The​ ​Arbereshe​ ​are​ ​very​ ​proud​ ​of​ ​their​ ​Albanian ethnicity,​ ​identity,​ ​and​ ​culture

Interview​ ​with​ ​Arbereshe​ ​Elena​ ​Busciacco

By Keze Kozeta Zylo

You​ ​are​ ​Arbereshe,​ ​please​ ​describe​ ​your​ ​roots​ ​and​ ​how​ ​you​ ​keep​ ​the Albanian​ ​language​ ​alive?
I​ ​come​ ​from​ ​a​ ​long​ ​line​ ​of​ ​Arbreshe​ ​dating​ ​as​ ​far​ ​as​ ​its​ ​history​ ​goes. Both​ ​my​ ​parents​ ​were​ ​of​ ​Arbreshe​ ​descent,​ ​they​ ​spoke​ ​the​ ​language​ ​and taught​ ​us​ ​children​ ​to​ ​speak​ ​it​ ​as​ ​well. For​ ​all​ ​Arbreshe​ ​people,​ ​keeping​ ​the​ ​language​ ​alive​ ​was​ ​a​ ​matter​ ​of​ ​choice and​ ​they​ ​did​ ​so​ ​by​ ​singing,​ ​telling​ ​stories,​ ​and​ ​speaking​ ​it​ ​​ ​every​ ​day. For​ ​us​ ​it’s​ ​a​ ​way​ ​of​ ​life.  The​ ​people​ ​of​ ​all​ ​the​ ​Arbreshe​ ​communities​ ​for​ ​years​ ​kept​ ​petitioning elected​ ​officials​ ​to​ ​have​ ​the​ ​language​ ​protected​ ​by​ ​law​ ​and​ ​now​ ​it​ ​is.

What​ ​lessons​ ​have​ ​you​ ​learned​ ​from​ ​your​ ​parents,​ ​church​, community?
First​ ​and​ ​foremost​ ​I​ ​learned​ ​to​ ​to​ ​remain​ ​true​ ​to​ ​my​ ​Albanian roots.​ ​The​ ​Arbershe​ ​are​ ​​ ​were​ ​very​ ​strong​ ​in​ ​their​ ​Christian​ ​faith​ ​and​ ​they instilled​ ​in​ ​me​ ​a​ ​real​ ​reverence​ ​for​ ​God,​ ​His​ ​power​ ​and​ ​His​ ​mercy. “​ ​It​ ​was​ ​God’s​ ​mercy​ ​and​ ​the​ ​determination​ ​of​ ​our​ ​Albanian​ ​hero​ ​George Kastrioti​ ​Skanderbeg​ ​that​ ​saved​ ​our​ ​live!”​ ​they​ ​said! I​ ​was​ ​taught​ ​to​ ​always​ ​help​ ​anyone​ ​who​ ​needed​ ​my​ ​help,​ ​to​ ​be​ ​respectful and​ ​caring​ ​to​ ​the​ ​less​ ​fortunate,​ ​and​ ​that​ ​everything​ ​we​ ​do​ ​will​ ​return​ ​to​ ​us.

Can​ ​you​ ​sing​ ​some​ ​song​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Arbreshe​ ​dialect?
After​ ​​ ​my​ ​35​ ​years​ ​of​ ​living​ ​in​ ​the​ ​States​ ​I​ ​had​ ​really​ ​forgotten​ ​not​ ​only to​ ​speak​ ​but​ ​all​ ​the​ ​songs​ ​I​ ​used​ ​to​ ​sing​ ​when​ ​I​ ​was​ ​a​ ​child​ ​back​ ​in Acquaformosa-Firmoza. Now​ ​that​ ​I​ ​am​ ​listening​ ​to​ ​the​ ​group​ ​Bilte​ ​e​ ​Firmozes​ ​more,​ ​I​ ​am remembering​ ​and​ ​re-learning​ ​some​ ​of​ ​them.​ ​I’m​ ​going​ ​back​ ​in​ ​my​ ​mind​ ​to when​ ​momma​ ​and​ ​nana​ ​used​ ​to​ ​sing​ ​them​ ​while​ ​they​ ​would​ ​sit​ ​on​ ​the steps​ ​outside​ ​knitting​ ​or​ ​sewing.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​such​ ​a​ ​sweet​ ​thing​ ​to​ ​reconnect​ ​that way,​ ​those​ ​were​ ​awesome​ ​memories!

How​ ​strong​ ​is​ ​your​ ​desire​ ​to​ ​speak​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Arbereshe​ ​dialect?​ ​Can​ ​you elaborate?
You​ ​know?​ ​I​ ​always​ ​felt​ ​that​ ​if​ ​I​ ​only​ ​spoke​ ​English​ ​it​ ​would​ ​be​ ​more acceptable​ ​in​ ​the​ ​American​ ​society​ ​and​ ​I​ ​would​ ​be​ ​fitting​ ​in​ ​better
I​ ​am glad​ ​I​ ​learned​ ​the​ ​English​ ​language​ ​and​ ​it​ ​was​ ​my​ ​sole​ ​responsibility​ ​doing so.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​the​ ​least​ ​I​ ​could​ ​do​ ​for​ ​the​ ​newfound​ ​land​ ​that​ ​accepted​ ​me​ ​with such​ ​an​ ​open​ ​heart. But​ ​later​ ​on​ ​I​ ​realized​ ​that​ ​my​ ​Arbereshe​ ​language​ ​didn’t​ ​have​ ​to​ ​suffer​ ​and​ ​I needed​ ​to​ ​rethink​ ​the​ ​fact​ ​that​ ​I​ ​needed​ ​to​ ​start​ ​speaking​ ​again​ ​or​ ​else​ ​I would​ ​forget​ ​completely.​ ​It​ ​wasn’t​ ​until​ ​I​ ​started​ ​using​ ​Social​ ​Media​ ​outlets, when​ ​I​ ​reconnected​ ​with​ ​many​ ​of​ ​my​ ​friends​ ​overseas​ ​and​ ​even​ ​family members​ ​that​ ​I​ ​realized​ ​how​ ​ban​ ​both​ ​my​ ​Italian​ ​and​ ​Albanian​ ​really​ ​were, and​ ​it​ ​very​ ​difficult​ ​to​ ​carry​ ​an​ ​intelligent​ ​conversation​ ​with​ ​them. So​ ​it​ ​would​ ​be​ ​very​ ​fair​ ​to​ ​say​ ​that​ ​only​ ​the​ ​last​ ​3​ ​years,​ ​with​ ​the​ ​help​ ​of Bilte​ ​e​ ​Firmozes​ ​I​ ​got​ ​back​ ​on​ ​the​ ​horse​ ​so​ ​to​ ​speak,​ ​and​ ​I’m​ ​well​ ​on​ ​my way​ ​to​ ​speaking​ ​much​ ​better. Seeing​ ​my​ ​family​ ​in​ ​the​ ​group​ ​be​ ​so​ ​strong​ ​in​ ​keeping​ ​our​ ​culture​ ​alive through​ ​their​ ​costumes,​ ​songs,​ ​and​ ​working​ ​so​ ​hard​ ​to​ ​teach​ ​on​ ​the Arbereshe/Albanian​ ​heritage​ ​made​ ​me​ ​feel​ ​as​ ​if​ ​I​ ​was​ ​an​ ​outsider,​ ​looking through​ ​a​ ​glass​ ​window​ ​yet​ ​I​ ​am​ ​one​ ​of​ ​them. I​ ​realized​ ​that​ ​I​ ​had​ ​thrown​ ​away​ ​everything​ ​moma​ ​and​ ​tata​ ​taught​ ​me. So,​ ​I​ ​am​ ​determined​ ​to​ ​re-learn​ ​and​ ​get​ ​back​ ​to​ ​basics​ ​and​ ​rejoice​ ​to​ ​that joyful​ ​sound​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Arbereshe​ ​language.

What​ ​were​ ​some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​initial​ ​difficulties​ ​experienced​ ​as​ ​an​ ​immigrant?
The​ ​only​ ​difficulty​ ​I​ ​experienced​ ​as​ ​an​ ​immigrant​ ​coming​ ​to​ ​the​ ​States was​ ​the​ ​language​ ​barrier​ ​of​ ​course. I​ ​did​ ​not​ ​know​ ​one​ ​word​ ​in​ ​English​ ​but​ ​I​ ​was​ ​blessed​ ​enough​ ​to​ ​have​ ​come to​ ​a​ ​city​ ​in​ ​NJ​ ​where​ ​there​ ​was​ ​a​ ​number​ ​of​ ​Arbereshe​ ​people​ ​that​ ​came from​ ​my​ ​hometown​ ​in​ ​Italy.​ ​They​ ​knew​ ​my​ ​parents​ ​and​ ​my​ ​dad​ ​had​ ​a cousin​ ​also​ ​living​ ​here​ ​for​ ​over​ ​60​ ​years​ ​and​ ​she​ ​was​ ​just​ ​a​ ​wonderful person,​ ​one​ ​I​ ​will​ ​always​ ​cherish​ ​in​ ​my​ ​heart.​ ​They​ ​all​ ​helped​ ​me​ ​get around​ ​and​ ​make​ ​all​ ​the​ ​necessary​ ​adjustments​ ​so​ ​I​ ​could​ ​integrate​ ​easily in​ ​the​ ​wonderful​ ​American​ ​way​ ​of​ ​living. I​ ​loved​ ​America​ ​the​ ​moment​ ​I​ ​stepped​ ​out​ ​of​ ​the​ ​plane…I​ ​knew​ ​I​ ​was​ ​home even​ ​though​ ​I​ ​was​ ​in​ ​a​ ​foreign​ ​land.​ ​America​ ​had​ ​chosen​ ​me…I​ ​felt! So​ ​to​ ​help​ ​with​ ​the​ ​language​ ​barrier​ ​I​ ​was​ ​enrolled​ ​at​ ​a​ ​nearby​ ​high​ ​school where​ ​they​ ​were​ ​giving​ ​English​ ​teaching​ ​classes​ ​in​ ​the​ ​evening.
I​ ​would​ ​attend​ ​class​ ​twice​ ​a​ ​week​ ​for​ ​two​ ​hours​ ​each​ ​class.​ ​I​ ​also​ ​visited the​ ​library​ ​every​ ​other​ ​day​ ​taking​ ​out​ ​bilingual​ ​books​ ​and​ ​video​ ​tapes​ ​to help​ ​me​ ​learn​ ​English​ ​when​ ​I​ ​had​ ​no​ ​class.​ ​So,​ ​I​ ​studied​ ​English​ ​on​ ​a​ ​daily basis​ ​and​ ​within​ ​two​ ​months​ ​of​ ​me​ ​living​ ​in​ ​the​ ​states​ ​I​ ​was​ ​able​ ​to​ ​carry​ ​on a​ ​conversation,​ ​go​ ​shopping​ ​and​ ​just​ ​getting​ ​around​ ​without​ ​anyone’s​ ​help. English​ ​had​ ​become​ ​like​ ​second​ ​nature​ ​to​ ​me.

Describe​ ​the​ ​social-political​ ​aspect​ ​of​ ​Italy​ ​at​ ​that​ ​time​ ​and​ ​what​ ​were some​ ​reasons​ ​for​ ​leaving​ ​the​ ​country?
When​ ​I​ ​left​ ​Italy​ ​in​ ​1983​ ​there​ ​was​ ​very​ ​little​ ​to​ ​be​ ​offered​ ​to​ ​a​ ​young person​ ​as​ ​myself​ ​but​ ​I.​ ​Continuing​ ​education​ ​here​ ​was​ ​very​ ​costly​ ​even​ ​for those​ ​who​ ​had​ ​the​ ​financial​ ​stability.​ ​Those​ ​who​ ​did​ ​attend​ ​college​ ​and​ ​got their​ ​degree​ ​could​ ​not​ ​find​ ​any​ ​jobs.​ ​Unfortunately,​ ​the​ ​Government​ ​had bees​ ​very​ ​corrupt​ ​for​ ​decades,​ ​and​ ​unless​ ​you​ ​paid​ ​ridiculous​ ​amounts​ ​of money​ ​or​ ​knew​ ​somebody​ ​in​ ​the​ ​higher​ ​ups​ ​you​ ​had​ ​no​ ​job. But​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​know​ ​if​ ​that​ ​would​ ​have​ ​really​ ​impacted​ ​me​ ​because​ ​from​ ​a​ ​very early​ ​age​ ​I​ ​knew​ ​I​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​come​ ​to​ ​America​ ​following​ ​the​ ​steps​ ​of​ ​my grandfather​ ​(​ ​tatmathi​ ​)​ ​who​ ​had​ ​come​ ​to​ ​the​ ​States​ ​in​ ​the​ ​late​ ​1930s.

Tell​ ​me​ ​something​ ​Interesting​ ​about​ ​your​ ​family​ ​in​ ​America?
What​ ​is​ ​interesting​ ​about​ ​my​ ​family​ ​​ ​in​ ​America​ ​is​ ​the​ ​fact​ ​that​ ​here​ ​we had​ ​the​ ​opportunity​ ​to​ ​follow​ ​our​ ​dreams​ ​in​ ​becoming​ ​who​ ​we​ ​were​ ​born​ ​to be.​ ​In​ ​America​ ​we​ ​were​ ​given​ ​the​ ​opportunities​ ​we​ ​were​ ​not​ ​given​ ​in​ ​Italy. Even​ ​though​ ​we​ ​were​ ​intelligent,​ ​e​ ​could​ ​have​ ​never​ ​pursued​ ​our​ ​dreams there​ ​for​ ​the​ ​reasons​ ​I​ ​explained​ ​earlier. But​ ​in​ ​America​ ​we​ ​did.​ ​My​ ​son​ ​went​ ​to​ ​Med​ ​School​ ​and​ ​is​ ​now​ ​a​ ​Doctor,​ ​I pursued​ ​my​ ​dream​ ​in​ ​working​ ​in​ ​Nursing​ ​and​ ​Healthcare,​ ​my​ ​husband holds​ ​a​ ​degree​ ​in​ ​Agricultural​ ​Sciences​ ​and​ ​various​ ​certifications​ ​and​ ​is LPDM​ ​for​ ​a​ ​major​ ​Pharmaceutical​ ​Company​ ​and​ ​my​ ​​ ​daughter​ ​wants​ ​to study​ ​Law,​ ​and​ ​​ ​I​ ​have​ ​absolutely​ ​no​ ​doubt​ ​that​ ​she​ ​will! In​ ​America​ ​no​ ​one​ ​crushes​ ​your​ ​dreams​ ​regardless​ ​of​ ​your​ ​economical status​ ​or​ ​belief​ ​system.​ ​Here​ ​in​ ​America,​ ​everyone​ ​has​ ​a​ ​fair​ ​chance​ ​and opportunity​ ​to​ ​create​ ​and​ ​built​ ​his​ ​or​ ​her​ ​own​ ​life​ ​however​ ​they​ ​chose. God​ ​bless​ ​America!

And​ ​when​ ​did​ ​you​ ​do​ ​your​ ​research​ ​about​ ​the​ ​Albanian​ ​diaspora​ ​in America?
I​ ​actually​ ​knew​ ​about​ ​it​ ​at​ ​a​ ​very​ ​early​ ​age. When​ ​mom​ ​and​ ​dad​ ​talked​ ​about​ ​my​ ​grandfather​ ​and​ ​massive​ ​people immigrated​ ​to​ ​the​ ​States​ ​looking​ ​for​ ​work. It​ ​is​ ​estimated​ ​that​ ​more​ ​than​ ​300​ ​thousand​ ​Arbereshe​ ​immigrated​ ​to​ ​the States​ ​between​ ​1920​ ​-1960​ ​and​ ​most​ ​of​ ​them​ ​located​ ​in​ ​NY,​ ​NJ, and​ ​PA. There​ ​are​ ​many​ ​descendants​ ​of​ ​my​ ​family​ ​who​ ​live​ ​in​ ​the​ ​States​ ​and​ ​most of​ ​them​ ​are​ ​located​ ​in​ ​PA. It​ ​was​ ​always​ ​an​ ​Albanian-​ ​Arbereshe​ ​petitioning​ ​and​ ​applying​ ​for​ ​Visas​ ​for their​ ​family​ ​members​ ​so​ ​they​ ​could​ ​come​ ​here.​ ​They​ ​also​ ​stayed​ ​within their​ ​communities​ ​and​ ​that​ ​helped​ ​them​ ​with​ ​the​ ​culture​ ​shock,​ ​find​ ​jobs, and​ ​start​ ​a​ ​new​ ​life.

What​ ​is​ ​your​ ​vision​ ​about​ ​your​ ​future,​ ​some​ ​of​ ​your​ ​goals,​ ​and​ ​what​ ​do you​ ​hope​ ​to​ ​achieve​ ​by​ ​you​ ​reconnecting​ ​with​ ​the​ ​Albanian​ ​language?
My​ ​vision,​ ​desire,​ ​and​ ​goal,​ ​is​ ​to​ ​be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​connect​ ​at​ ​a​ ​spiritual​ ​level with​ ​both​ ​Arbereshe​ ​and​ ​Albanian​ ​people​ ​everywhere,​ ​after​ ​all,​ ​they​ ​are​ ​all my​ ​family. It​ ​is​ ​truly​ ​my​ ​dream,​ ​and​ ​it​ ​has​ ​been​ ​for​ ​many​ ​years,​ ​to​ ​visit​ ​Albania​ ​and​ ​in considering​ ​myself​ ​as​ ​a​ ​messenger​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Gospel​ ​of​ ​Jesus​ ​Christ,​ ​I​ ​just want​ ​to​ ​share​ ​the​ ​love,​ ​compassion,​ ​and​ ​forgiveness​ ​with​ ​everyone. I​ ​don’t​ ​want​ ​to​ ​try​ ​and​ ​convert​ ​people,​ ​I​ ​just​ ​want​ ​to​ ​share​ ​the​ ​love​ ​and energy​ ​I​ ​carry​ ​inside​ ​my​ ​heart.​ ​Perhaps​ ​as​ ​was​ ​born​ ​for​ ​such​ ​a​ ​time​ ​as​ ​this!

Tell​ ​us​ ​about​ ​your​ ​life​ ​as​ ​a​ ​child​ ​and​ ​also​ ​now​ ​as​ ​an​ ​adult?
I​ ​was​ ​born​ ​in​ ​1965​ ​in​ ​Acquaformosa​ ​(​ ​Firmoza​ ​)​ ​in​ ​the​ ​province​ ​of Cosenza,​ ​in​ ​the​ ​region​ ​of​ ​Calabria,​ ​Italy,​ ​a​ ​small​ ​Arbereshe​ ​village. I​ ​came​ ​from​ ​a​ ​very​ ​loving​ ​and​ ​hardworking​ ​family.​ ​Both​ ​my​ ​parents​ ​were​ ​of Arbereshe​ ​origins.​ ​They​ ​spoke​ ​both​ ​Italian​ ​and​ ​Arbreshe​ ​and​ ​taught​ ​us​ ​kids the​ ​same.​ ​Early​ ​on​ ​I​ ​learned​ ​the​ ​importance​ ​of​ ​family,​ ​community,​ ​and respect​ ​for​ ​​ ​our​ ​culture. Mom​ ​was​ ​a​ ​homemaker​ ​and​ ​took​ ​care​ ​of​ ​us​ ​6​ ​kids​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​​ ​my grandparents.​ ​She​ ​cooked​ ​and​ ​cleaned​ ​and​ ​treated​ ​my​ ​dad​ ​like​ ​a king…She​ ​loved​ ​him​ ​so​ ​much!
My​ ​dad​ ​immigrated​ ​to​ ​Germany​ ​and​ ​France,​ ​then​ ​a​ ​little​ ​closer​ ​to​ ​home​ ​in the​ ​south​ ​of​ ​Italy​ ​for​ ​work. He​ ​worked​ ​for​ ​a​ ​Textile​ ​company​ ​and​ ​many​ ​times​ ​he​ ​worked​ ​the​ ​night​ ​shift. He​ ​was​ ​a​ ​very​ ​smart​ ​man​ ​my​ ​dad,​ ​he​ ​loved​ ​to​ ​read,​ ​politics,​ ​and​ ​he​ ​loved the​ ​young​ ​people,​ ​in​ ​fact,​ ​he​ ​was​ ​called​ ​the​ ​man​ ​of​ ​the​ ​youth​ ​and​ ​was loved​ ​by​ ​all.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​a​ ​very​ ​talented​ ​accordion​ ​player​ ​and​ ​we​ ​always​ ​had music​ ​in​ ​our​ ​house​ ​creating​ ​an​ ​atmosphere​ ​that​ ​was​ ​relaxed​ ​and​ ​happy and​ ​we​ ​always​ ​smiled. As​ ​an​ ​adult,​ ​I​ ​carry​ ​my​ ​parent’s​ ​lifestyle​ ​still​ ​today.​ ​When​ ​things​ ​get​ ​tough​ ​I remind​ ​myself​ ​that​ ​there​ ​is​ ​always​ ​a​ ​silver​ ​lining​ ​to​ ​every​ ​cloud.​ ​I​ ​am​ ​rich within​ ​in​ ​with​ ​a​ ​culture​ ​that​ ​keeps​ ​on​ ​giving​ ​,​ ​great​ ​happy​ ​memories,​ ​and​ ​a very​ ​blessed​ ​life​ ​here​ ​in​ ​the​ ​USA. The​ ​most​ ​rewarding​ ​and​ ​significant​ ​achievement​ ​for​ ​me​ ​as​ ​an​ ​adult​ ​is​ ​the ability​ ​to​ ​lead​ ​and​ ​keep​ ​my​ ​kids​ ​​ ​on​ ​the​ ​right​ ​track.​ ​Becoming​ ​a​ ​parent​ ​was for​ ​sure​ ​the​ ​greatest​ ​journey​ ​I​ ​have​ ​ever​ ​been​ ​on,​ ​one​ ​filled​ ​with​ ​awe​ ​and wonder,​ ​and​ ​with​ ​great​ ​rewards. Remembering​ ​where​ ​I​ ​came​ ​from​ ​and​ ​keeping​ ​what​ ​I​ ​was​ ​taught​ ​by​ ​both my​ ​parents​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Arbereshe​ ​culture, helped​ ​me​ ​persevere​ ​through​ ​some tough​ ​times.​ ​Always​ ​remembering​ ​that​ ​there​ ​is​ ​a​ ​much​ ​higher​ ​power​ ​who directs​ ​my​ ​steps​ ​every​ ​day,​ ​He​ ​is​ ​at​ ​work​ ​always,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​need​ ​not​ ​to​ ​lose​ ​my sleep​ ​because​ ​He​ ​is​ ​always​ ​awake. I​ ​mastered​ ​some​ ​skills​ ​in​ ​nursing​ ​and​ ​healthcare​ ​and​ ​work​ ​in​ ​a​ ​Hospital.

What​ ​is​ ​something​ ​you​ ​can​ ​bring​ ​today​ ​​ ​that​ ​most​ ​people​ ​may​ ​not think​ ​of?
In​ ​my​ ​experience​ ​most​ ​people​ ​today​ ​do​ ​not​ ​think​ ​that​ ​every​ ​gesture, every​ ​action​ ​we​ ​do​ ​gets​ ​noticed. There​ ​is​ ​the​ ​natural​ ​law​ ​of​ ​the​ ​universe​ ​that​ ​has​ ​a​ ​way​ ​of​ ​rewarding everything​ ​we​ ​do,​ ​say,​ ​and​ ​even​ ​think. Everything​ ​we​ ​da​ ​has​ ​a​ ​consequence​ ​being​ ​good​ ​or​ ​bad. To​ ​receive​ ​one​ ​must​ ​first​ ​give,​ ​to​ ​live​ ​one​ ​must​ ​not​ ​kill,​ ​to​ ​gain​ ​one​ ​must work​ ​and​ ​so​ ​on.
It​ ​seems​ ​to​ ​me​ ​at​ ​times​ ​that​ ​most​ ​people​ ​just​ ​go​ ​through​ ​the​ ​emotions, doing something​ ​just​ ​for​ ​the​ ​sake​ ​of​ ​doing,​ ​not​ ​ever​ ​considering​ ​or​ ​anticipating how​ ​it​ ​might​ ​affect​ ​someone​ ​else. We​ ​live​ ​in​ ​a​ ​society​ ​that​ ​acts​ ​on​ ​impulse​ ​not​ ​out​ ​of​ ​kindness. I​ ​believe​ ​that​ ​reflecting​ ​even​ ​if​ ​for​ ​just​ ​a​ ​little​ ​while​ ​before​ ​I​ ​do​ ​or​ ​say something,​ ​or​ ​approaching​ ​a​ ​situation​ ​,​ ​giving​ ​it​ ​the​ ​attention​ ​it​ ​needs before​ ​it​ ​matures​ ​into​ ​an​ ​action​ ​is​ ​​ ​far​ ​more​ ​productive​ ​and​ ​it’s​ ​rewarding for​ ​both​ ​the​ ​receiver​ ​and​ ​myself​ ​with​ ​long​ ​term​ ​benefits. I​ ​feel​ ​so​ ​blessed​ ​having​ ​such​ ​a​ ​wonderful​ ​upbringing​ ​because​ ​my​ ​wisdom is​ ​unconventional​ ​and​ ​people​ ​often​ ​look​ ​up​ ​to​ ​me​ ​and​ ​value​ ​my​ ​opinion, this​ ​I​ ​awe​ ​to​ ​my​ ​parents,​ ​grandparents,​ ​my​ ​Arbereshe​ ​ancestors​ ​who​ ​truly lived​ ​this​ ​way!

Can​ ​you​ ​describe​ ​in​ ​short​ ​the​ ​story​ ​behind​ ​Arbereshe?
The​ ​Arbereshe​ ​are​ ​an​ ​ethnic​ ​Albanian​ ​community​ ​living​ ​mostly​ ​in​ ​the southern​ ​​ ​parts​ ​of​ ​Italy.​ ​Mostly​ ​scattered​ ​in​ ​Calabria,​ ​Sicily,​ ​Puglia,​ ​Molise and​ ​Basilicata​ ​just​ ​to​ ​mention​ ​a​ ​few. They​ ​are​ ​descendants​ ​of​ ​mostly​ ​Tosk​ ​Albanian​ ​refugees​ ​who​ ​fled​ ​Albania between​ ​he​ ​15th​ ​and​ ​18th​ ​centuries​ ​as​ ​a​ ​result​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Ottoman​ ​Empire’s invasion​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Balkans. They​ ​settled​ ​in​ ​Italy​ ​in​ ​several​ ​waves​ ​of​ ​migration,​ ​following​ ​the​ ​death​ ​of our​ ​national​ ​Albanian​ ​hero​ ​George​ ​Kastrioti​ ​Skanderbeg. The​ ​Arbereshe​ ​adhere​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Italo-Albanian​ ​Church,​ ​an​ ​Eastern​ ​Catholic Church. They​ ​speak​ ​Arbereshe,​ ​which​ ​is​ ​an​ ​old​ ​variant​ ​of​ ​Albanian​ ​spoken​ ​in Southern​ ​Albania​ ​also​ ​known​ ​as​ ​Tosk​ ​Albanian. When​ ​the​ ​Arbereshe​ ​speak​ ​of​ ​their​ ​community​ ​as​ ​a​ ​whole​ ​,​ ​they​ ​use​ ​the term​ ​Arberia,​ ​or​ ​Nation​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Arbereshe​ ​and​ ​are​ ​very​ ​proud​ ​of​ ​their​ ​Albanian ethnicity,​ ​identity,​ ​and​ ​culture.

What​ ​is​ ​the​ ​message​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Arbereshe​ ​people​ ​for​ ​the​ ​Albanian diaspora?
Our​ ​message​ ​is​ ​simply​ ​this;
While​ ​the​ ​world​ ​and​ ​humanity is​ ​in​ ​constant​ ​chaos​ ​and​ ​division,​ ​let​ ​us remember​ ​that​ ​we​ ​as​ ​a​ ​people​ ​are​ ​linked​ ​to​ ​each​ ​other​ ​not​ ​by​ ​political​ ​or religious​ ​views​ ​but​ ​rather​ ​we​ ​are​ ​linked​ ​by​ ​blood.  Always​ ​be​ ​ready​ ​to​ ​uphold​ ​one​ ​another’s​ ​values​ ​and​ ​be​ ​ready​ ​to​ ​take​ ​a stand​ ​one​ ​for​ ​another​ ​in​ ​unity. We​ ​the​ ​Arbereshe​ ​people,​ ​even​ ​though​ ​did​ ​not​ ​live​ ​or​ ​were​ ​born​ ​in​ ​the​ ​same mother​ ​land,​ ​we​ ​never​ ​forgot​ ​where​ ​we​ ​came​ ​from,​ ​and​ ​we​ ​are​ ​proud​ ​to​ ​be your​ ​family. We​ ​hold​ ​up​ ​the​ ​same​ ​flag,​ ​we​ ​act​ ​and​ ​do​ ​the​ ​same​ ​things​ ​you​ ​do,​ ​when​ ​we pray​ ​we​ ​pray​ ​for​ ​you​ ​also. We​ ​want​ ​to​ ​encourage​ ​you​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​all​ ​your​ ​traditions​ ​and​ ​way​ ​of​ ​life​ ​intact, don’t​ ​give​ ​up​ ​under​ ​pressure. We​ ​fought​ ​a​ ​great​ ​fight​ ​for​ ​over​ ​500​ ​years​ ​and​ ​will​ ​continue​ ​to​ ​do​ ​so​ ​till​ ​the day​ ​the​ ​good​ ​Lord​ ​calls​ ​us​ ​home. We​ ​can​ ​be​ ​citizens​ ​of​ ​any​ ​country​ ​but​ ​we​ ​will​ ​always​ ​remain Arbereshe/Albanian​ ​in​ ​our​ ​heart​ ​and​ ​spirit. Encourage​ ​unity​ ​so​ ​we​ ​never​ ​have​ ​to​ ​be​ ​divided​ ​neither​ ​in​ ​flesh​ ​nor​ ​in spirit,​ ​because​ ​our​ ​spirit​ ​is​ ​one 1.
God​ ​bless​ ​you!
Elena​ ​Busciacco
Shtator, 2017

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