Meet Peter Lumaj
Peter Lumaj was born in Communist ruled Albania in 1967. Coincidently, this was the same year the Communist government outlawed religion and seized the churches and mosques, making official the persecution of religion the Communists had been practicing for many years. It was for this reason that Peter’s family had to practice their Christian faith in secret. This secrecy was a difficult thing for a young child to comprehend, but as he grew to adulthood, Peter developed a deep understanding of the sacrifices his parents made to stand up for their beliefs and practice their faith.
Peter’s parents had been in their teens when the Communists came to power in the 1940s and wiped out the country’s middle class by taxing wealth and private property. When Peter was old enough to understand, his father would share with him stories of how his family had stood in opposition to the Communists and how many of his relatives had been executed for their beliefs.
Peter, his five brothers and five sisters were raised by devoted parents who always wanted what was best for their children. Growing up under the rule of what was arguably the most oppressive Communist regime in Eastern Europe, Peter witnessed many terrible things. Speaking out against the government meant risking being interrogated, tortured, incarcerated, sent to a re-education camp, or even executed.
The Albanian schools were 100% government controlled and they were used principally to indoctrinate the children with the values of Communism and the revised history favored by those in power. Throughout his youth, Peter was taught to believe the success of Communism and the failure of Capitalism abroad. Education was compulsory through the eighth grade, but for high school, only children of Communist Party families and selected other children were allowed to attend. Peter was the first of his family given that opportunity.
The country’s media was under complete government control, disseminating fake news as well as movies and other entertainment for propaganda. Most people had little knowledge of the reality of what was really happening in other parts of the country or the rest of the world. Much like in today’s communist North Korea, the Albanian people were cut off from the rest of the world by their government. Secretly Peter’s father and uncle would listen to Voice of America on the radio at night and when Peter was thirteen he was invited to join them. It was eye opening for him to learn about the true nature communism and about the United States of America. America, Peter learned, was a land where people were protected from the power of their government and were free from persecution for their beliefs and heritage. America was a place unlike Communist Albania. In Albania, the communist system punished achievement and rewarded failure and mediocrity. In America, Peter was told, you could work hard and make a better life for your family without the government taking it all away.
Peter was fortunate to be the first in his family to be allowed to attend high school. There, however, he saw first-hand how many people acted as informants to report anyone who might speak out against the government. In Albania, it is estimated that as many as one out of every four people, at one point or another, acted as an informant for the Sigurimi secret police. Some acting under coercion, others under the belief of being “patriotic.”
The communist government controlled everyone’s life in Albania. So, Peter’s career choice was dictated to him. After high school, the government directed Peter to the Agriculture Institute (AI) to study agronomy with about 7,000 other students, mostly from poor rural areas. Children of trusted Communist families were instead sent by the government to the University of Tirana where they had greater opportunities, but this was not to be the case for Peter. At this time, there was growing unrest in the country and dissent against the communist regime was growing stronger. Sigurimi agents infiltrated the student body at AI seeking out anyone who might speak out against the government. Peter engaged clandestinely in a number of anti-government protests. He was arrested in March of 1989 and subjected to torture for days before being released. Upon returning to school, Peter began planning his escape.
Escaping to Freedom
Three months prior to escaping, Peter and two of his brothers met with their father and received his blessing to leave the country, everyone full well knowing the risks involved. If caught, Peter and his brothers faced certain execution. If successful, their father would most likely be put to death for permitting the escape to happen.
After many days of dangerous travel through the mountains and months in refugee camps, Peter and his brothers were allowed to immigrate to the United States.
Finding Success in the American Dream
Once in the United States, Peter learned English and enrolled in the City University of New York. While attending college, Peter worked as a porter and a doorman to support his family and to pay for his education. Peter went on to graduate Cum Laude with a BA in Political Science. Later, Peter enrolled in the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. While attending law school, he worked as a fraud investigator in the Giuliani Administration. Currently, Peter is a small businessman, a practicing attorney and the owner of the Law Offices of Lumaj.
Peter Lumaj presently resides in Fairfield, with his wife Mary, and their three children, Frank, Amy, and Larisa.
Giving Back to the Community
Living in America, Peter saw the benefits and opportunities afforded everyone in the American system. These were things he could barely imagine having lived his entire life under communist oppression. Peter felt that this way of life must be protected for his children and for future generations. He recognized forces that were insidiously working to take those freedoms away from us, just as they were taken in his homeland of Albania. So Peter decided that he would get involved in public service, seeking public office where he could best apply his skills.
In 2014, Peter was selected as the Republican nominee for Connecticut Secretary of the State. In the 2014 general election, he is credited with running one of the closest races for statewide office in recent history in Connecticut.
Peter is now seeking to represent Connecticut in the United States Senate. Once elected, Peter would be the first United States Senator born and raised in a communist country. With this unique perspective, Peter would fight hard to protect our rights and freedom, knowing full well the consequences of losing them.