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Remembering Sabri Godo
   

TIRANA, Dec 8 - Following the passing of Albanian politician and writer Sabri Godo, Tirana Times gathered a few comments about his life from public figures, academics and opinion makers in Albania and abroad.



Fischer: The conscience of the state



I was saddened to hear of the death of my friend Sabri Godo. He was Albania’s twenty-first century Renaissance man, a scholar of renown, a political activist, a fierce patriot, and a gentleman. As an intellectual he had a profound understanding of the importance of history and tradition in the making of a nation.  Amongst the din of Albania’s political class, he was often the voice of reason and compromise, serving  as the conscience of the state. He had an appreciation for the subtle art of politics, rejecting the violent hate speech and brutality that often seems to define the contemporary Albanian political world. But he was a vigorous and eloquent defender of the rights and interests of Albanians everywhere.  All Albanians, and those of us abroad who care deeply about Albania’s future, are poorer for his passing.

- Bernd Fischer, United States



Quercia: Italy loses an honest friend



Sabri Godo was the kind of person that every politician would like to have at his side. Brilliant, intelligent, authoritative, calm, perceptive. He seemed to have learned fast enough both the opportunities and the dangers of the new democratic power politics after the fall of communism. And this gave him, especially in his last years, an apparent distance from the mangers of power. Every meeting I had with him in Tirana resulted for me in a continuous stimulus to my intelligence and to my capacity to understand the nature of the complex Balkan political dynamics. With the death of Sabri Godo Albania loses certainly a discrete protagonist of its transitional path from communism to democracy. Italy loses an honest friend and - I am sure - a silent broker for the friendship between Italy and Albania. If I am a friend of Albania, I should certainly thank, among others, Sabri Godo. 

- Dr. Paolo Quercia, Rome, Italy



Pano: His legacy is an inspiration



I had the privilege and pleasure to have known Sabri Godo for some twenty years. I was introduced to him by the late Vangjush Gambeta, the first editor of the Republika newspaper, organ of the Republican Party of Albania of which Sabri was the founder and first president. Sabri was one of those individuals with whom I have met on a regular basis during my periodic visits to Albania over the past two decades. During this time, I had the opportunity to interact with Sabri in a variety of settings.

As we became better acquainted, I came to learn much about the varied and challenging life experiences of this remarkable man — from his service in the communist-dominated Albanian Army of National Liberation during World War II and his dismissal from the army in 1948 along with his subsequent expulsion from the Albanian Party of Labor in 1952 to his emergence during the late 1960s and early 1970s as a respected author of historical novels and a prolific contributor to the satirical and humor review, Hosteni. Godo’s historical novels on Skenderbeg and Ali Pasha Tepelene have become classics of this genre in Albanian literature.

Owing to a variety of circumstances, Sabri never completed a university degree. But he was, nevertheless, widely recognized as one of contemporary Albania’s most respected political and literary figures. His knowledge and valued insights were derived largely from his extensive readings in such areas as history, literature, philosophy, political science, religion, and folklore. The breadth and depth of his knowledge is apparent from his writings, media interviews, and political activities. Those who were fortunate enough to know Sabri also appreciated his wit, charm, and talents as a raconteur.

Sabri’s reputation both within and outside Albania stems mainly from his varied contributions to the country’s post-communist transition.  Aside from his founding of the Republican Party of Albania, Sabri will be remembered for his distinguished service as co-chairperson of the commission which drafted the current Albanian Constitution and for his many thoughtful inputs into the ongoing political dialogue in post-communist Albania. Albania will certainly miss Sabri’s wise counsel and his calming influence in the periodic crises that have plagued the country since 1991. In this context, Sabri indeed merited the sobriquet, “wise man” of Albanian politics bestowed on him by journalists and political colleagues.

The unique status Sabri enjoyed in Albania was reflected in the state funeral with which he was honored and the outpouring of tributes to him from virtually all significant Albanian political personalities and parties as well as from the representatives of the international community in Albania. In death as in life, Sabri had served as a unifying force in Albania.

Sabri’s death leaves a void in Albanian political life that will be difficult to fill. But let us hope that his example and legacy will serve as an inspiration to others to follow in his footsteps. May his memory be eternal.      

- Prof. Nicholas C. Pano, United States



Rakipi: The human reasons behind the legend



Sabri Godo was part of a truly heroic generation that is now gone forever.  Last fall, I traveled extensively with him throughout Albania, Macedonia, and Kosovo. The care and respect he garnered from people was very impressive for someone who did not hold any high government position. 

I had to ponder how many people showed that kind of respect due to the fact that Sabri Godo had served as a partisan in the Second World War when he was only 14 years old. Or was it for his literary works, like Skanderbeg or Ali Pashe Tepelena? Or were some of them simply honoring him for the fact that he had founded a political party? Perhaps the respect stemmed from the fact that after he established and ran the party for several years, he had voluntarily resigned, moving away from the president for life notion, something that can still be the norm in the Balkans and other backward regions. Or perhaps, it’s the constitution that people were thinking about. This old wise man helped chart that too, a document few read in this country, but all know that it is the foundation of the state.

Each of these achievements has its own merits, but are not enough on their own. Their joint importance comes because they glue together a mosaic of basic venerable values: homeland, war, constitution, peace, wisdom and knowledge. 

As all human beings, he was not perfect, but Sabri Godo is a perfect example of human reasoning giving life to a legend.

- Dr. Albert Rakipi



Mustafaj: An irreplaceable model



Sabri Godo belongs to a rare race of writers who fulfill their ego through the affirmation of the most precious values of their nation. It is no accident, therefore, that the most substantial part of his prose reflects exactly the difficult process of the foundation and refoundation of the Albanian identity. I’d like to mention his major novels “Skëndërbeu” (Scanderbeg), “Ali Pashë Tepelena,” and “Plaku i Butkës” (The old man of Butka). He is proud, and he doesn’t hide his affiliation in this identity. But, as a man with extraordinary clarity and with a strong talent, he never fell into the trap of sick nationalism where writers of the Balkans have fallen often, not only in the distant past but also throughout the eighty last years during which Sabri Godo lived.  He never tried to feed his compatriots with a feeling of superiority over neighbors and to incite hatred or contempt. On the contrary; describing the lives of some of the most prominent personalities of Albanian history from the late Middle Ages until the early twentieth century, including our national hero, Sabri Godo intended to tell his compatriots that they have all reason to feel equal to others. Nothing more. Understanding very well the historical and political context when Albania was finally an independent country, Sabri Godo’s primary aim seemed to be helping his compatriots gain the self-confidence to move forward.     

A writer with such a great cause naturally would be strongly involved in the historical developments that brought democracy in Albania and gave way to our country’s integration into the west European family. Sabri Godo will be remembered in the history of Albania as a tireless man in the service of moralization of politics. In parliament or in public debate, Sabri Godo with his word and his example was capable of proving that the policy of freedom is a high and noble mission to serve the nation. This was exhibited not only through his work on drafting the constitution, but also his legacy in politics which brought him to life in the pantheon of popular imagination as the “Father of the Constitution”. Now, thousands of Albanians, like myself, feel the death of Sabri Godo as though they lost a friend and an irreplaceable model.

- Besnik Mustafaj



Lani: The prudence of a wise old man



Perhaps no other personality other than Sabri Godo better represents the past half century. A 14-year-old partisan, and initially communist, though afterwards excluded from the party, warrior for the New World, but equally part of what the communists would call the Old World. Praised, convicted, suspected, excluded, accepted, respected, glorified — he experienced and accepted them all with an adorable tranquility that only he could have. Distinguished writer, discreet intellectual par excellence, discreet politician, born diplomat, wise old man, all these are not sufficient to fully characterize a person like Sabri Godo.

I always felt good in his company. We were friends and our usual coffee in Rogner was something I never wanted to miss. These days many people have talked about the fact that Sabri Godo knew how to talk with prudence like a wise old man. This is true. As much as it is true that Sabri Godo also knew to listen calmly and patiently, as few do today.

- Remzi Lani



Xhufi: A rare message of humanism and patriotism



In these moments, when we Albanians find ourselves separated

from each other for banal reasons of different political, cultural, regional or religious affiliation, surprisingly everyone joined in the post-mortem dedication that we made to Sabri Godo. We all called him a “wise old man,” being aware that he had a virtue that no other public person in Albania has. In fact, viewed in political terms, this is not the place of the wise, but the country of hysterics. We are reminded of this in every session of the Albanian parliament, where Sabri Godo did not want to be part anymore. He didn’t want to be part of the screams and yells that fill the hall of assembly, that’s why these last ten years he chose to communicate with people through interviews given in a quiet corner, during the intervals that separated his unstoppable coffees and cigarettes. Everything looked good on him: the age, the gray hair, the tired falter, the extended discourse. Even the worst, what would take his life away, looked good in him: smoking.

How many times have we advised him, have we asked to quit smoking that damn tobacco, but deep down we knew that without cigarettes Sabri would not be the real Sabri. In these twenty years of post-communist transition he was really missing in the silly clashes among gladiators of Albanian politics, but he was present, as a protagonist, in the major events that made the history of this country and this nation. He became co-chairman of the commission for drafting the Constitution of Albania, with the conviction that the fragile Albanian democracy was in an urgent need for the formalization of its charter document. At the time, in 1998, many of the right camp called him “traitor” despite the fact that today pleads for the constitution that once refused to acknowledge. I We have seen him in February 1999 journeying to Rambuje to meet in the mysterious castle, where Kosovo’s fate was determined, with members of the Kosovo delegation at the existential dilemma of signing or not the Agreement sponsored by the U.S.A and their allies. He persuaded them to avoid a fatal step, which would have severely compromised the future of Kosovo and relations with major partners, protagonists of its liberation and independence. Well, also in that case, there was some voice in Tirana, which screamed and yelled that the Rambuje agreement should not be signed by the Kosovo team, that its signature would be a national betrayal and that Sabri Godo’s voice and argument should not be heard. Needless to say that history gave the right to Sabri Godo and that Kosovo owes enormously to his mind and intuition of Patriot, even though the official Kosovo didn’t honor the wise old man Godo in his ultimate moment. With his presence, another fighter of the Albanian issue, Ali Ahmeti of Macedonia, showed that not all fighters of yesterday are short of memory and recognition.

With his maturity and tranquility, Sabri Godo became the salt of Albanian pluralism, trying to detain excess and to tame the wild clashes between different political wings. It was the politician of a right party that you could see speaking normally and mingling with politicians of the left wing party.

He was the creator of a party whose core program was restitution of property, but could not miss taking into account the complicated circumstances that accompanied the issue of property in Albania. He respected right wing presidents and prime ministers as well as left wing prime ministers and presidents, giving the example of a democratic normality. Always, in moments of crises and clashes such as those of 1997-1999, Sabri Godo was a man whose opinion was asked not only by Albanian politicians and pollsters, but also by foreign partners engaged in solving the Albanian crisis.

The special power of this much-wanted politician also after his retirement from active politics lies in its special fiber. Son of Delvine and grandson of Progonat, two strongholds of Albanianism in southern Albania, Sabri inherited all the elements that had characterized the unique race of the Albanian Renaissance. He was a politician, as well as a writer, historian and diplomat. He was, therefore, wherever his word was needed for the good of his country and nation. Patriotism in him was not a profession but a vocation. It was fed naturally in a region like Delvina, and in a family, like that of Godo-Totove, where stories and legends for Pyrros of Epirus, Gjin Bua Shpata, Scanderbeg, Ali Pasha Tepelena, Bilbilenjtë, Frashërlinjtë, Çerçiz Topulli etc. accompanied this man in every step of his existence.

Like no other politician in today’s Albania, Sabri Godo embodied with his life and work the tradition of Renaissance school, Antifascist National Liberation War and, finally, the struggle for a European democracy. There is no coincidence that the writer’s pen was used to carve figures of our national history such as Sali Butka, Ali PasheTepelena, Scanderbeg and many others. And it was no coincidence at all the fact that every time the big national interests came into play, Sabri Godo was the right man, and often the only one who could speak with the authority, sensitivity and passion of a patriot. We all remember his struggles for an independent Kosovo, to protect the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church, the passionate battle to protect the rights of the Cham people, battles against desecrating the dignity and interests of the Albanian nationalist policies of Athens, as in the case of chauvinistic monuments raised illegally in southern Albania, up to the last census according to the criteria imposed by official Athens.

Thus, by casting a look at Sabri Godo’s recently ended life, we might say that he has left behind an example and a rare message of humanism and patriotism. But if we shifted our view for a moment in the temple without glory of Albanian politics, we would state with pain that Sabri Godo leaves behind a void that nobody is able to replace.

- Pellumb Xhufi



Dervishi: The master of words



I met Sabri Godo for the first time in June 1991. It was when I had just started working at Republika newspaper, the Republican Party’s newspaper.

Over the 5 years at the newspaper I had the chance to know the politician Godo more closely. I had earlier recognized the writer Godo with his historical novels Scanderbeg and Ali Pasha Tepelena. I knew the publicist Godo in the mid 80’s, without realizing that it was him. By reading the collection of Hosteni magazine of the last 10 years, the only satirical magazine in the communist regime I was attracted by the style and the sharp language of the papers and I was very curious to find out who wrote those editorials. “They are almost all written by Sabri Godo,” said a peer and collaborator of the magazine.

With a simple language, Godo was thorough in his predictions. Albanian transition became rapid and violent. The transition was understood and tempted to be accomplished as an “upset”. Political culture and knowledge on democracy and institutions were scarce. Harsh language created the image of the opponent as an enemy and not as a rival.

Godo is the first politician who resigned and the first party leader who gave up his duty as a leader. What makes him different from the other leaders of political parties is the fact that Godo was the only party leader who could lead a party with the power of the words. When Sabri Godo founded the Republican Party, in January 1991 he chose one wing of the Eagle, the national symbol, 7 years later as co-author of the Constitution, Godo will be remembered for persistence in the design of preamble where among other things prevails the sentence: “for centuries of aspiration of the Albanian people for national identity and unity.”

Each president of the country needed and took advice from “the wise old man.” When he made public appearances, he was a master of diplomacy behind the scenes, convinced that good works for the country’s benefit are done without making noise or by taking pride. Even when he retired from the active political life to give more chances to younger people to prove themselves, Godo still remained an active political player and a good leader. Unfortunately, his active political life came at the expense of literature. We can only imagine what books we would have nowadays in hand if Godo had remained more devoted to literature.

His last novel Voices from Hot Springs, captivates and fascinates from the first to the last paragraph. Godo was master of the word, of the written word of the said and unsaid words…It is not by chance that he began his life with a rifle in hand (14-year old partisan in the Second World War) but will remain in the Albanians’ memory for the power of word.

- Lutfi Dervishi




Other articles by the author:
(30/05/14) Albania lobbies sceptical EU members ahead of status decision
(30/05/14) Criminal investigation on defunct Greek–Albanian maritime border agreement sought
(30/05/14) A wrong approach: Playing politics with Albania’s drug problem
(30/05/14) Consumption, investments provide mixed picture of economic recovery
(30/05/14) Benelux should serve as example to Balkan countries, PM says
(30/05/14) Progress towards the EU requires resolute, sustained and cooperative action
(30/05/14) Travel destinations: Exploring the Albanian Riviera
(30/05/14) The Oliver Twists of Albania
(30/05/14) Rockstock festival to return early 1990s music
(30/05/14) Italy to help Albania fight drug traffic, organized crime
By .Tirana Times Staff
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