania as assistance funds when it was threatened by its neighbors after World War I.

The history of those emigres to America is well known to Albanian-Americans of my generation. Many of my generation went to college — an almost impossible dream of our parents — and began careers in a wide range of professions including education, retail, banking, food, medical, dental, legal, insurance, electronics, and advertising. But as my generation begins to step aside for the next, I believe it’s important that the history of the first Albanian emigres is known to them as well.

Because that small but steady flow of the first Albanians to America was interrupted by World War II and then was stopped completely by a repressive, communist Albanian government that would not permit Albanians to emigrate even if they held derivative American citizenship, the ties between the American-Albanian community and Albania became weaker and weaker. Indeed, except for the initiative of people of The Free Albania Organization such as Dr. John Nasse, Dhimitri Trebicka, Bill Johns and others who prevailed on the then-Albanian government to permit small tour groups of American-Albanians to visit relatives at home, there would have been no physical ties at all with the country of our origin.

Now that has all changed. Beginning in 1992, because of a new democratic government in Albania, another small but steady trickle of Albanians has begun to arrive in America. And because the American-Albanians community was truly unprepared and unequipped institutionally to render assistance and counsel to the new emigres, I formed The Frosina Foundation and named it after my mother who was part of that first group of Albanian emigres to this country.

Now you may ask, who was my mother? She was Frosina Naum Christo, born in 1909 in Drenova, a village near Korçe. She brought me to America in 1928 when she was 19 years old and I was only 1 to join my father, Spiro, who had arrived in America a couple of months earlier to establish a home for us in Boston. She was an orphan who was brought up by her uncle’s family because her own mother and father had both died when she was a child.

My mother was outgoing and had a lot of friends. She also had a reputation as a great cook, particularly when it came to making Lakror and Baklava. I have many memories while I was growing up of my mother singing as she was rolling out dough for Lakror. But life for her was not especially easy and there were many times when money was scarce. Although my father could speak passable English, my mother didn’t know English very well. Because of that, she seldom had the opportunity to communicate at length with anyone except other Albanian-Americans. Where she was outgoing with her own group, among “Americans” she was often intimidated and uncertain. She had many dreams for herself and for me, but, unfortunately, she didn’t have time to realize most of her dreams or to see me achieve mine.

My mother died in her mid-forties in 1956 of heart disease after she had undergone several operations that eventually resulted in the amputation of both legs. I feel that in many ways my mother represents all of our mothers and grandmothers. Her hardship and struggle is symbolic of all the difficulties experienced by our families when they came to America and all their sacrifices to give us a better life, especially when compared to our cousins left behind in Albania. The Frosina Foundation aims to give something of our own good fortune to the mothers and fathers of the next generation of Albanian Americans.

However, I think the real beginning of The Frosina Foundation was the visit to Albania in 1981 by a small tour group from Worcester, Mass., of which I was fortunate to be part, along with my wife, Jane, and our then 4 year-old son, Zachary. When I saw my first cousins there I was struck by the marked contrast between their opportunities and mine. I realized that it was luck — my good luck and their bad luck — that my father came to America while some of his brothers remained behind in Albania.

Now, specifically about The Frosina Foundation: after an initial data-gathering and seed-money raising period, the foundation will serve as a central clearing house and referral service where Albanian emigres can direct inquiries about immigration and naturalization procedures, English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, translation services, employment, accreditation in the USA of Albanian university diplomas, medical and dental assistance, etc.

Some of the longer range services that the foundation would like to provide in the future are short-term, low-interest business and personal loans, business marketing data, information about the availability of educational opportunities and scholarships, social counseling, etc. But that, of course, would be only after Frosina is firmly established and funded.

I am currently seeking 30 founding members who can each contribute from $2,500 to $5,000 to help provide the necessary seed monies to begin our work. To date, I’m pleased to say that the foundation already has 7 founding members: Agim Karagozi and Al Foundos in New York, Anthony Athanas and an anonymous retired educator in Massachusetts, Peter Kole and Gus Thomas in Ohio and Dr. Lynn Berat in Connecticut. The foundation will also contact other foundations and corporations for financial grants to sustain its activities, and we will look mainly to those institutions for continuous funding.

The foundation will be truly ecumenical so that it can serve Roman Catholic, Orthodox Catholic. and Moslem Albanians alike. As an ethnic minority in America, we must embrace, with pride our religious diversity. As Moslems, Orthodox or Catholics, we must serve as an example to our chosen country, America, of an ethnic group with a glorious history that can get beyond its religious differences to come together to pursue our common dreams.

These days, many Albanians are coming to America or want to come to America to claim a piece of the dream that you and I have been privileged to realize, except that it’s really hard for them now and it’s hard on us, as well. I hope The Frosina Foundation can help make it easier for everyone.

In closing, I believe it would be a proud thing for us to be able to say in the future that Albanian-Americans took care of their own people who came to this country. And we should help all of these new Albanians as they arrive in America from Albania, Kosova, Macedonia, or anywhere else.

Mbahu nena, mos ke frike, se ke motra dhe vellezer kudo ne Amerike.
Jam Sotiraqi, i bir i Froses dhe Spiros. Ju faleminderit shume.

Van Christo

Van Christo

Van Christo poses with a 1927 General Electric radio given to him by an appreciative fan of the Van Christo Radio Theatre. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Van Sotir Christo was born in the city of Korça in southern Albania, and brought t oAmerica at the age of one before World War II. He served as a Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy aboard the U.S.S. Chaffee, DE230, during WWII in the Pacific. Until he formed the non-profit Frosina Information Network, an Albanian immigrant and cultural resource, he was President and Creative Director from 1960 to 1993 of the Van Christo Advertising Agency serving industrial and hi-tech clients in the USA, Canada, and Europe. His advertising agency won just about every award that was offered by the advertising industry. He won the prestigious CLIO award on two separate occasions that is considered the Academy Award of Advertising.

From 1966 to 1981, he also created the Van Christo Radio Theatre where he broadcast Old-Time Radio drama over Greater Boston radio stations, WCRB and WBUR. He was also Executive Producer and director of an award-winning radio program that he created especially for children called “The Treehouse” that was praised by judges for its “informative and entertaining format which capitalizes on radio’s ability to stimulate young imaginations.” He has also served as a consultant on specialized radio programming for children to National Public Radio (NPR), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and the U.S. Department of Education.

Van Christo recently donated his personal collection of some 2000 Old-Time Radio programs to the Special Collections Department of the Mugar Library at Boston University. The collection is now in the process of being catalogued as the Van Christo Radio Theatre Archive where it will be made available to students and scholars alike. He is a graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston University from which he received a BA degree in the English Language and English Literature.

Van Christo conducts The Boston Pops.

Van Christo conducts The Boston Pops.

Van Christo has been interviewed by several Greater Boston TV and radio stations, CBS radio, the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Marti, Wisconsin Public Radio, Associated Press, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, Los Angeles Daily News, and other media where he has provided commentaries on changing political situations in Albania, and, more recently, about Kosova. In 1992, he and his wife, Jane Christo who is General Manager of NPR Radio Station WBUR in Boston, were invited by the United States Information Agency of the U.S. State Department to serve as consultant-advisors to Radio Tirana. This initial working visit was so well received by the Albanians that they were invited back four additional times, and their last visit to Albania in 1996 was expanded to include four radio stations in Romania.

Van Christo conducts Kori Usterit.

Van Christo conducts
Kori Usterit.

In 1996, Van Christo was nominated for the post of Ambassador to Albania by U.S. Senator John Kerry, U.S. Congressman Barney Frank, former U.S. Congressman Robert Drinan, community and business leaders. In 1994, he was appointed by then Massachusetts Governor William Weld to his Governor’s Advisory Council on Immigrants and Refugees, and then re-appointed in 1997 by Governor A. Paul Cellucci. In 1998, he was also appointed to Massachusetts Health Commisioner Howard K. Koh’s Refugee and Immigrant Health Advisory Committee, He is the father of four children – Jeffrey Dean, Pira Frosina, Tana Marika, and Zachary Tomor.

Van Christo conducts The Albanian Children's Chorale

Van Christo conducts The Albanian Children’s Chorale

Van Christo conducts The Concord Pops.

Van Christo conducts The Concord Pops.

Origination of the Name “Frosina”

In response to many inquiries from people who have requested an explanation of the name “Frosina”, the following is a brief description about the person for whom the Foundation was named — my mother, Frosina Naum Christo.

Frosina Naum was born in 1909 in Drenova, Albania, a village near Korçe in southern Albania. She brought me to America when she was nineteen years old and I was only one to join my father, Spiro Christo, who had arrived in America a couple of months earlier to establish a home for us in the Roxbury section of Boston, Massachusetts. She was an orphan who was brought up by her uncle’s family because her own mother and father had both died when she was a small child.

My mother was outgoing and had a lot of friends. She also had a reputation as a great cook, particularly when it came to making two very delicious and popular Albanian dishes — Lakror and Baklava. I have many memories while I was growing up of my mother singing in the kitchen as she was rolling out dough for Lakror. But life for her was not especially easy, and there were many times when money was scarce. Although my father could speak passable English, my mother didn’t know English very well. Because of that, she seldom had the opportunity to communicate at length with anyone other than friends and relatives from Albania living nearby. Where she was outgoing in her own group, among “Americans” she was often intimidated and uncertain. She had many dreams for herself and for me, but, unfortunately, she didn’t have time to realize most of her dreams or to see me achieve mine. My mother died in her mid-forties in 1956 after having been seriously ill because of heart disease after she had undergone several major operations that eventually resulted in the amputation of both legs.

I feel that in many ways my mother represents all mothers and fathers who emigrated to America. Her hardship and struggle are symbolic of all the difficulties experienced by our families when they came to this land, especially when compared to our cousins that were left behind in Albania. The Frosina Foundation aims to give something of our own good fortune to the mothers and fathers of the next generation of Albanian-Americans.