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Prince Leka of Albania Visits Taylor Monastery as Part of His Goodwill Tour


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An invitation to meet and dine with a prince isn’t the type of thing the mayor of Taylor is accustomed to, nor any Downriver mayor for that matter.

No one could have been more surprised than Tim Woolley, who was invited to meet with the crown prince of Albania at a recent social event.

A representative of the Albanian-American Bektashi Monastery, 21749 North Line Road, extended the invitation to Woolley during the mayor’s State of the City Address earlier this year.

“I told him if I was available, I am more than willing to do it,” Woolley said.

While Woolley wasn’t skeptical about the invitation to meet with Prince Leka II of Albania, like most Americans he wasn’t familiar with him and wanted to know more.

“I didn’t know what I was walking into, so I was cautious,” Woolley said.

He did like a lot of people would do — he conducted an internet search.

According to the website Albanianroyalcourt.al, Leka grew up in South Africa with his parents and grandmother, Queen Geraldine. It states that he was brought up with a deep understanding of and affection for Albania, the Albanian people and their culture.

The Albanian-American Bektashi Monastery posted the following about the prince’s March 18 visit:

“The Teqe warmly welcomes Prince Leka II Zogu of Albania for his first-ever trip to the United States! Greeted by Baba Eliton, Chairman Mynyr Nazifi and other board members, a small dinner at the Teqe was held in honor of this monumental event where many important topics were discussed, such as the history of Bektashism and the current state of affairs in Albanian politics. Hopefully this trip to our Teqe is the first of many for Prince Leka II as he continues the long-held tradition with our Teqe, started by his father back in 1976 when Prince Leka I visited Baba Rexheb at our Teqe for a similar dinner discussion.”

Leka, 41, is the only grandchild of King Zog I of the Albanians, succeeding as head of the royal house after his father died in 2011. Woolley said he learned that the prince’s grandfather fought to get freedom of religion in Albania.

Leka speaks Albanian and English. Parts of the event were conducted in Albanian. In those instances, the prince interpreted for Woolley so that he could understand what they were saying.

The mayor was impressed not only with the prince’s credentials, but also with his warm, personal style.

“He’s very down to earth,” Woolley said. “He’s also very tall — about 6 feet 6 inches — and he speaks with an English accent. He went to the Royal Academy and said he served with Prince Harry.”

Leka’s biography states he attended The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the United Kingdom in 2005, where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the British Army and was awarded the King Hussein Medal.

“His Royal Highness is the head of the Albanian Royal Family,” it’s stated on the Albanianroyalcourt.al website. “He was proclaimed successor to the Royal Crown by His Majesty King Leka I in 2000, on his 18th birthday, in accordance with the Royal Constitution.”

He lives at the royal residence in Tirana, the capital of Albania. He met actress Elia Zaharia in Paris. They became engaged in May 2010 and married on Oct. 8, 2016. They have one child, a 3-year-old daughter.

As mayor, Woolley is invited to attend many events, although he usually sets aside Sundays to spend with his family. He said he’s glad he made an exception this time.

“I really enjoyed myself,” he said.

Also attending the event and representing the city of Taylor was Deputy Police Chief Mike Lividini.

One person Woolley and Lividini were surprised to meet at the event was none other than Patty Hearst, the heiress of the William Randolph Hearst newspaper empire, best known for being kidnapped in 1974 by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army.

During a chat with Hearst, Woolley learned that her “significant other” is Albanian and a friend of Leka, which explained her presence at this dinner.

As much of an honor it is to have a prince visit your city, Leka expressed his gratitude for the mayor’s attendance at the event.

“He really made me feel special,” Woolley said. “He was honored that I was there.”

On his way to the event, Leka took a brief drive through the city.

The mayor described Taylor as a blue-collar town and mentioned a few of the many things the city has to offer its residents and visitors.

“He had nice things to say about Taylor,” Woolley said. “He said it seems like a nice little town.”

Source: The News Herald


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