I wish to commend you, Mr Prime Minister, for the great job you are doing in improving Albania. Also I would like to praise you for the commitment that you and your government have shown in undertaking the celebration of our Independence Day on November 28th.
I am an Albanian citizen who currently lives abroad and would like to bring to your attention a name that was erased from Albania’s memory during the Communist regime. This forgotten name is that of Colonel Aubrey Herbert. He was an English aristocrat, an MP and an Colonel in the British army during the First World War.
I would like to list some of the great historic moments in which this noble gentleman was involved. Firstly, that of Albanian Independence. Under his personal influence and support Albania managed to become a member of the League Nations on 17 December, 1920. This was the greatest achievement for a country which had, until then, never been recognised by Western Powers as independent.
Colonel Herbert had two big barriers to overcome in his work for Albania, during which Albania’s very existence was at risk.
Firstly, the complete ignorance of foreign diplomats and politicians about Albanians.
Secondly, the conflict between Albanians’ interests, and those of the rest of the Balkans against Albanians.
Aubrey Herbert, with his intelligence as a politician and the love he had for Albanians, in a speech given in June 1914, challenged the House of Commons and the up-to-then followed policies of the British Foreign Ministry of the Britain to start following romantic-liberal principles. The romantic-liberal principle was to give support small nations and nations that were victimised by not receiving support from western powers. In one of the speeches he gave in Parliament, he insisted that Britain protected a nation that was fighting to protect its language and liberty. He continued his speech, arguing for the principle of equality, saying “the same sympathy should be extended to Albania as has been extended to other countries of the Balkans.”
Colonel Herbert was close to Albanians and a champion of the Albanian cause from the first moment he met them. In another speech in Parliament he says, “You can rely upon him when an Albanian has given his word; you can repose confidence in his honour as you would in the good faith of an English officer.” He was the greatest friend of Albanians from 1912-1924.
Dear Kryeminister, I would like to add that, not only was his contribution key to Albanian Independence, but even his family assisted Albania through humanitarian support. His family and his mother helped to save hundreds, maybe even thousands, of Albanians from hunger and illness. His son Auberon Herbert was one of those who helped people in exile from Eastern European countries, including Albanians. His daughter Bridget Herbert, who died in 2004, kept open house for Albanians.
His family kept his dream going until 1943. His mother and his wife, in his memory, founded the Albanian Relief Fund, which was to help in the welfare of the people and to support different projects in Albania. This association helped in building and supplying the hospital in Vlore and started bonification of marshlands in order to reduce the number of people falling ill with malaria.
The Herbert name was well known in Albania. A village was even created under the name Herbert, where Kosovo refugees lived in May 1925. Lady Carnarvon created the Library in Tirana and named it after Aubrey Herbert in 1929. Edith Durham, who worked together with Herbert in the Albanian cause, said “you can’t find a name with more prestige than Herbert”. His wife Mary Herbert created an organisation under the name of the Anglo-Albanian Association, to replace the Albanian Committee for which Aubrey was the chairman.
I would like to end this letter, Mr Prime Minister, with a a paragraph which is maybe rather sad, but let’s hope that time is the best medication to heal the most painful of wounds! Colonel Herbert came to Vlore in September, 1913. One day a crowd of people went to his lodgings and started crying “Oh Paladin of Liberty, our grandsons will bless your name.” He was very touched by this and wrote to his brother, “Albanians are saying that their grandsons will bless my name.” As we all know now, the Albanians that promised him that were not in the position to remember his name afterwards because the Communist regime erased everything that he and his family had done. Perhaps the coming celebration of the Independence of Albania of this November would enable us to keep the promise made to him ninety-nine years ago. The Albanians who made that promise to him loved the liberty he helped to win for them, and their grandson today must hear his name again. If, they heard of his exploits then it would be forever carved in the hearts of every Albanian, wherever they are today.Thus, Colonel Herbert’s name should never be erased from the hearts of a nation that he loved until the day he died.