Every 28th of November, Albanians everywhere celebrate their main national holiday, the Independence of Albania, also known as the Flag Day.
It can be easily described as the Albanian 4th of July, but it is more than that. It is a fateful date for the history of Albanians.
On 28th November 2012, led by Ismail Qemali, Albanian representatives from all the regions where they lived proclaimed Albania, a sovereign and independent country. The proclamation had a twofold importance. On one side, it ended 500 years of Ottoman occupation. On the other, it was a response to the neighboring countries, Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria that were planning to divide the Albanian lands among them.
It took a lot of diplomatic efforts to make sure that independent Albania remained in the world’s map. A great role played US President Woodrow Wilson, after WWI. However, more than half of the Albanian-inhabited territory remained in the surrounding countries, most significantly, Kosova, which is today an independent country with a majority ethnic-Albanian population.
November 28th is also an important holiday to Albanians in Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece. It’s the day when they affirm their historic and cultural identity.
This was the second important 28th of November in the history of Albania. Before the Albanian lands were annexed by the Ottoman Empire, a last great resistance that would inspire many Europeans for centuries was that of George Kastriot Skanderbeg. On November 28th 1443, he took back Kruja (Croia) the capital of his father’s principality. He united other Albanian princes in a common league and made history with his 25-year long resistance to the most powerful country of his time.
Skanderbeg is the National Hero of Albania and statues of him are erected in the main squares of Tirana and Prishtina. His story was essential to the Albanian National Renaissance of the 19th century.
A third 28th of November would shine again in the history of Albania, in 1944, when the last Nazi soldier left the country. The communist regime, which took over afterwards, declared November 29th as the official Liberation Day, in an effort to create a defining national holiday of its own. It remains a point of contention between historians and politicians to this day.
Maybe it is not a coincidence that Kosova Liberation Army, also made its first public appearance on November 28th (1997). Furthermore, the birthday of the highly celebrated, legendary commander, and Kosova’s national hero, Adem Jashari is also on November 28th.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise then how important this holiday is also to Albanian-Americans. A number of celebrations, rallies, and official dinners take place every end of November. Your own Illyria newspaper comes out with this annual special edition, an expression of patriotic and community pride. (Ruben Avxhiu)