Category Archives: Culture and History

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Veterans Day 2017 Remembrance: My Experiences During World War II

The following is the original text of an essay written by Van Christo in 2008, following A Joint Reunion of the USS Chaffee and the USS Pennsylvania, which took took place on November 7-10, 2008, in Lousisville, Kentucky.

USS Chaffee at Anchor

USS Chaffee at Anchor. Source: By Becklectic – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56730535

My ship is torpedoed by a Japanese “Betty” bomber during WWII
By: Van Christo
Quartermaster Second Class (QMIIc)

I was born in Albania and brought to America when I was a year old, so, I didn’t have an American birth certificate, I wanted to join the Navy at age 16 during WWII, after badgering my father, my father, Piro, he swore before a Notary Public that I was 17-1/2
the minimum age to join the Navy.

I served as a Quartermaster Petty Officer on board a Destroyer-Escort, the USS Chaffee, DE230, for almost 18 months in the Pacific. During the American invasion of the Japanese stronghold on Luzon in the Philippines, my ship was patrolling Luzon’s Lingayen Gulf on the night of January 23, 1945 at 11:15 PM, when a squadron of three Japanese “Betty” torpedo bombers was spotted by the Chaffee’s radar. Two of the bombers, or bogies as we called them, continued straight on, but the third plane turned back towards the harbor where my ship and other Navy ships including the battleship USS Pennsylvania that was anchored on the port (left) side.. As the Chaffee readied for attack, our skipper, A. C. “Ace” Jones, ordered the Chaffee to turn towards the oncoming Japanese bomber that dropped its torpedo and struck our ship up in the bow. Although the Chaffee was damaged, no one was hurt and the forward compartments were sealed off.

Back then, on most Navy ships over 1500 tons, there were two locations from which the ship could be steered. The main location was in the Pilot House located at the top front of the ship. A second location was called After Steering, below decks at the very end of the
ship. Because I was considered a good helmsman, my battle station on the Chaffee was After Steering, so I could feel the impact as the ship heaved and rolled lightly to one side when the torpedo struck. The After Steering station was fully equipped with a Gyro
Compass for steering instructions where on receipt of a horn signal from the bridge, I engaged a clutch, and after a shudder, I assumed steering control. This feature proved to be very important during WWII in the Pacific, as the pilot house on American ships was
the primary target of all Japanese Kamikaze suicide pilots.

I was proud as hell 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. That day as I was at my battle station in
After Steering, the Electricians Mate, Chuck Stroth and I suddenly heard the loud staccato rat-tat-tat of the 20 mm guns and the Thump -Thump of the 40’s right above our heads on the fantail. We knew we were under attack and my heart started pounding in my chest. We felt the hit as the ship heaved and rolled to one side. All that only took a few minutes. It was then quiet as we awaited further instructions from the Bridge.

On the following morning, two officers from the Chaffee boarded the Pennsylvania, hoping to acquire spare parts for temporary repairs. But when the Chaffee officers came on board, 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 fat, 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, during November 7-10, 2008. Since the battleship Pennsylvania had a crew of some 3500 while the crew of the Destroyer-Escort Chaffee numbered only 212, present at that 2008 Joint Reunion were about 400 people and crew representing the Pennsylvania while there were only 25 of us representing the Chaffee including 7 crew members. 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.

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.

Van Sotir Christo is appointed Honorary Consul of Albania in Massachusetts

Van Christo

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

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.

Famous Modern Albanian Painters

Frosina is pleased to acknowledge the work of four great Albanian painters, whose life and work was  mostly placed outside of the country.

diaspora

They are:

1. Ali Rasih Dino [1913 – 1993], originally of Chameria;

2. Lin Delija [1926 – 1994], of Shkodra;

3. Lika Janko [1928 – 2001] of Sofia, Bulgaria, but originally from Gramsh, Albania, and

4. Anastas Arthur Tashko [1901 – 1994], of Korça.

In 2009 the Albanian Postal Services dedicated a special stamp series to this group of great painters, called the Albanian Diaspora Painters, shown in the above image. We will write more about their work in the future.  Stay tuned

100 vjet më parë: 11, 12 prill 1914 – Nga Kalendari i Vatrës, 1918.

Prill 11, 1914 – Grekët ndonëse i kanë lëshuar disa vise të Toskërisë në duar të xhandarmërisë shqiptare me protokoll, duan t’i shkelin dhe t’i zaptojnë prapë me të pabesë. Qeveria greke dekllaron zyrtarisht që shkelësit nukë janë ushtarë të saj, po andartë të së vetëthënës “Qeveri Epirote”. Nga ana tjatër, raportet e oficerëve hollandezë provojnë se ata Epirotë nukë janë përveç se ushtarë grekë të vërtetë që ndërrojnë pak rrobat me ditje dhe me urdhër zyrtar të qeverisë dhe të oficerëve të tyre. Sot grekët i ranë Kuqarit, Pacomitit dhe Velçishtit afër Përmetit: u vranë tre nga tanët dhe tre u plagosnë.

 

Prill 12, 1914 – Bëhet një goditje në Grykë të Postenan-Lashovës. Grekët kundër fjalës së dhënë, duan të kapërcejnë kufirin e shënuar dorë pas dore. Vriten tre prej tanëve.

Arrin në Durrës Varatasi, qeveritar i Korfuzit, si ambasador nga ana e Greqisë dhe kërkon të bënjë një marrëveshje me qeverinë shqiptare për punën e Shqipërisë Jugore (Korçë, Gjinokastrë, Delvinë), të cilën grekët e quanin Epir. Madhështia e Tij, Mbreti e refuzon këtë proponim.

[Pas Midhat Frashërit, Kalendari i Vartrës i motit 1918, redaktor Fan S. Noli, f. 33].

100 vjet më parë – Korçë, 5 prill 1914 – Masakra e Ballamaçëve

Prill, 5, 1914 – Bëhet një luftë në Shënd-Elli, afër Korçës. Grekët kishin ardhur me ushtarë të rregullshim dhe me oficerë nga ana e Bilishtit; në mes të tyre ishte dhe ish-deputeti Bushio nga Serfixheja: ushtarët ishin më tepër se treqind me tri mitraloza; të tjerë grekë kishin dashur të vijnë nga Gryka e Mborjes, po kishin gjetur udhën të mbyllur. Grekët u thyen në luftë dhe u hoqnë prapë, duke lënë shumë të vrarë dhe dy mitraloza. Kumandari i grekëve ishte oficeri Mavraza. Atë ditë, brenda në Korçë, andartë të fshehur bënë disa vrasje. Në mes të tjerëve, therrën në një mënyrë çnjerëzore At Harallamp Ballamaçin, priftin Vllah, të vëllanë dhe kushëririn. Gjith’ atë ditë, grektë doqnë 64 shtëpi në Gracë, 16 shtëpi në Poloskë të Devollit, dhe 3 shtëpi në Verlen. Në Gracë masakruan gjashtë burra dhe tri gra, dhe doqnë të gjallë një burrë dhe një grua.

[Hartuar nga Mithat Frashëri, marrë nga Kalendari i Vatrës. i Motit 1918, redaktuar nga Fan S. Noli – f. 32, 33].

100 Years Ago – 100 vjet më parë – 2 prill 1914

Nga Kalendari i Vatrës i Motit 1918 – redaktuar nga Fan S. Noli

“Prill 2, 1914.- Trazim në Korçë: Ca grekomanë, të shtyrë prej agjentëve të Greqisë dhe prej kapedan Sulos (njeriut të Dhespotit), nga mezi i natës, zunë të hedhin pushkë, duke thirrur: “Rroftë Autonomia! Rroftë Greqia!” Vriten disa prej shqiptarëve, pastaj kërcet pushka brenda në qytet dhe vriten edhe të tjerë nga të dyja anët. Arrijnë njerës nga fshatrat e Korçës dhe qetësohet qyteti.”

Shënim: “Datat dhe ngjarjet …nga Janar 7, 1914, gjer më Nëntor 7, 1914, janë marrë fjalë pas fjale nga KALENDARI KOMBIAR i motit 1915, dhe janë të shkruara prej shkrimtarit dhe atdhetarit të njohur Lumo Skëndo (Midat Be Frashëri)” – Nga Kalendari i Vatrës i Motit 1918, redaktuar nga Fan S. Noli, f. 32.

Albania 100 Years Ago – 100 vjet më parë – Mars 1914 – Nga Kalendari i Vatrës i Motit 1918

Mars 3, 1914 – Madhështia e Tij, Princi Wied që ka pranuar fronin e Shqipërisê dhe do të mbanjë emrin Mbreti Wilhelm I, i telegrafon kryetarit të Komisionit të Kontrollit se me 7 të këtij muaji do të dalë në Durrës.

Një tejshkrim nga madhori Mustafa Arianiti na lajmëron se sot hyri xhandarmëria jonë në Korçë, e cila iu dorëzua prej oficerit grek kollonelit Kondulis.

Mars 6, 1914 – Në Odriçan oficeri grek fton oficerin shqiptar të vejë të marrë vendin. Po me të qasur xhandarmëria shqiptare, Grekët u hapin zjarrin me të pabesë: Vriten dymbëdhjetë shpirt dhe oficeri Qani plagoset.

Mars 7, 1914 – Madhështit’e Tyre Mbreti Wilheml i Parë dhe Mbretëresha Sofia ardhë në Durrës. Qyteti i tërë ishte në festë. U bë një pritje fort e bukur. Kishin ardhur delegatë prej çdo qyteti dhe prej kollonive jashtë Shqipërisë. Natën u bënë parada me flamur dhe me fenerë. Mbreti në krye të shkallës së Pallatit u jepte të fala botës. Të gjitha shtëpitë ishin ishin zbukuruar me fenerë. Mbreti disa dit me rradhë priti urimet e parësisë së delegacjeve që ardhë edhe prej Matit, Dibrës, Shkodrës, Korçës, Elbasanit, etj.

Mars 10, 1914 – Njëqind xhandarë u nisnë prej Durrësit për në Vlorë që të ndodhen gati të venë në Sarandë kur ta lëshonjë Greku.

At Fan Noli bëri një shërbesë fetare në shesh përpara pallatit për nder të Mbretit. U ndodhë shumë njerëz, po Dhespoti kishte porositur që të mos gjendet asnjë i krishterë vendës.

Mars 13, 1914 – Në xhami të madhe të Durrësit u bë një lutje për Mbretin në të cilën u gjend Madhështia e Tij.

Mars 14, 1914 – Arriu në Durrês Turhan Pasha Përmeti, i thirrur prej Madhështisë së Tij Mbretit.

Mars 15, 1914 – U bë një lutje në Kishën Orthodokse për nder të Mbretit dhe të Mbretëreshës. Madhështitë e Tyre u ndodhën në Kishë me gjithë pasësit.

U formua kabineti: Turhan Pasha Kryeministër dhe Ministër i Punëve të Jashtme; Esat Pasha Ministër i Punëve të Brendshme dhe i Luftës; Myfit Be Libohova i Drejtësisë; Dr. Turtulli i Mësimit; Dr. Adamidi i Financave; Aziz Pashë Vrioni i Bujqësisë; Hasan Be Prishtina i Postës dhe i Telegrafeve; Bib Doda i Punëve Botore. – Po Bib Doda nukë vajti në Durrës.

U bë një lutje në Kishën Katholike të Durrësit për Mbretin.

Mars 22, 1914 – Merret vesh se në anët e Gollobordës njerëzit e Esatit mbajnë prapë frymën fanatike dhe i paskan çuar fjalë Esatit: “Qysh e kishim fjalën?” Esati u paska çuar përgjigje se “Unë prapë n’atë fjalë jam, po pres kohën.”

Mars 26, 1914 – Trubullim në Starovë, lu njerëzit e Esatit, domethënë ata që ishin kryengritur kundër nënpretorit të parë, nuk lirojnë udhën e Korçës. Bëhet goditje në mes tyre dhe xhandarmërisë së Korçës.

 

 

Fan S. Noli in the Harvard List of Heads of States

Fan Stylian Noli, the founder of the Albanian Orthodox Church and the well-respected leader of VATRA and the Albanian-American community is mentioned at the Harvard University’s list of heads of states and prime ministers who graduated from the reputable university across the Charles River, in Cambridge, MA.

The complete list is here.

Pages of History 2 – On Fan S. Noli and VATRA in 1918

ON FAN S. NOLI AND VATRA IN 1918

[From the American Archives]

From a report of Agent V. J. Valjavec of the Bureau of Investigations, we learn about another little known Albanian newspaper in America at that time.  The report, apparently made out of New York City, was based upon the information obtained casually from an Albanian restaurateur with the last name of Karameta and with the address on West 37th Street. The report mentions also Fan Noli’s visit there, and where to obtain more information about the leader.

The partial copy of the report is below:

“V. J. Valjavec for August 27, 1918. Albanian.

Up until recently the Albanians of New York had a weekly newspaper, which was published in this city. The name of the paper was “Schipetaria” or “Albania”, but the paper, as well as the publishers and editors, moved now to Worcester, Mass. The manager of said paper is a certain Tsaro Kallarati, while the secretary is D. Baba.

Father Noli, mentioned in Agent Weiss’ reports, visits New York only once in a while and stops in Hotel McAlpin or Navarre for one or two days. His activities and connections in this city are not known to Karameta. However, some more information might be obtained from the Albanian leaders in Boston. Their names are: Kol Tromara, Ndreka Stavro, Goni Katundi, M. Bitincku, Angelo Sotir and Kosta Papa. Their addresses are not known to Karameta. However, they are well known among the Schipetars of Boston, Mass”.

Frosina welcomes the contributions of its distinguished readership to shed more light into the very interesting events and circumstances of the amazing efforts of the Albanian-American leaders and movement to preserve the independence and integrity of Albania at the end of WWI. Contributions form the descendants of the above mentioned individuals are most welcome.