Albanian city becomes Sterling’s fifth sister city

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 23, 2013

Sterling Heights gained another international sibling after the Sterling Heights City Council agreed May 7 to make Shëngjin, Albania, a sister city.

Shëngjin, located in northwestern Albania, is beside the coast of the Adriatic Sea. It is the fifth sister city that Sterling Heights has established ties with since 1982.

Stojadin Naumovski, also known as Dr. Steve, is a member and former chairman of the city’s Ethnic Community Committee. He explained some of the background behind the pick. Naumovski told the Sentry that the two cities agreed to be sister cities partly because Sterling Heights has a sizable Albanian population.

He said the partnership produces several benefits. He said he hopes Sterling Heights serves as an example of how a multiethnic community can peacefully thrive and accept minorities.

“It is exchanging experience and cultural values,” he said. “We want them to say, ‘God bless America.’ How else would they learn about us if it weren’t for the exchange of experiences?”

So far, Naumovski said the two cities have exchanged letters and correspondence, and Shëngjin has invited Sterling officials to visit. “Maybe in the near future, we will have mutual visits with the officials of Shëngjin,” he said.

Prior to inducting Shëngjin into its family of sister cities, Sterling Heights agreed to its first sister-city relationship with Tetovo, Macedonia, in 1982. Since then, the city has agreed to form such partnerships with Legazpi City, Philippines; Cassino, Italy; and Sorsogon City, Philippines.

According to Naumovski, the ethnic committee’s purpose is to appreciate the city’s diversity and learn about people of various nationalities. He said the committee holds an annual cultural exchange festival in February.

During the May 7 council meeting, Naumovski invited special guests to appear with him: Manjola Duka and her husband, Luan. The couple, who currently live in Clinton Township, immigrated to the United States from Albania in 2008. According to Luan, he had worked for Albanian public television for about 12 years.

Although the Dukas lived in Albania’s capital of Tirana, Manjola Duka said she was familiar with Shëngjin. She said the city’s mayor used to be a famous soccer player.

“It’s a really nice city. It’s a really nice place from the north of Albania, the north coast,” she said. “I invite everybody to visit that place. It’s really awesome.”

Learn more about the Sterling Heights Ethnic Community Committee at www.sterling-heights.net or by calling (586) 446-2489.