Remembering a Bronx Albanian Leader

Pashko Gjeto Gojçaj (Photo via Illyria)

Ruben Avxhiu, editor-in-chief of the Albanian-American newspaper Illyria, recounts the life of Pashko Gojçaj, a proud Albanian who settled in the Bronx. That was where the two first met in the summer of 1999, when Avxhiu moved to the Bronx. The office Gojçaj shared with his brother Lekë, the editor noted, was “filled with patriotic and symbolic memorabilia from the Albanian lands.”

I moved early from their place in order to be closer to Illyria newspaper’s offices, in Belmont and later in Manhattan, but the friendship continued. I got to know them much better, years later, when I translated in English, Lekë’s autobiography which mapped their unbelievable life journey, which took them, from little orphans in a faraway mountain village in Montenegro to successful landlords and esteemed community leaders in New York. The two brothers were living examples of the American Dream.

The close-knit brothers had joined many of their fellow Albanians in immigrating to the U.S. in the late 1960s.

They lived and worked in Detroit and New York and were among that genial, hard-working group of Albanian-Americans who dared to move in and invest in the Bronx, when everyone else was leaving. Their success helped the revival of the poorest neighborhood of the City. Their buildings became homes to thousands of Albanian families over the years.

The brothers organized Albanian events, and contributed to the construction of the Our Lady of Shkodra Albanian Catholic church in Hartsdale, New York. Go to Illyria to read more on Pashko, and Lekë, including how Albania-born Mother Teresa inspired them and how they kept her legacy alive.

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