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Albanian American Success Stories Gala Trailer, Battery Gardens, NYC May 3, 2014
Photos from Albanian American Stories Gala Dinner
An American General cites his family roots and his brave parents as the source of inspiration behind his outstanding military success.
Eddi Zyber Zyko was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, on June 15, 1941, but his story began much earlier, with the birth of his father, Zyber Ismail Zyko, in the village of Ceta, Korçë, Albania, in 1900. Ceta was the Zyko family’s ancestral home. Over several generations, the family established a fulfilling lifestyle as farmers, shepherds, hunters, and woodsmen, but it was always his father’s dream to make it to America. Growing up,…Read More
A long-time advocate of human rights, and an emissary of public policy and civic engagements.
Ilir Zherka’s proclivity to politics, particularly as they pertain to his fellow Albanians, surfaced at a young age. Born in Krushev, Montenegro, Zherka’s father, Ahmet, was raised in Tropojë, Albania, while his mother, Shpresa, was born in Vuthaj, Montenegro. Though he and his siblings immigrated to the United States with his paternal grandparents in 1968, settling in Bronx, New York, Zherka clung to his roots. As a teenager, he attended rallies and demonstrations against the Communist…Read More
Zeneli, the Kosova native, quickly shoots to international stardom as a preeminent model and recording star.
Robin Thicke’s music video for the song All Tied Up, and in the music video for the song Pass at Me by Timberland with Pitbull and David Guetta. Zeneli has also appeared in five Super Bowl commercials and in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition in 2011 and 2012. For the past six years, Zeneli has been signed with one of the biggest modeling agencies, Ford Modeling Agency, and also with Major Models in Europe. In 2013, she…Read More
Dr. Detina Zalli is among the youngest postdoctoral researchers at Harvard University. She began her postdoctoral work at age 25, after publishing an important scientific paper based on her Ph.D. research on Nek8—a protein associated with polycystic kidney disease and breast cancer. She is now working on a group of proteins known to be involved in cell migration of cancer cells as well as in bone diseases such as osteoporosis. She is also teaching dental medical students and has organized a course for doctors and medical students on cilia and human disease. …Read More
Never forgetting where he comes from: Yale-educated marketing leader preserves Albanian culture as Chair of the Albanian Festival.
On the day Simon Vukel graduated from Yale University, as his family was heading home, his father pulled the car over and asked him to get out of the car with him. Vukel found himself looking at a small apartment building that he knew very well, having spent many hours working there alongside his father. “Remember this building, and all the hours we spent there, cleaning and doing repairs, shoveling snow, and taking out…Read More
The Bronx-born Vucetaj made her dreams of opening her own brow salon come true, one celebrity eyebrow at a time.
Sania Vucetaj has been obsessed with shaping and plucking eyebrows ever since she noticed her own imperfection—a scar that runs through her brow. By teaching herself how to camouflage it, she became increasingly interested in the art of eyebrow shaping and practiced the skill on anyone she could get her hands on—mainly relatives and friends. The better she got, the bigger she dreamed. She envisioned opening up her own small eyebrow booth in…Read More
Vataj is fulfilling her dream of working in journalism, serving as the Web Editor and Producer for an international publication.
Marina Vataj was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1982, though her parents, Pren and Jana Vataj, were born in Kosova. The duo immigrated to the United States in 1971 in search of a better life, leaving behind family and friends but not their allegiance to Albanian culture. Pren and Jana adamantly believed in the importance of preserving their heritage, even while they assimilated to many American ways of life. They imbued their four…Read More
Her father’s inspirational life story propelled Mizar Turdiu to pursue a career in journalism, where she made waves as an anchor and radio talk-show host.
Mizar Turdiu could not be the Albanian American she is today without the influence of her father, Ramazan Turdiu. Ramazan fought for his beloved countrymen in Kosova before fleeing from certain execution in 1944. While exiled in Italy for twelve years, he earned his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Bologna, got married, and moved to the United States with his young wife. In the…Read More
Tapija embarked on a journey to dental medicine with passion, and succeeded because of her perseverance.
Dr. Lydra Tapija’s story in the United States started the morning of September 17, 2000. She hugged her parents and told them not to worry, because she would never disappoint them. She had made the biggest and hardest decision of her life by leaving her native country for a faraway land. After a long flight filled with her son’s cries, Tapija found herself in the Big Apple. She was young, energetic, and determined to become a…Read More
Broadcast journalist and professional communicator who has covered everything from post-war Kosova and military deployments to hurricanes and parenting.
When Besa Tafilaj Pinchotti earned her Bachelors in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin, she immediately went to work as a news anchor and reporter for an NBC affiliate in Texas, covering everything from September 11 to local crime and political issues. She also traveled to Kosova for a series on life after the war. Pinchotti eventually moved on to work at an ABC station in North Carolina, where she reported…Read More
The Olympic Albanian American volleyball player who scores for Team USA is now aiming at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Donald Suxho was born and raised in Korçë, Albania, under a Communist regime, where reaching for one’s dreams seemed impossible. “The Communist regime had put such a low ceiling on our lives, that all we strived for was to be common and good people,” Suxho remembers. But that did not stop Suxho from aiming higher. Despite his limitations, he started playing soccer at 9 years old…Read More
As AIG’s Business Development Director for the Northeast region, Steffon cites his Albanian pride as the source of his success.
Gregory Steffon was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, but grew up in its suburb, Auburn. He lived in a lower-middle class neighborhood, where most families lived paycheck to paycheck. Nobody had much money. “For summer fun, we splashed each other with the hose or sprinkler, and our vacations would be to go to Cape Cod for a week, if we were lucky,” Steffon says. “I really grew up as the typical American, participating in…Read More
Albanians living in Malesia, Albert Stanaj’s parents immigrated to the United States in the 1970s and settled in Detroit, Michigan, in search of better life. Stanaj is inspired by his parents and has visited their birthplace many times over the years. He feels grateful for their journey and for the opportunity he has had to be raised in the United Stated, where he can pursue his career in music.
Stanaj has always been drawn by the arts and performing, whether it’s singing or acting, and has earned accolades in the field. In 2012,…Read More
The Sinanaj brothers — Jack, Jeff and Russ — hail from the well-known Albanian region of Plave-Guci. They left behind their extended family and their centuries-old stone farmhouse to embark on a journey to the United States, for a better life for them and their families.
The inspiration that leads them to strive forward, work hard and be honest comes naturally from their parents, particularly from their father Sinan Sinanaj. “Life back home was difficult, and even more difficult for Albanians in the former Yugoslavia. Despite it all, our father chose to work…Read More
The Detroitraised Albanian filmmaker is making noise and making it happen.
Nickola Shreli was never particularly interested in science or math as a student at Eisenhower High School in Detroit, Michigan, but the one subject he flourished in year after year was theater. How he would make his love of the hobby a full-time reality upon graduating, he did not know. With parents who had immigrated to Michigan in the 1970s in search of a better life, and who had struggled to find work in the then-booming auto industry, Shreli learned…Read More
Suzanna and her siblings achieved the ultimate success as lawyers by practicing in their respective fields of law, as well as establishing the first Albanian American Bar Association in Michigan.
Suzanna Shkreli is the daughter of Zef and Maria Shkreli, originally from Ulqin and Grude, who immigrated to the United States in search of a better life. Suzanna is one of four children, with an older sister Diana, a twin brother Paul, and a younger brother, Mark. As firstgeneration Albanian Americans, the siblings were constantly encouraged by their parents to earn an…Read More
From early life in refugee camps, to the coveted role as director of an international broadcast agency, Shkreli’s career boomed.
Frank Shkreli was born near Ulqin, Montenegro, though his family is originally from the region of Shkreli, north of Shkodër, Albania. He attended elementary school in Kodërkollë, near Ulqin, and later, high school at a Salesian Catholic seminary in Croatia. He and his family escaped Communist Yugoslavia in 1969, and after living in refugee camps throughout Italy for more than a year, they arrived in the United States as political refugees and settled…Read More
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” — Steve Jobs
Adrian Shatku is an Albanian American telecom and Internet entrepreneur. He is the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of UNIFI Communications—a UNIFI Holdings company, and the founder/sponsor of BIN, Balkans-Italy- Network, currently under development, which intends to be a catalyst for the growth of Internet, data, and IT for Albania and Western Balkans. Shatku was one of the pioneers of Internet telephony and an early believer in the world-transforming power of the…Read More
Duro “Dean” Shaska is the prototype of a secondgeneration Albanian American who achieved success by combining the best of both cultures. His mother was from the Albanians of Manastir in Macedonia and his father was from the seaside city of Vlorë in Albania. Shaska was born in Toronto, Canada, and the entire family immigrated to the United States in search of a better life in 1967. Shaska completed both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Michigan in Dearborn and went to work in the automotive industry. He…Read More
The legendary New York restaurateur lives by John. F. Kennedy’s famous words: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
Bruno Selimaj was born and raised in a small village on the Northern Albanian-Montenegro border. He was the oldest brother of six boys and four girls. At the tender age of 18, with his parents’ blessing, Selimaj embarked on a journey to America in search of new life. Upon arriving in the Promised Land in 1971, with no knowledge of English, Selimaj convinced a…Read More
With a deep belief in the American dream and the drive to achieve it, Selami left behind her life in Albania to become a successful lawyer in the United States.
A native of Tirana, Albania, Sonja Selami immigrated to Boston, Massachusetts, in the fall of 1996. She was already a licensed attorney in her hometown. She’d graduated top of her class at Tirana University School of Law that same year and launched a life-long dream to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather, who was a successful attorney. But Selami wanted more….Read More
Iliriana Sela, the youngest but no less accomplished member of the Sela family, considers herself lucky to have so many excellent role models to look up to. “To me, a successful person is someone who is hardworking, loving, a fighter for his beliefs, a pursuer of his dreams, and one who makes them happen,” Iliriana says. She sites her sister, Sihana, and her mother, Zirako Klobocista Sela, as a paragon of these values. Following in her sister’s footsteps, Iliriana set out to become successful in all areas of life: education, career, community…Read More
The Sela story is one of an immigrant family who achieved success by upholding the traditions of the old country and incorporating them into a new life. Baudin Sela, head of the family, was raised in Dibra, Macedonia—a region praised for hardworking people who value education, family, and dedication to success— and left his hometown in 1971, after graduating from high school, to pursue higher education in Western Europe. His love of knowledge led him to expand his horizons and ideology by obtaining Swiss and German degrees in history, political science, and…Read More
Sihana, the eldest daughter, has dedicated much time to mentorship, and considers her promotion of family values, higher education, and making an impact in the community one lives in her greatest accomplishments. “My maternal grandparents, Ekrem and Amijet Klobocista—first generation immigrants from Dibra—were great role models and inspiration for success not only for me, but for many Albanians in New York,” Sihana says. As a second generation Albanian American, she makes it a point to strive to achieve goals outside of her profession—and making an impact in the Albanian community is one…Read More
October 25, 2015, 4:30pm Battery Gardens, NYC
Networking — Nominations — Entertainment — Auction
Celebrating Albanian American Achievements, Leadership,
Entrepreneurial Spirit, Community Impact, Inspirational and Human
Influence in arts, business, education, science, Share your story politics and more…
Share your Story – Showcase your Achievements – Inspire Future Generations – Benefit a Good Cause