On 4th of July, an American flag flew over Capitol Hill, in honor of Albanian businessman and philanthropist Lazim Destani.
Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY16) initiated the request and on Thursday, he personally handed the flag to Mr. Destani, during a beautiful and emotional ceremony at his Riverdale congressional office, in New York.
“This flag was officially flown in honor of you, my friend,” said Engel, while displaying for the small gathering and the media reporters, the accompanying official document signed by the Architect of the Capitol.
Mr. Destani is an exemplary entrepreneur and a notable humanitarian. As an immigrant he started a transportation business in Germany, which grew exponentially over the years to become a major supplier and contractor for the international peacekeeping forces, first in the Balkans and then in various parts of the globe. Another company, Ecolog, now run by his son Nasif Destani, has become an international success.
The most notable characteristic of Lazim Destani as a business owner and executive has been his determination to give back to the community and to improve the society at large by investing in education, in culture, in sports and entertainment. That is why he has gone back to his roots expanding his business back to his native Macedonia, in Tetova. In a region left behind, by dictatorships, wars, and now widespread corruption, his is a success story which inspires young entrepreneurs and idealists.
“We are very proud of the friendship between the Albanian people and the people of the United States of America”, Engel said. “We have a wonderful Albanian diaspora, much of which is centered in New York, but of course all over the country. I have had the chance to visit Albanians in Detroit, Chicago and Boston.”
The congressman from The Bronx, home to thousands of Albanian-Americans has made at least one similar request, a few years ago, when the US flag flew over the Capitol to recognize Ismail Kadare, the greatest living Albanian writer, whose books are translated in 34 languages around the globe.
Congressman Engel became a popular figure among Albanian-Americans during the 1990s with his steadfast advocacy of the Albanian minority rights in former Yugoslavia and his belief in the self-determination right of Kosova. He actively worked in the last three decades to support peace, democracy, and prosperity in the Balkans.
First elected in 1988, he won convincingly the Democratic primary a few days ago, facing three rivals and receiving more than 70% of the vote.
One of his supporters, Vehbi Bajrami, publisher of Illyria newspaper was in attendance during the ceremony. He congratulated the Congressman for his victory. “Thank you Vehbi, you played an important role too”, Engel replied.
Ten years ago, when Kosova declared its independence, on February 17th, one day before his birthday, Engel flew there to witness the historical moment. Today a street in Kosova bears his name.
Mr. Destani, visibly moved, accepted the flag, and thanked the Congressman for the recognition.
“I have rarely felt so honored in my life,” the well-known philanthropist said. “I want to express my gratitude to Congressman Engel, not just for this recognition, but for his lifelong dedication to the Albanian cause, to freedom, democracy and human rights in the entire region of the Balkans”.
Destani praised the historic friendship between Albanians and Americans and saw this flag that flew in his name as another symbol of that ongoing special relationship between the two nations.
“We share the same values and this is what connects our people together more than anything else”, he said. (Illyria)