For the past 50 years, he has prowled embassy receptions with his camera always ready to capture ambassadors smiling at wine-and-cheese soirees or looking serious on somber commemorations of one international tragedy or another.
Most of the regulars on Washington's diplomatic scene know him only as "Albert." Many did not know his last name, although he has taken their pictures countless times with ambassadors. (For the record, his last name is Mogzec.)
Albert — the photographer from Poland with the broad grin and neatly parted full head of white hair — turned 80 earlier this month, and more than 100 of his friends, including ambassadors and other embassy officials, threw him a birthday party last week.
The diplomatic shutterbug found himself on the other end of the camera at White Oaks, the stately home of Judith Terra, who hosted the party. Photographers snapped his picture, standing in the receiving line or sitting in front of the grand piano in the salon, as friends sang his praises and Washington's famed operatic baritone, Jerome Barry, sang an aria from Mozart's "Don Giovanni," comparing the sexual conquests of the opera's central character to Albert's flirtatious habits with the ladies at embassy receptions.
"He is a real legend in this city. We know him. We love him. There is only one Albert," said Mrs. Terra, the widow of Daniel Terra, who served as ambassador for cultural affairs under President Reagan.
Patricia Elwood of the Office of the Secretary of the District of Columbia presented a proclamation from Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.
Ivan Kiselev, vice-consul at the Russian Embassy and president of the Consular Corps of Washington, noted, "Over the last 50 years, the political landscape of Washington has change a lot. New countries have opened embassies, and old countries have faded away. But Albert remained the same."
Anne Howard Tristani, niece of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, recalled that Albert photographed her wedding at the National Cathedral 25 years ago to the day of the reception.
"He is part of the historic legacy of this city," she said. "His photos should be part of the Smithsonian."
His son, Albert Jr., could only add, "What do you say about the best dad in D.C.?"
Albert, born Sept. 7, 1928, arrived in the United States in 1950, joined the Army and fought in the Korean War as a member of the 101st Airborne Division.
He later served with the military police at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he met his future wife, Alice, as she was driving through the base. He issued her a traffic ticket and asked her for a date. They married in 1955 and had three sons and two daughters.
As he sat listening to praise from his friends, Albert claimed to be speechless.
"I don't know what to say," he said, as he added, "All of you are beautiful people. I am very proud to have such friends. I'll be sure to invite all of you to my next birthday. I'll be younger then."
VOTING IN MEXICO
The U.S. ambassador to Mexico is urging Americans living south of the border to register and vote in the November presidential and congressional elections.
"Time is short," Ambassador Antonio O. Garza Jr. said on the U.S. Embassy's Web site (http://mexico.usembassy.gov). He added that different states have different voter registration requirements, but most states will keep their voter books open until 30 days before an election.
"Participation in our great democracy is a sacred trust," he said. "Of course, with the privilege of voting in the U.S. election also comes an awesome responsibility: to be well informed and know where the candidates state on issues that are important to you and to our great country."
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