I returned to Rome for the Christmas Holy-days in 1994. There I met doctor Hasaj once again. She had finally achieved one of her goals: she was a European doctor. She was much chipper than she had been on my previous visit. I was thrilled to see her at the airport. We had indeed become good friends. Even though she was very busy with her life she found time to be with me as we explored parts of Rome not found in travel guides. With the help of the good Father Sebastian, I attended Midnight and New Year’s Day Masses celebrated by His Holiness, the Pope. Because of scheduling problems I was not able to visit Albania to see my friends. That will have to wait another day.
The lady is not quite sure about her plans. She will finish her internship in a few months. Her future is a bright one. She can only go in one direction and that is -up. I wish her well and I intend to remain her friend. As for the promissory note, I ripped it up. It was paid in full at Christmas.
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of Freedom must, like all men, undergo the Fatigue of supporting it.”Thomas Paine, Sept.17, 1777 American Crisis #4
Armand did meet Odetta once more after he wrote this story. He made a spring trip to Naples, Italy, about 1998 and managed to visit with her in Rome. He mentioned she seemed happy and was doing well working there. I think he mentioned she had a boyfriend, or at least a male companion. I do believe he maintained some correspondence with Odetta for several years after.
He never did get back to Albania.
Armand suffered a stroke in September 2002 which left him half paralyzed and incapable of taking care of himself. My brother Howard, and his family, took care of Armand as long as they could, but finally had to move him to a nursing home. Armand was incapable of helping clear out his apartment or sorting things out and as a result, many of his documents and addresses were scrambled and lost.
Armand passed on in February, 2004. Regrettably, we had no way of knowing how to contact Doctor Odetta to tell her of the news.
One of Armand’s life-long dreams was to work with the Peace Corps. After his retirement and third divorce he did apply. He made it through the interviews and was accepted for an assignment in Africa, pending competition of a medical exam. During the medical exam, the doctor diagnosed Armand with heart troubles – which several years later proved to be an incorrect diagnosis. However, the diagnosis disqualified Armand from any Peace Corps assignment in isolated regions as they could not assure him of access to proper medical facilities. Armand was essentially permanently disqualified from work with the Peace Corps.
I have always thought that this small bit of work Armand did in Albania with the Major’s group, and his return trip to Albania, made up for not being able to work with the Peace Corps. In a small way, I think his work and visits to Albania satisfied one of Armand’s life-long dreams.
March 1, 2007
Update: January 14, 2019
As the executor of Armand’s Estate, I received custody of all his papers and other documents from my brother Howard several years after Dad’s passing. Over the past years I’ve periodically ruffled through his many papers and photographs looking to add material to the genealogy website I’ve worked at over the years. I was going through his photos and documents yet again today, and came across two items I had not paid attention to earlier, for no good reason.
The first is a photograph of a woman sitting on a couch. It happened to be in an envelope with several postcards from Italy – of course nothing was labeled. But in looking at the photograph, I realized the interior of the house was most likely an Italian residence based upon the style. All things considered, I do believe this is a photograph of Dr. Odetta Hasaj , Dad’s friend from Albania, taken on one of his later visits to Rome. I’ve posted it here for the first time ever.
The second item was a religious card, an image of a woman, apparently a Catholic Saint, from a Fr. Sebastian. Until today, I didn’t make the connection with Dad’s visits to Albania. This would have been a small gift from Father Sebastian, the missionary director in Albania where Dad visited. I am posting both sides of this card as the inscription on the back is very touching.
I think this is a fitting conclusion to Dad’s missionary work in Albania.