* Ramadan, left, and Myrvete Gashi with their son, Lutfi.
It was back in 1966 that a young man named Sali Krasni appeared with the Yugoslavian folk dance group Rugova at Llangollen.
Sali died in his sixties about 25 years ago but members of his family never forgot how fondly he used to speak about his thrilling trip to north Wales.
Sadly, all pictures and mementos relating to the memorable occasion were lost when the family home was destroyed by the brutal war in Kosovo in the late 1990s, which saw forces under Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic attempt to suppress the ethnic Albanian majority's independence campaign.
|* Sali Krasni, from the |
Like many ethnic Albanians, Sali’s family saw no alternative but to flee their native country and seek asylum in Britain 16 years ago.
Over the years Sali’s daughter, Myrvete Gashi, often thought how wonderful it would be if any records of his Eisteddfod appearance could be located.
So on a recent holiday visit to Llangollen from their home in Enfield, north London, she and three other members of the family decided to call into the Eisteddfod office at the Royal International Pavilion, Llangollen, to see if any trace of it could be found.
And their luck was in because the day they chose for the unscheduled visit just happened to be the one day of the week when the Eisteddfod’s two volunteer archivists, Jean Audrey Speare and Helen Roberts, were in the office.
They delved back through the records and soon came up with some fascinating pieces of information relating to the appearance of Sali and his folk group.
Not only did they uncover photos of the group, including Sali, in an old festival programme but also a newspaper of the day featuring a picture of him.
The archive team provided their unexpected visitors with copies of the originals before a colleague took them on a guided tour of the pavilion, which will once again come alive with the Eisteddfod in July.
The Eisteddfod’s Festival Support Co-ordinator Christine Dukes, who greeted the group from Kosovo, said: “They just walked through the door of the office and said they had called in on the off chance that we might have some details about their relative who appeared at the festival in 1966 as they had lost everything during the war in their country.
* The family look through the old records with the help
of the archives team.
“We arranged for them to get copies of everything and then I took them on a tour of the pavilion.
“Of course, I explained that the whole site would have looked very different back in 1966, which was before the pavilion was built.
“We were very happy to be able to help them and, luckily, they came on the only day of the week that our archivists, who are both volunteers, are in the office.”
Along with Sali’s daughter, 65-year-old Myrvete, was her husband Ramadan Gashi, 69, their married daughter, 36-year-old Lendita Olloni, and son Lutfi Gashi, 45.
Lutfi, who lives in Enfield, north London and works as a joiner, said: “Our family had a very bad time in the war in Kosovo in the late 1990s and came to England as asylum seekers 16 years ago.
|* Sali Krasni appeared with the |
Yugoslavian folk dance group Rugova.
“We lost our home in a village called Drenovc when it was destroyed by the bombing and had to leave the country for our own safety.
“It was because of this that we lost everything relating to the appearance at Llangollen of my grandfather, Sali, with his folk group in 1966.
“But I remember he often would talk with great fondness about his time at the Eisteddfod and my parents and I said that one day we would come to north Wales to try to find out more about it.
“We came to the office in Llangollen to see if they could find anything and we were very lucky that they found for us some lovely pictures of my grandfather which they arranged for us to have copies of.
“It was very good to be able to find out some information about him after all this time and the family is very grateful to the very kind ladies in the office who did so much to help us.”
He added: “After going to the Eisteddfod site we spent a night in Llangollen and also visited other attractions in the area including the steam railway.
“It is a very nice town and it was good to see the place from where my grandfather brought back so many happy memories.”
The curtain raiser for this year's Eisteddfod will mark the return of opera superstar Bryn Terfel to Llangollen.
The acclaimed bass baritone will be playing the lead in a special English-language production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street featuring an all-Welsh cast.
This year's will also feature concerts by Dutch jazz sensation Caro Emerald and veteran British rockers Status Quo as well as a world premiere of a new work, Adiemus Colores, by top composer Karl Jenkins.
He will conduct his Latin American themed work with American tenor Noah Stewart, Venezuelan trumpeter Pacho Flores and Latvian accordion player Ksenija Sidorova to the accompaniment of the Llangollen International Eisteddfod Orchestra.
The Friday night concert, Spirit of Unity, will feature the Cape Town Opera, Africa’s premiere opera company, famed for their "vibrant vocalism and high-octane stage performances".
Appearing with them will be Wales’ representative in Cardiff Singer of the World, Gary Griffiths, the Wales Millennium Centre Only Kidz Aloud Chorus under the baton of celebrity conductor Tim Rhys Evans and British Sinfonietta, one of the UK's leading independent professional orchestras.
The Choir of the World competition for the Pavarotti Trophy on the Saturday night is the blue riband event of the week-long festival which will close with a Sunday night concert by Status Quo.
To book tickets and for more details about this year’s Eisteddfod go to the website at www.international-eisteddfod.