DEDICATED to Kristina O'Donnelly's FATHER


Kristina O'Donnelly is an author, editor and publisher, whose works are published in the U.S.A, as well as abroad.

Born in Rome, Italy, Kristina O'Donnelly (a.k.a. Vita Vendresha) is the daughter of the Austrian Geraldine von Landeck and Macedonian/Albanian/Italian freedom fighter, writer, journalist and newspaper publisher, Sami Vendresha, a.k.a Sami Alberto. Married to Michael John O'Donnelly, from Country Armagh, Northern Ireland, Kristina feels at home both in Ireland and the U.S.A. To date she has published nine novels, multi-cultural, international, including social-realism, contemporary as well as historical issues, religion, politics, terrorism, mythology, archaeology, and terrorism across the world stage.

Kristina's father Semseddin Sami Vendresha a.k.a Sami Alberto, was born in Skopje (Shkup or Uskup) in 1914, and devoted his life to humanistic causes, chiefly the human rights of the Albanians in Kosova and Albania. He was the first born of 6 children, and had two brothers, Hasan and Huseyin, and three sisters, Drita, Mesrure, and Ganimet. Ganimet Vendresha, youngest of the six, was a famous primaballerina, who graduated from the Bolshoi Ballet same time as Rudolf Nureyev. One can not understand Kristina O'Donnelly, her modus operandi and her works without considering her family history, beginning with her father.

Although born in Macedonia and of a multi-cultural background, Semsettin Sami/Sami Alberto closely identified himself with the Albanians. He studied in Italy and France and was fluent in six languages. From early on he distinguished himself as a fighter for democracy, educational opportunities for all, and freedom from the Serbian yoke. He was the editor of the periodical Kuvendi Kombetar before the Fier Revolution; at the same time he was appointed as the editor in chief of the Foreign-division of the daily news bulletin of the Albanian National Press. Semsettin Sami's father was a muhip, of the Uskup branch of the Bektashi tekke, i.e. sect, in Gjakove. Later, the tekke's revered head Baba Ademi ordained young Semsettin Sami into the sect, too.

Semsettin Sami Vendresha volunteered to take on the tough position as the Director of Radio Kosova, and was appointed by Kosova's Prime Minister Rejep Mitroviza. As well, he briefly held the position of Minister of Culture. Also, he was a volunteer freedom fighter, and left Prishtine, on November 17, 1944, for Vienna to find help to continue the battle against the Serbian invaders and Communists. His wife, Leman Toptani, with whom he had three children, Resat, Ibrahim, and Liria (Lilli), preferred to stay behind with the children, so he had to formally divorce her in case his mission failed, he got jailed or killed, and then the victors might murder her and the children as well. Thus this trip turned out to be a fateful journey, severing him from his nearest and dearest.

After many dangerous adventures and close-calls, he arrived in Rome, Italy, in the Fall of 1945. By then Enver Hodja and his Communist rule had solidified in Albania, and Semsettin Sami Vendresha's name was anathema there, listed in the roster of "Enemies of the State." At the end of the Second World War, Semsettin Sami Vendresha wrote in the Voce Adriatica (an Italian daily newspaper) lengthy features about Albania and Kosova's plight and was active in various anti-Communist endeavors. Then, in 1948, Semsettin Sami (Sami Alberto) and his new wife, Geraldine von Landeck (who saved his life when he was pursued by Communists in Vienna and later, in Prague), were asked to leave Italy. The Italian Government had decided to divest itself from known anti-Communist Albanians, in favor of diplomatic points to be gained with Enver Hodja's clique.

The Vendreshas immigrated to Istanbul, Turkey, in late Fall, 1948.

Between 1952-1964, husband and wife published the newspaper Vardar, the first newspaper for the Albanians in this Diaspora, in three languages, Albanian, Turkish, French, and many a German article thrown in as well. Shemsettin Sami wrote most of the material, nights, often cold, and near dead tired from overwork. Geraldine worked as hard as he did, and an idealist herself, she accepted all the hardships and sacrifices. In 1952, the couple spearheaded the founding of the Turkish-Albanian Brotherhood and Friendship League (Turk Arnavut Kardesligi ve Yardimlasma Dernegi) in Istanbul, proudly raising the Albanian flag next to the Turkish flag, in front of the League's building in the busy heart of Istanbul. Their motto: continue to publicize the plight of the Albanians in Albania and Yugoslavia on an international scale, help the large groups of Albanian refugees flooding into Turkey, get acclimatized, foster overall good relations between the Turks and Albanians, always write the truth (as they saw, judged, and researched it) re. issues pertaining to the Turks, Yugoslavs, Greeks, the World in General, and keep the Albanian culture and history alive and kicking in the Diaspora.

In 1964, the Vendreshas were invited by a group of Albanians to edit their publication (Atdheu) and left Turkey for the United States. From 1967 onward, Shemseddin Sami held various positions in the League of Prizren, from Secretary General to Editor of their publication.

Semsettin Sami Vendresha was the person who registered The League of Prizren in the Union of the European Ethnic Communities, in 1970, and represented Kosova's case at their large multi-national meeting in Eisenstadt, Austria, offering a very impressive presentation in his fluent French and German, which was widely quoted in German newspapers. In 1971, he had to leave the League of Prizren because his fight to obtain "Republic" status for Kosova made him too controversial. However, he was asked to return in 1982, as Secretary General as well as editor, which he continued until the late 1980s.

After his wife Geraldine's passing on Valentine's Day, 1993, he asked that his daughter (by Geraldine) Kristina O'Donnelly, take him home to Tirana, where his soul could join Geraldine in the hereafter, but his body could be laid to rest close to where his beloved parents and his younger brother, Huseyin, were resting.

Kristina fulfilled his wish; and after spending a few weeks with his three children from Leman, his first wife, and his grandchildren, he made his transit to the other side on Palm Sunday, 1993.

© by Kristina O'Donnelly (aka Vita Vendresha)

(Note: The Prologue and Chapter One of this novel was published in 1994, by The Turkish Times as well as Illyria, newspapers, in the US, and read globally.

             From the United States to the lethally shifting quicksands of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania, Terra Dolorosa  is a  quest honoring  the memory of journalist Anya Cicero’s parents, and in search of Alex Dardan’s long-missing fiancee, Dryta. But it’s also the account of a secret CIA operation to help the Bosnians to defend themselves against the aggressor, as well as the love story of  two people who are so alike in their passions that they might ultimately destroy each other. 

click HERE to read the Prologue and CHAPTER ONE
 Rest in Peace, in Heaven, Papa! The light of your memory burns brightly in my heart...