In the grand tapestry of history, some dates resonate louder than others, and January 6th is undoubtedly one of those symphonic days for Albania. Why? Because it's not just the day when the visionary Fan Noli, a maestro in multiple fields, graced the world with his presence in 1882. No, no, no! It's also the day when the Besa-Bese society, a league of extraordinary Albanians, came to life in 1907. Talk about a double dose of awesomeness!

Fan Noli: The Multifaceted Maestro

Let's start with the maestro himself, Fan Noli. Born on January 6, 1882, this guy wasn't the run-of-the-mill personality. Oh no, he was a writer, actor, scholar, diplomat, politician, historian, orator, Archbishop, Metropolitan, founder of the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, and, hold onto your hats, a musician! Most folks might not know this, but Noli earned degrees at Harvard (1912), the New England Conservatory of Music (1938), and finally his Ph.D. from Boston University (1945). A musical maestro in the mix—talk about a symphony of talents!

And let's not forget Noli's pivotal role in Albania's existence. Many believe that Albania wouldn't be as big and bold today if it weren't for Noli's tireless efforts. After World War I, he led the diplomatic efforts for the reunification of Albania, snagging the crucial support of US President Woodrow Wilson. Later, he spearheaded Albania's bid for membership in the League of Nations, adding another feather to his diplomatic cap.

Fan Noli's Bold Move: The Hudson Incident

In a twist of fate, Fan Noli stepped into the role of a priest, not just any priest but the founder of the first Albanian Orthodox Church in America. It all began with the Hudson Incident, where immigrant factory worker Kristaq Dishnica, an Albanian Orthodox Christian, was denied burial by the Greek Orthodox Church in the US because of his Albanian identity.

Photo of Fan Noli as a Priest

Unwilling to accept this injustice, Noli took matters into his own hands. He became a priest, founded the first Albanian (Orthodox) church in the US, translated rituals and liturgies, and published them in two volumes, ensuring Albanians had texts for prayer and worship.

Noli's Unyielding Longing for Albania

It's astonishing how much Noli accomplished for Albania despite stepping foot in Albania for the first time in 1913, and even then, he was obliged not to stay long. His heart, however, had always been with his homeland. Living in Egypt, Greece, Russia, the US, and more, Noli longed for his country and his identity. Forced to leave Albania with a death sentence hanging over his head, he became a tireless champion for his people, leaving an indelible mark on the nation's history.

By the way, did you know that Noli's photo used to be seen on the 100 LEK banknote? However, that banknote was replaced by a coin in 2008.

The 100LEK Albanian banknote with the face of Fan Noli

Besa-Bese: Where Legends Gathered

Now, onto the Besa-Bese shindig! January 6, 1907, wasn't just a regular day in Boston—it was the birth of Besa-Bese, a society that would make even the Avengers jealous. Fan Noli, the brainiac behind it, brought along some stellar Albanian immigrants. We're talking about Goni Katundi, Angelo Stefenson, Nini Fani Katundi—the Avengers lineup of early 20th-century Albania.

Why Besa-Bese? Well, 'Besa' means 'pledge' in Albanian, and these guys pledged to be more than just a bunch of pals in Boston. They were the OG influencers of the Albanian diaspora, and boy, did they make waves.

Besa-Bese: Not Your Average Society

So, what did this society of legends achieve? It's quite a ride but we will try to sum it up. They not only contributed to the establishment of the Albanian Orthodox Church in 1908 (Noli even got ordained as a priest- remember that we said this above?), but they also kicked off the publication of Dielli, one of the oldest Albanian-language newspapers still working today.

Oh, and did we mention they were the cool kids who merged with other Albanian-American organizations to form Vatra (Hearth) in 1912? Dielli was carried on to Vatra, and Kristo Kirka took over the manager's seat.

The Unforgettable January 6th Legacy

So, there you have it—the Albanian January 6th extravaganza! Fan Noli, the trailblazing maestro, and Besa-Bese, the tireless national squad, both entered the world stage on the same day (even though in different years). 

As we celebrate this double whammy of Albanian awesomeness, let's raise a glass (of raki, perhaps?) to Fan Noli, Besa-Bese, and the undying spirit of Albania. Here's to the legends born on January 6th—the real MVPs of history! Cheers!

Rudina Selami