MAL BERISHA’S FAREWELL PARTY
30th October 2015, at Regents University, London
BY ADAM YAMEY
It was thanks to an electronic message sent to me by Lixhan John Lumani, an Albanian barber in Connecticut (USA), that I first met Ambassador Mal Berisha. The barber informed me that an Albanian film was to be shown at Rich Mix in London’s Shoreditch district. My wife and I booked tickets for this event, and when I noticed that the Albanian Embassy was connected with the screening I decided to take a copy of my book Albania on my Mind to present to the ambassador … just in case he was attending the event. As it turned out, he was there. In the interval, I asked him whether he was interested in receiving a copy of my book. He was, and insisted that I sign it. In addition, he invited me and my wife to a book launch that was being held at his embassy in two weeks’ time.
We attended the book launch (of Elizabeth Gowing’s book about Edith Durham), and were welcomed to the gathering by a friendly bunch of people, mostly members of the AAA. Soon after this, we joined the AAA, and thereafter became regular attenders at the meetings held at the Albanian Embassy, It was during these, that we became increasingly friendly with Mal and Donika Berisha. If it had not been for Mal’s invitation to the book launch, I doubt that I would have ever become involved with the AAA. So, I am grateful to him for that as well as his warm hospitality, and the interesting people whom I have met as a result of this.
It was with great sadness that we learnt that Mal would be leaving London at the end of October, and my wife and I had lumps in our throats as we attended the wonderful farewell party held in his honour at Regents University on the day before Halloween. At least 200 people including several members of the AAA attended this ‘multi-media’ event. There was a short film showing the highlights of Mal’s stay in London. Mal launched his new book (in Albanian) about the numerous connections – cultural, diplomatic, and otherwise – between Mal’s native land and the UK. He also answered questions posed both by a panel of eminent guests and aslso members of the audience. Three Albanian artistes performed music, and recited poetry during the event. Numerous people made lovely speeches in both Albanian and English, singing Mal’s praises, with great justification. Mal spoke about his warmth for the UK, and emphasised his feeling that the AAA is doing much to promote interest in his country.
One thing that Mal said, which struck me as being particularly apt, was that he wanted his embassy to be as welcoming as a happy family home to which people would want to return often. He achieved this, as all of us at the AAA can testify. I am certain that we will all miss Mal and Donika very much. We wish them all the very best for the future.
Finally, we live near Bayswater and a short walk from the bust of Skanderbeg that was erected at Mal’s instigation. I am glad that there is something to remind us of Mal and Donika so near to our home even if they will be living so far away.
Ju faleminderit, lamtumire, dhe fat të mirë për të ardhmen!