Recently, while visiting Kosovo and Albania, I was interviewed for local media there. Here is the full question and answer interview in English. The interview in Albanian can be seen here.
1. How did you first get acquainted with Albanians?
Mainly through my interest in Albanian historical fugures such as Skanderbeg and Ali Pascha, who I became familiar with through my interest in the poet Lord Byron.
2. And with Kosovo, as part of Albania, can you say?
Kosovo is a new and beautiful independent state, a new democracy that has a very bright future. It is a time for the people to work for this new state, to build it up and also for politicians to keep the faith of the people, and to create a new, strong democracy in the political landscape of Europe. After all, there has been many sacrifices for this freedom, and Kosovo will have a great future as there are many people with energy that want to contribute to this great nation.
3. Why have you been interested in Albanian history and culture?
I was deeply attracted to English adventurers who came to Albania in the past, such as John Newport with Skanderbeg and Lord Byron with Ali Pascha. Also, early English diplomats such as Sir Harry Eyres and Colonal Stirling, who, in the 1920s, made such an impact in Albania, Eyres being the first foreign diplomat there. They all seem to have been accepted in Albania, and all seemed to have found a home from home here. When I’m here, I often think of these Englishmen as I am comfortable here and I am beginning to find this as a home from home.
4. Do you have direct contacts with Albanian personalities?
I am very friendly with the family of Sophie Kastrioti, and they have given me an introduction to other personalities in Kosovo, and they have given me advice on places to visit.
5. In the British world our national hero is known, Skanderbeg, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa, Albanian actor Bekim Fehmiu and winner of ‘Man Booker International’ writer Ismail Kadare; Can’t say about these personalities?
I am very familiar with all of those personalities. Actor Bekim Fehmiu is a favourite of mine, especially his film about Count Cagliostro, which is an all time favourite, as Cagliostro was an influential Freemason who I have written about in one of my books ‘The Lost Rites and Rituals of Freemasonry’.
6. But in England are two well known Albanian singers, Rita Ora and Dua Lipa, your opinion?
They are fantastic singers. There are many other excellent Albanian musicians, I particularly like Bebe Rexha and, being a historian, I very much like Albanian folk music, which preserves a sound that can be found in European medieval music.
7. What is your message to Albanians?
Albanians should be very proud of their past, as the nation has always been vital to the survival of Europe. For example, in the time if Skanderbeg, John Newport said ‘the invasion of Europe will be a fact, for there is no other power capable of resisting the Turks if the Albanian stronghold falls’. This shows how Albanians are a vital part of European society. There is another story I like that I was told about by an Albanian academic from Kosovo called Ylli Prebibaj, where English spy Morton Frederick Eden, in 1919, was travelling in a car with his Albanian friend, Vice Prime Minister Preng Bib Doda. The car was stopped by criminals, and Doda said to them ‘Kill me please but don’t shoot my friend because he is my “besa”’. In an outright act of violence such as this, the Albanian tradition still has a respect for outsiders in their land.