Monday, May 29, 2006

Know your adversaries, part I

As a service to the public at large, and to the Albanian community in particular, I am posting the URLs of some of the most virulently anti-albanian websites on the 'net. Some of them are for individuals who are anti-albanian (and usually also anti-islam and pro-serb), some are for organisations that reflect such views. ALL of them are a potential threat and danger to the freedom and liberty of Albanian people, both in the Balkans, and in the diaspora. I've divided them up by political stripe; right, left, and other. In the near future, I will be profiling these folks as well, but for now, check these sites out-knowledge is power, especially when it comes to one's adversaries. (And if you feel so inclined, why not drop 'em a little "love letter", and let them know just what you think abou the "good job" they're doing? ;) )

Left-of-Center anti-albanian sites:

Right-of Center anti-albanian sites:

Other (pseudo-libertarian site)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

I'm Baaaaccckkkkk!! :)

Well folks, it's been a long, long time since I've tended to this blog. Wasn't intentional, wasn't planned, but like so much in life, it "just happened". Part of the reason I haven't blogged in such a long time has to do with my problems with SAD (seasonal affective disorder). In short, winter, even a relatively mild one like we had this year here in Wisconsin, sucks big time for me. Another part of it has been because I just felt like this blog wasn't making any sort of a difference anyway. Neither is a valid excuse though, IMO. But I am back now, and back to stay! I promise I will be making every effort in the future to keep this blog relatively relevant, fairly current, and to make it a force for promoting awareness of the Albanian people and their issues, and also to help improve the situation of the Albanian community both in the local diaspora, the worldwide diaspora, and in the "vendlindje" (homeland).

That being said, a lot has been going on since I last blogged, back in November. The tragic passing of Kosova President Ibrahim Rugova from cancer (qoftë në krahut të Zotit), the death of that subhuman scumbag Milosevic (thiftë karin e shajtanit përgjithmonë), and the fast approaching final talks on the status of Kosova, just to name a few of the more significant ones.

But the most important thing of all IMO has been the stepped-up attacks on Albanians both in Kosova and elsewhere by people like Michael Savage (ne Weiner), Michael Reagan (the president's adopted son), Don Feder (, a former Boston newspaper columnnist, now contributor to such "reputable" news sources as Cybercast News Service,, WingNutDaily, errr,, (though in fairness, FrontPage has run some pieces by Conservatives who are on the side of the Albanian people, too), etc., Julia Gorin (, a far right Republican columnist/blogger, would-be comic, whose stuff can be found on most of the same sites as her buddy Feder, Mary Mostert, and the newly formed anti-Albanian, pro-Serb lobbying group American Council for Kosovo (

These miserable excuses for humanity (though I'm half tempted to give Feder and Gorin, even though I detest them both to begin with because of their generally repugnant opinions, the benefit of the doubt, since both of them may have been co-opted by and bought into the lies of the part of the Serbian National(social)ist movement that hypocritically seeks to kiss up to the Jewish community with lies about how the Serbs, and only the Serbs, saved Jews in the Balkans in WWII; that the Serbs suffered the same attempt at genocide from the Nazis as did the Jews; that the Serbs and only the Serbs resisted the Nazis, and did not cooperate with them, and other BS) are launching an all-out attack on the Albanian people, especially in Kosova, in a pathetic attempt to get the US and the UN to deny them independence.

Now this is likely doomed to failure of course (well, as long as the Albanian community, it's friends, and decent people everywhere continue to make themselves be heard), but it doesn't take an Einstein, if one reads (and even more importantly reads between the lines of) their propaganda, to figure out that they have a nice little "collateral damage" planned if they don't get their way; namely the slandering of the Albanian people as Islamofascists of the worst possible sort-real charter members of the Taliban fan club, and the first wave of a force that will seek to dominate "Christian" Europe (never mind that Albanians were Christians for 1,300 years before the first Turk ever set foot on Illyrian soil, and are still 30-35% Christian) and introduce all sorts of cuteness like Sharia, Dhimmitude, the Caliphate, etc.

Now of course, anyone who *really* knows Albanian people, and knows anything about Albania, Kosova, or anything else, knows that these aspersions are patently absurd. Albanians have had a reputation for centuries as being the most religiously tolerant people in the Balkans, and one of the most religiously tolerant peoples in the world. Not to mention that they are also the only people in the Balkans who define themselves by nationality first, then religion (making yet another thing they have in common with Americans), and do not mix the two. But there are a lot of people out there who *don't* know that, or that Albanians managed to save every Jew living within or that was able to make it inside their borders, or many of the other good, positive things Albanians have done or contributed to the world. And that's just what the American Council for Kosovo and it's mouth pieces like Gorin are counting on. They are counting on attracting people to their message who are of the same political persuasion (right of center) as they are, but who know little or nothing of the situation in the Balkans, and who they figure will just "take their word for it", based on the fact that they share the same world view. (The left already has such slimy websites as and it's "editor", Jared Israel, to cover their end of things, and the pseudo-libertarians have Justin Raimondo and pretty-boy Bosnian Serb Nebosja Malic to cover their part of the political spectrum.) So what to do about it? Well, that I will deal with in my next post. For now, it is enough to get the word out about those who would attempt to damage the community that I have called not just my friends, but also "my family" for over a decade. And to hope that at least some of you reading this will consider it for what it is: a call to action. For, as the old sayings go "E vetmja gjë e nevojëshme për e keqja të fitojë është për njerëz të mirë të bëjnë hiç", dhe "Çmimi i lirisë është vigjilancë e përherëshme".

Sunday, November 06, 2005

"But he was such a gooood Christian boy...."

Well, it's been a long time since I've posted anything here on the ol' blog, eh? Almost two months, by my reckoning. Part of it has been that I've been pretty busy with the "everyday" stuff of life. Part of it too is that I'm not sure if there's anybody out there reading this damned thing, either! :( Blogger seems to give you no way of knowing for sure if anybody's reading you, other than comments that might get posted. And so far, all but one of the comments I've received has been "spam". But I'll keep posting, in the hopes that I can eventually build up a readership here, and make the time I put in on it worthwhile.

Now, as to the title of this posting. Y'know, there's not much that'll rile me up faster than some idiot (usually right-wing, although there are some "lefties" who play this card too) who insists that the Kosova conflict is a battle between "Christian Serbs" and "Muslim Albanians". Now never mind the fact that every piece of objective evidence out there says this is nonsense, and that religion per se plays next to no real part in the actual animosity between Albanians and Serbs (except when Serbian National(social)ists try to gain the sympathy of "useful idiots"). Never mind that, contrary to what various anti-albanian propaganda sources say, Albanians have been in what is today Kosova and even parts of Serbia proper since long before the first Serb mercernary trudged his muddy boots into old Dardania in the 6th century. Never mind that there have been times of peace and times of conflict between Albanians and their Serb neighbors since long before the battle of Kosovo Polije. Because IMO, there's an even bigger question in all this: Just how "Christian" are those Serbs acting, the ones who see themselves as defending "Christendom", and "Europe". And that's where I'm coming from in this post, folks. Not as an adopted member of the Albanian community, but as a Christian.

Now, I have been following Balkan history (*real* Balkan history, not the crap-ass propaganda foisted off as history at the end of WWI by all sorts of folks in the "allied" countries who got caught up in "Serb-O-Mania" (no relation to Beatlemania, but an incredible simulation!) ), and it seems to me that those "oh-so-brave" self-proclaimed defenders of Christendom (who were doing a pretty lousy job of it, if their record of engagements against the Ottoman Turks is anything to go by-and still are) haven't exactly engaged in what *I'd* call the most Christian of behaviors-or at least not if the words of Jesus count for anything (but then again, the Serbian Orthodox Church seems so mystically-oriented that it appears to care little for mundane realities like actually *following* Jesus' teachings).

A good example of one of these latter day Christian knights is a man (he may be dead now) known by his nom-de-guerre as "Mrtvi". That name, BTW, means "death" in Serbian. Now, Mrtvi was profiled in a news story shortly after the Kosova crisis ended. There he proudly, yet also detachedly, chronicled his exploits in the name of "Greater Serbia". Things like looting, killing innocent people simply because they were the "wrong" ethnicity (always a good and noble reason to murder someone, right?), and so forth. And he did so believing God was on his side (how many times have we seen *that* before, folks?). Well, much to my surprise there was recently a follow-up article on Mrtvi. Seems the "poor" fellow moved to Argentina (former home of Adolph Eichmann-how "poetic"), and recently died of AIDS complications. However, despite having fled like a coward from the Balkans to the same place favored by Nazifascists everywhere as a hideout, and married twice to two Latin women, seems like Mrtvi reached the end of his line, and in rather ignominous fashion. The justice humanity could not meet out on him, nature and his flagrant violation of it's laws did.

But my point is, folks, that if you read Mrtvi's deeds, and then read the words of Jesus, St. Paul, and even the early Church Fathers (both east and west), you find a sort of discrepancy about things like actions that please God, proper Christian behavior, and so forth. Now I'm no saint here-not by a long shot. But I also know what's right, and what's wrong for the most part. And when I read about the exploits of a S.O.B. like this, and that he did what he did in the name of Jesus, it makes me almost ashamed to wear the label "Christian". I say "almost", because I know that Mrtvi's actions are in no way, shape, form, or fashion Christian. But they do cast a black pall on the Christian faith, because they are done in it's name. And that's where I feel the shame. So the next time you read about the Kosova crisis being about "Christian Serbs" vs. "Muslim Albanians", take a good look at the acts of those oh-so-Christian Chetnik bands, at the devistation they wrecked not only in Kosova, but also Bosnia, and Croatia. And not only today, but during WWII, WWI, and both Balkan Wars. Read something like "Albanian Golgotha". (It's available online, but I don't remember the URL right now. I'll post it later.) And see just how "Christian" the behavior is of these men supposedly defending "Christendom". As Jesus himself said, "By their fruits you shall know them."

Now, here's the articles about our "friend" Mrtvi:

From Daily Telegraph (UK), Sunday 29 June, 1999

My name is Death...'
By Philip Sherwell in Pec


[ ]
[Image] 60,000 held in 'concentration camps'

THE Serbian retreat from Pec was already underway,
Italian peacekeeping troops were en route from
Macedonia. At last, the Bala family thought, their
ordeal was finally over. They had survived 80 days
behind the shutters of their home while Slobodan
Milosevic's forces terrorised the city known as the
"Serb Jerusalem".

They were terribly wrong. For Isa Bala, the true horror
began only after the Yugoslav president agreed to pull
his men out of Kosovo. Last Saturday night his home
became a bloodbath: seven members of his family were
shot within its walls.

A band of Serbian paramilitaries led by a local thug who
revelled in the nickname "Mrtvi" (Death) went on a final
rampage of killing, raping and looting in Pec just hours
before the arrival of Nato troops. Nebojsa Minic, the
man who calls himself Mrtvi, is a heavily-tattooed,
shaven-headed man with a long criminal record. Before
the war, he ran a local band - the Black-Hand Gang -
that specialised in protection rackets in Pec.

The city has a special place in Serbian culture: its
monasteries are the cradle of the Serbian Orthodox
Church. For nationalist fanatics such as Minic, that was
the excuse to pursue a warped vision of ethnic purity
with a vengeance extreme even by the recent standards of

Before the war, there were 80,000 Albanians in the city.
The few hundred Albanians who now remain cannot explain
why they were not also forced to flee. The Balas were
among those left behind.

Isa and his brother Musa ran a butcher's shop together
before the conflict. They stayed in Pec with their wives
and children because their crippled mother was too sick
to join the exodus. They had prayed that they would
survive unscathed and, as they prepared for bed last
Saturday, they were convinced their prayers had been
answered. Then, at 9pm, came a barrage of thuds at the

Isa - a gentle bear of a man aged 40 - describes how
three men wearing camouflage fatigues and carrying
automatic weapons forced their way into his house. They
rounded up his wife Halise, 38; three of their sons,
aged six, 11 and 12; Musa, 31; his wife Violloca, 28,
and their three young children. Isa's invalid mother was
in another room and, unknown to the intruders, his other
son, eight-year-old Veton, was cowering behind a couch.

First, the men demanded money and Isa gave them 300
Deutschmarks (about £100). Then they led away Violloca
to an empty room for a few minutes. When she came back,
she was adjusting her clothes but insisted they had only
seized her jewellery. Isa's mother, however, was lying
in the room next door and knew the truth: Violloca had
[ ]been raped.

Finally two of the paramilitaries marched Isa and Musa
off to the house of an elderly neighbour where their
leader was waiting. There, Minic told Isa: "We are the
men with no names. I am 'Mrtvi'. We're probably going to
die ourselves, but first we are going to have our fun."

Minic told Isa he would kill his family unless he handed
over more money. Isa agreed and was taken back to his
house. His brother Musa was kept behind (his body was
found three days ago). Isa handed over his life savings
of 5,000DM (£1,700), but even that was not enough. The
gang sprayed the room with gunfire, killing Isa's three
sons, his sister-in-law Violloca and a niece. Another
niece later bled to death.

Isa himself jumped to safety from a first floor balcony
clutching his four-year-old nephew Roni, while the
gunmen left Halise for dead after shooting her three
times. Somehow, she survived and is recovering in

Last week the photographer Julian Simmonds and I became
the first British journalists to witness the devastating
impact of ethnic cleansing in the Pec area after walking
with the KLA for four days to the city through ravaged
western Kosovo. Our route had taken us past a string of
flattened villages. Untended cherry orchards stood next
to charred homes; the sweet smell of lavender would be
abruptly overwhelmed by the stench of rotting carcasses
as we passed horses and cows shot by Serbs.

In the village of Little Jablanica, there was just one
house intact in a village of 200 buildings. Even the
school had been burned down. In neighbouring Kaliqan, an
old Albanian man was living among the rubble. "I don't
have anything, I don't know anything," he repeated over
and over.

And at nearby Rohut, seven miles east of Pec, there was
another chilling reminder of the Serbian killing spree:
the remains of 10 Albanian victims of death squads. Two
of the corpses were identified by locals as cousins
Beqir and Dem Osmanaj. They had been garrotted with car
jump leads: the wires were still wrapped around the neck
of Beqir.

The others were unidentifiable - they were little more
than incinerated skeletons recovered from makeshift
pyres on top of haystacks around the village. But from
the size of the bones, at least two of them appeared to
be children aged under 10. It was just one more horrific
discovery as the fields of Kosovo yielded their secrets:
proof of the bloodlust that gripped Milosevic's forces
as they swept through the villages around the Serb

And the follow up:

From Newsday

Suspect unapologetic to end

A deathbed interview with Serbian who fled to Argentina and was wanted
for execution of Albanians in Kosovo war of 1999

Published October 21, 2005

MENDOZA, Argentina -- The sallow skin on Nebojsa Minic's semi-paralyzed,
skull-like face was tight and smooth over cheekbones, chin and the empty
valleys of once-full cheeks. The Serb's large ears flopped against the
hospital pillow like empty socks. You could have put your hand around
his once-powerful, tattooed legs and almost touched thumb to finger. To
make himself understood, he would nod or shake his head slightly. But
even as the rest of his body was dying, the blue eyes of the man who in
the Kosovo war of 1999 allegedly terrorized the town of Pec were still
"Do you know that a lot of people hate you?" he was asked in a
yes-or-no answer session on Tuesday night in his heavily guarded
hospital room in the country where he had fled under a false passport in
The blue eyes stared back unblinking, unapologetic, unafraid, and
then they rolled up and to the left in a shrug whose message was clear:
I don't care.
Minic, 41, died yesterday morning, less than 48 hours later. His
death from AIDS complications and cancer was long, painful and far from
his beloved Serbia, but it provided him with an escape from the justice
awaiting him in a court in his homeland, whose government had requested
his extradition after he was arrested here in May.
One of a growing number of suspected war criminals who have fled the
former Yugoslavia for the sanctuary of foreign countries, Minic was the
type of mid- to low-level killer in the Balkan wars who does not
generally attract the kind of attention given to high-profile suspects
like Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who has been charged with
Nicknamed "Dead," an acknowledged commander of a ruthless police and
paramilitary unit called Munje, or Lightning, Minic was an unusually
well-documented war criminal in spite of his comparatively low rank.
Human Rights Watch and several reporters had amassed a large amount of
material about his war crimes in 1999, including a 2002 book by this
reporter that focused on his reportedly ordering the killing of an
Albanian family after the cease-fire. It was for that crime that the
Serbian government requested his extradition this summer, and it was
that crime that spurred a local Argentine police official to pursue
Minic, who was living in Argentina under a false identity.

Behind a family's death

Yesterday afternoon, the Kosovar Albanian man whose family Minic ordered
killed, according to witnesses interviewed in 1999 and 2000, stood in
his butcher shop in Pec and was told Minic was dead. He erupted with
fury, using obscenities to describe Minic, shouting and waving his large
hands around in the air of the butcher shop.
Bala lost seven members of his family in the killing, including
three of his five children.
"I wish he was here, in this shop without a rifle, only me and him,
only me and him. I would chop him up ... What is justice? Justice would
have been to bring him and the others to me. I would know what to do
with them. I would put them into the meat grinder one by one."
On Minic's orders, witnesses and survivors said, two of his men
lined up Bala's entire family on couches in their home and shot them
with automatic rifles from close range.
Many of the details of Minic's journey from Serbia to Argentina, a
country that suffers from a long reputation of harboring European war
criminals, remain vague and perhaps lost with Minic. But in Tuesday's
interview, he acknowledged he had worked as a mercenary in Africa after
the war in Kosovo. Argentine police officials said Minic entered
Argentina with a false passport after being in Bolivia and Chile.
Minic apparently came here to collect a debt owed to another Serb in
Chile, said Omar Perez Botti, who was head of local intelligence when he
ultimately arrested Minic in May. Perez Botti said he believed that
Minic and the Serb in Chile, Ivan Zorotovic Bozanic, were part of a
larger network of Serbs in the region who help each other out, as former
Nazis began to do in South America after World War II.

Hiding out in Argentina

The tall, muscular Minic, his body tattooed with dragons, scorpions and
the faces of women, didn't speak Spanish, yet before long he had a local
girlfriend. Like many others who met him here, Iris Palomares spoke on
Wednesday about her former lover's charisma and ability to make her and
others do what he wanted.
Minic called himself Vlada Radivojevic then. He told the divorced
Palomares that he had been a soldier in the wars in the former
Yugoslavia and that he had left that country in search of a new life,
trying to forget the horrors he had witnessed and the friends he had
lost in battle. At times, he would sink into depression and even
threaten to kill himself.
"He was always trying to make you feel sorry for him, trying to make
you help him," Palomares, 52, a teacher, said in an interview in a local
cafe. "I don't understand how as a grown woman I didn't see all this."
She let him live in a family house and loaned him the money to buy and
run a pizzeria, which he named La Bomba - The Bomb.
One night, when he had been drinking, the man Palomares knew as
Vlada told her and her children he had a "war name" and would show them
who he really was on the Internet. He was Nebojsa Minic, he said.
They sat down at the family's computer and he tried to find himself
online but somehow failed.
The relationship soured. Minic left Palomares and began a
relationship with another local woman, Anahi Escobedo, 55, who would
nurse him until his death yesterday .,1

True identity revealed

Palomares tried to see him. She was furious and remembered that night in
her kitchen when he had told her who he really was.
This time, she went to an Internet cafe with the name and searched
for Minic on Yahoo and Google. This time, she found him. There were
numerous mentions of him on the Human Rights Watch site. She printed out
some of the information, including a photo of the man she had loved
holding a machine gun, a cigarette dangling from his lips, glaring at
the camera.
Vlada, according to the information online, was a war criminal named
Nebojsa Minic. Among other alleged crimes, he had ordered the killing of
Isa Bala's family.
Palomares took the information to the police in early March and,
later that month, it landed on the desk of Perez Botti. He began to
investigate and found irregularities and inconsistencies in the
documentation that surrounded this Serb immigrant's presence in
Argentina. He became convinced that Radivojevic was Minic and put him
under surveillance.
On May 12, Perez Botti obtained an arrest warrant for Minic. The
same morning, word came through to his office that the Serbian
authorities in Belgrade had a match for Radivojevic's fingerprints. This
man was Minic, the prints confirmed.

Minic in custody

Minic was arrested at about 10 a.m. at a local hospital where he had
gone because he was feeling extremely unwell. He had AIDS and had
developed Hodgkin's disease, doctors told him.
With Minic in custody, Perez Botti realized something unsettling:
There were no warrants out for him. Neither the International Criminal
Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague nor the Serbian courts
wanted him.
Daniel Wilkinson and Bogdan Ivanisovic, researchers at Human Rights
Watch in New York and Belgrade, respectively, worked to change that.
After months of advocacy and phone calls, pushing and prodding, the
Serbian government requested Minic's extradition.
But by late summer, Minic's medical condition meant he was never
going to make it back to Serbia. The legal process continued, Minic's
Argentine lawyer fought for his release, and Minic told Escobedo over
and over that all he wanted was to go home to die. His latest court
appearance was scheduled for Oct. 28. But on Tuesday, in his private
room, guarded by five police officers, Minic was obviously living his
last days.

No remorse for his past

Without realizing he was being interviewed by a reporter whom he
reportedly was keen to kill at one stage, Minic agreed to answer
questions, again answering or nodding only "yes" or "no". He did not
know the Bala family. He knew one of the two gunmen and other members of
Lightning. He did not feel guilty about anything. He was a patriot. He
was a soldier. And no, there were no rules in war. There were no
criminals and no crimes in war. Killing children was not a crime in war.
He believed in God and was a Serbian Orthodox Christian. God loved
him. He knew he was about to die. He was angry that Serbia lost the war,
angry that the Albanians won Pec, angry with God.
Yes, he killed people. He didn't know how many. He knew Arkan, the
notorious leader of Serb paramilitaries in the Balkan wars. But he
didn't like him or work for him.
"I'm no criminal," he said, barely audible.
Did the Albanians deserve to die?
"Partly," he croaked.
Escobedo held cigarettes to his mouth and he coughed deeply in his
skeletal chest. He grew tired of talking. He had not confessed. He had
not shown remorse.
He died yesterday morning at 8:45 a.m. Escobedo was holding his hand
as it went limp. His eyes were open.
A nurse bustled along the corridor and said she wasn't sure how they
were going to identify him on his death certificate. They still weren't
sure who he really was. The coffee mug by his bed had "Vlada" written on
Minic had said to both of his girlfriends that he liked Mendoza
because the way the Argentine plain met the foothills of the Andes
reminded him of Pec, where the Mountains of the Damned tower over the
"I think we'll cremate his body," Escobedo said, gently stroking
Minic's left foot. She looked down at the man she loved, the man so many
in Pec and beyond detested. "We'll throw him among the mountains like he

Special correspondent Enver Doda contributed from Pec.

Copyright C 2005, Newsday, Inc.

Fleeing past, meeting his death

Wanted for Kosovo war crimes, he ended up in Argentina. But he couldn't
escape AIDS and cancer.

By Colin McMahon
Tribune foreign correspondent
Published October 23, 2005

MENDOZA, Argentina -- Nebojsa Minic looked pitiable on his deathbed,
shriveled beyond recognition, eyes rolling in his head, a misshapen
mouth struggling to utter the simplest of words.
But pity often eludes those who fail to show it themselves. And
according to the survivors of ethnic Albanian families massacred by Serb
militias in Kosovo, Minic never showed humanity, much less pity. If
Nebojsa Minic, commander of the notorious Lightning paramilitary group,
was rotting on the other side of the world, he would get no sympathy
from the Albanian town of Pec.
"Home," Minic said repeatedly in a tense interview Tuesday night, 36
hours before he died. It was one of the few words besides "yes" or "no"
that Minic could say clearly, and he kept coming back to it like a
But it was not Pec he meant by home; it was his apartment in the
western Argentine city of Mendoza.
Kosovo? "No," Minic said. He did not want to go there.
Minic's run from his blood-soaked past began in 1999 after the men
of Lightning were accused of dozens of rapes, robberies and murders of
Albanian Muslims in Kosovo. It ended Thursday in a cramped public
hospital in Mendoza, on a plastic mattress with soiled linen, when
Minic, 41, stopped breathing and freed the hand of his devoted Argentine
In between those bookends of death, Minic stumbled through a
half-dozen countries, through moneymaking schemes that sometimes worked
and sometimes didn't. The odyssey bought Minic time, but it never
brought him peace.
Minic could not escape a Mendoza state police investigator. He could
not escape a jilted lover who gave Minic a roof, food and money only to
be repaid with intimidation. He could not escape cancer and AIDS.
Nor could he escape the horrors of Kosovo or the nickname he adopted
there: "Mrtvi," the Serbian word for "dead."
"He seems tremendously sad," Minic's attorney, Alejandra Ruiz, said
the day before he died. "He cannot imagine a life without war. . . . The
thing is: He could have led a normal life here, and now he's dying."
Minic's "normal" life in Mendoza was a mess of irregularities. He
told people he was rich but often had no pocket money. He opened a
pizzeria called La Bomba without a proper permit. He came into Argentina
on a false passport, was arrested for using a second false passport and
then freed and allowed to stay in Mendoza using his first false
Friends, lovers and even Minic's guards at the hospital called him
"Vlada" until the day he died. But the real Vlada Radivojevic, whose
identity Minic had assumed, was somewhere in Europe, according to a
police trace of passport and immigration records.
"I was shocked when I saw the files," said Omar Perez Botti,
Mendoza's top police investigator when authorities were tipped about
Minic's true identity in March 2005.

Ghastly crimes

The crimes Minic was accused of ordering or participating in were
ghastly. Munja, or Lightning, was a loose grouping of police, thugs and
self-proclaimed Serb patriots who engaged in violent "ethnic cleansing"
of Albanians from Pec and other Kosovo communities.
Testimony collected by human-rights activists and Serbian
prosecutors accuses Minic of joining a Serb paramilitary raid on the
village of Cuska in which 41 ethnic Albanians were executed. Minic was
also accused of ordering the rape, torture and murder of members of the
Bala family in Pec.
In the interview Tuesday night, Minic responded to a series of
questions with "yes" or "no." Occasionally he forced out a clear word or
a phrase, fighting the paralysis that had spread through most of his
body. His lack of teeth made it worse--Minic had yanked several out
himself when they rotted in his mouth.
Minic's girlfriend, Anahi Escobedo, manipulated Minic's mouth to
help him articulate. She stroked his head, which lacked the long black
and gray hair that had given him a bohemian look a few months before,
and held cigarettes up to his mouth.
Minic held the gaze of his questioners, and there was plenty of fire
left in the blue eyes that had so unnerved and intimidated Lightning's
victims. He acknowledged knowing other members of Lightning. But he
reacted with disdain when confronted with the accusations and when told
that many people in Kosovo hated him.
"No," Minic said, giving his head a slight shake, he did not kill
innocent civilians.,1,618

"No," the war was not about religion.
"Yes," God still loved him.
"No," he did not regret anything he had done.
"I am not a criminal," Minic said. "I am a soldier."
Minic's definition of soldier is as loose as his definition of war.
Anything went in war, he told friends, lovers and people he merely ran
into through his travels. There could be no such thing as a war crime,
Minic said. And if you were not there, if you did not see the fallen
comrades and the civilians tortured by the other side, then you cannot
know what war is, nor can you judge.
"He would say he was the kind of person who leads," said Iris
Palomares, a 52-year-old science professor in Mendoza who thought that
she and Minic were in love but now believes he was just using her.
"He said, `Some people could say I was a criminal, but others would
say I was a leader who defended my country.'"
Palomares and others said Minic spent hours talking about his life,
especially about the Kosovo war. At times he would say he was a "very
bad person."
Then one night, during a typical conversation in the kitchen, Minic
told Palomares and her son that he was on the Internet. He spoke his
real name, even wrote it down, and suggested she look for him on the
Web. She and her son tried, she said, with Minic by their side. But
maybe because the connection was poor, nothing came up. Minic appeared
"I never have understood why he told me that story. He did not tell
me the details. He just gave me the name and told me it was a nom de
guerre," Palomares said. "Maybe he wanted me to turn him in."
Whatever Minic's motive, writing down his real name led to his
After Minic and Palomares had a falling out, things turned ugly.
There were disputes over money, with Palomares estimating she loaned
Minic thousands of dollars to get travel documents and start his
business ventures. Minic accused Palomares of stalking him. He even went
to the police for a restraining order.
Then one day, angry and suspicious, Palomares found the name
scribbled among some papers. She went to an Internet cafe and ran a full
search. The screen filled with hit after hit.
"I wanted to die," she said, futilely trying to hold back tears
during a 90-minute interview. "That I had a person like this with such a
past in my house with my children.
"He was always making you feel sorry for him and making you help
him," Palomares said. "I don't understand how I as a grown woman did not
see this."
Palomares went to the local police, and eventually her information
reached Perez Botti. In mid-May, Minic was arrested while being treated
at the hospital for lung cancer and AIDS.
Within weeks, Serbian war crimes prosecutors would request Minic's
extradition. That process was working its way through Argentine courts
when Minic died.

`Not the same man'

On the morning of Minic's death, Escobedo stood by the corpse and idly
rubbed Minic's ankle and calf. She had dressed him in jeans and a light
blue shirt. She had closed his eyes. And she had wrapped a bandage
around his head to keep his jaw closed. It gave Nebojsa Minic a
cartoonish look, like a corpse with a toothache.
"This man called Nebojsa, this is not the same man I know as Vlada,"
Escobedo said.
And she was right. The man lying there was a picture of impotence
and frailty. Minic had decayed from the inside out, and whatever fear,
rage and hate he had been hauling around were no longer dangerous or
frightening or volatile. It was still there, spent, stuck inside him.

Copyright C 2005, Chicago Tribune


Sunday, September 11, 2005

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been, Part 2.

The "Trip" Begins....

Sometime in the early 80's or so, I heard for the first time about an odd little Communist country, virtually isolated from the rest of the world, the communism was so strict there. A country that was different from all it's neighbors-in culture, in language, in outlook on life of it's people. A country called....Albania. Even the name, I found, was fascinating! And for some reason, I felt like I wanted to know more about it....why it was different from it's neighbors, how it got to be like it was, what the people there were like, etc. So sometime around the mid 80's, I started begining to read about this tiny place. Except there was one problem-not too much stuff about it was available. But what I could get my hands on, I read. And as I read, I started to realise at the bottom of my consciousness that there was something more to that place and it's people for me than just mere weird curiosity. I began to become aware that there was some sort of affinity there, which I could truly not understand or explain (I think at that point I wasn't even yet consciously aware of what it was exactly that made me feel attracted to Albania and it's people, just that something, for some reason, did). And all that did was make me want to know more.

Flash forward to 1991-end of the Gulf War. Shortwave radios, which had been scarce and expensive during the crisis, were now plentiful and if not cheap, at least a bit more reasonable. I got my first shortwave that spring, and among other things, one of the radio stations I determined I wanted to listen to was Radio Tirana, the "official" radio station of the newly democratised Albania. I discovered from the shortwave guide I bought that there were several emmissions to N. America from Albania on SW at that time. There were only two very brief ones in the evening in English, but a much longer one-4 hours!-each night in Albanian, for those in the "diaspora" community. So I started to listen, when I could pick them up, to the English broadcasts (I hadn't took upon myself to learn Albanian yet). They were nice, though too short to be anything "special". There was one thing that *was* special about them, though: They always played one or two Albanian songs. From the moment I heard the first song for the first time, there was something that resonated in my heart. Now music has always been important to me, and I have found spiritual sustinance in many different forms of music. But nothing, not even liturgical music or Gregorian chant, did to the innermost fibres of my being what this music from this "strange" little country did. It set off a vibration inside me unlike any I'd ever felt before or since. One more thing, one more very profound thing, that said to me that "Somehow, for some reason, there is something about these people I identify with, and I need to know more".

April 1993. I had started in the last two years to check out books from the UW Library on Albania. And it was starting to get clearer and clearer in my mind, between the reading and listening to the music on the shortwave broadcasts (which by now I was listening to the Albanian language ones exclusively, even though I had no idea what they were talking or singing about exactly!) just why I was attracted to this people and their lands. I was starting to realise that for the first time in my life, I had encountered, if only so far at a "distance", perhaps the first group of people in my life whose experiences on a corporate level matched mine on an individual one. Like them, I knew what it was like to get dumped on for being guilty of nothing more than being just a little bit different from everybody else around you. I knew what it was like to take hassling and harrassment from others, all for the supposed "crime" of being myself, and having the guts to be so, and so did they know what this felt like.

And I discovered we shared the same values. In a world where a person's "word" seemed to mean less and less all the time, Albanians considered a promise a sacred trust. And so did I. Albanians believed in sticking up for what you believe in and standing by your friends always, without exception, no matter what the cost. And so did I. And so in the spring of 1993, I embarked in the next part of the journey, a part that something inside me told me would be a major part-indeed, a necessary part-of the key to understanding just why I felt this affinity for a people that I'd still never had yet met before. I started to teach myself the Albanian language.

Coming soon-Part 3, In which the last pieces of the "puzzle" fall into place!
What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been, Part One


When I started this blog, I promised that I would detail how I managed to get involved with, and eventually become, a member of the Albanian community. I decided to title this entry "What a long, strange trip....", not because *I* feel in and of myself that there was anything strange about it, nor that my Albanian friends (more like brothers and sisters now) feel there was, but rather that I recognise that to most (non-Albanian) folks, it may seem strange, considering how in "Anglo-Saxon" (i.e. Standard American, esp. Standard Middle American) culture, things like family, ethnicity, where and to what you should belong and why, etc., are often defined by people rather differently than I define them.

In other words, most folks I run into, though they respect my relationship with the Albanian community, and seem to be glad for me that I've found a place where I feel comfortable and "at home", nonetheless are a little perplexed that a guy like me, white, of western European extration (French, German, English, Scottish, Irish), Christian (though that's another area where people find out I don't exactly fit in with the mainstream, though that's a post for another time), in otherwords more or less like them and everybody else around them, felt the need to associate myself with a people and a culture from eastern Europe. Well, like a lot of things in my life, it is both very simple, and not that simple at all to explain, and it's been many years since the last time someone felt compelled to ask me about it, but I'm gonna try to (once again) explain how all this in my life came about.

I guess I should start by saying that I'm a bit of what used to be called by sociologists a "marginal man", a person who has enough in common with various divergent social groups that he can flit between them socially, yet not have enough in common with any given one of them to truly "fit in", to truly be accepted by the members of that given group as "one of them"; in other words, to truly find a home amongst one (or more) of them.

For example, I have always been a Science Fiction fan. However, my prefered "manner of ingestion" of that genre is, and always has been, in "media" format, i.e. movies, TV shows, old radio shows, games, etc. I'm not, and never have been, that big a reader of *literary* fiction, regardless of genre. And while most SF fan communities are pretty tolerant of those who are mostly media SF fans, the SF community in the place where I settled (Madison, WI) is predominantly literary in nature-they're way more into books than they are movie and TV SF. Also, they tend to be pretty political, esp. on issues of church-state separation, feminism, and so forth, which I'm not (not that they aren't important, just that neither is something I feel the need to get overtly political about).

Another example: I also like RPG (role-playing games), esp. D&D, but I am also a staunch monotheist-even in my fantasy worlds. I've always insisted in creating "parallel earths" (think the show "Sliders", if you're not familiar with the concept), ones where Judaism, Christianity, and Islam exist, just like in our world, for those playing in my campaigns to run their characters in. Only thing is that for a lot of D&D (and other Fantasy RPG) players, polytheism, i.e. "da gods", is an important part and parcel of the game. They like their "gods", like having their characters interacting with them, etc. While I, on the other hand, feel uncomfortable in the main either playing in or running such a world, even though it's only "make-believe". Hence, it has always been hard for me to find and attract people to play in my campaigns (though there are other factors as well, ones that affect every campaign, like free time available, scheduling, etc.). Oh, there've been people interested, just that from the total possible pool of players, those who think playing in a monotheistic world is "cool" are pretty minimal. And so, I often found that I was a less-than-perfect fit within the gaming community, even though I love D&D and other RPGs.

So there have been many groups that I've been associated with, but never felt like I truly belonged in, mainly because the members of said group caused me to feel that way-like I was just a little too "outre" for them; just far enough outside the "minimum requirements" to fit in. Among other groups where I've experienced this, I'd include SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism-nice people, but largely Neo-Pagan, which I'm not), and organised Christianity (I'm a Unitarian Christian, and it's harder than heck to find Unitarian churches that are explicitly Christian....outside of the proverbial "neighborhood of Boston", that is).

Another thing is that I've always been fascinated by things that others might consider "strange", or "unusual", or "odd". A "xenophile", in other words. I've always wondered why they are, how they got to be that way, why people in the main consider them "strange" or "weird" or whatever, etc. I often think part of this comes from being around my Dad. He was a sociology prof for over 30 years, so I guess the nut doesn't fall far from the tree. :) I've always been curious about things that were "different", and what made them tick, even if I felt no particular affinity-or even downright revulsion-for the thing or social phenomena in question.

Coming in Part 2-The "Trip" Begins!

Monday, September 05, 2005

President Rugova stricken with lung cancer

I hope everyone will pray, or at least send positive thoughts/vibes the way of Pres. Rugova in his time of need. I know lung cancer is one of the most deadly forms of that horrible scourge on mankind, and pray that they caught it in time like they did with my dad (almost 22 years cancer free now).

Kosovo president has lung cancer
Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova says he has been diagnosed with lung cancer, but will not step down.

Mr Rugova, looking weak and frail, said in a TV address to the people of the UN-run province he would have intensive treatment and "overcome this battle".

He will continue to seek his goal of independence from Serbia, he said.

Mr Rugova, regarded as a moderate ethnic Albanian and re-elected last October, was reported to have fallen ill with flu last week.

He cancelled some engagements, and spent several days at the US military medical centre in Landstuhl, Germany.

"Doctors have found that I suffer from a localised lung cancer and they have assigned me an intensive healing therapy," he said.

"I am convinced that with the help of God I will overcome this battle."

Kosovo has been under UN administration since 1999, when a Nato bombing campaign against Serbia stopped Serb forces expelling the ethnic-Albanian majority during an Albanian separatist insurgency.

Mr Rugova led passive resistance to Serbian rule in the 1990s.

Correspondents say his illness could endanger talks planned for later this year on the province's future status.

The minority Serb population is bitterly opposed to independence.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/09/05 11:04:02 GMT

I shouldn't have to say this, but....

If you haven't contributed to any of the relief efforts for hurricane Katrina, then PLEASE, DO SO NOW!

For those reading the blog who are Albanian, or friends of the Albanian community, there is an Albanian community in New Orleans too, as well as a large, well-established, long-term Arberesh (Italo or Sicilio-Albanian, for those who've never heard the term before) community, too. So we have our own amongst those who are suffering right now. But that shouldn't be the reason you contribute to any relief efforts. The reason should be that, no matter what our origins, or how much pride we take in them, when it comes right down to it, there is only *one* race-the human one. And right now, there are hundreds of thousands-indeed millions-suffering in LA, MS, and AL. They need our help. Whatever you can do, no amount is too little, and you can never give too much. So give, and give as much as you can, to the charity or aid organisation of your choice. Falemnderit.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

New Kosovar Albanian movie debuts at Sarajevo Film Festival

I found this very interesting. I sure hope this eventually shows up over here in the States. Even if I have to drive to some "Arthouse" in Milwaukee or Chicago, It would be worth it, from the looks of it.

By Nedim Dervisbegovic
Thu Aug 25,10:37 AM ET

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Kosovo's first film since the 1999 war tells the story of three mental patients let loose from an asylum after the collapse of Serb rule.

Kosovo Albanian director Isa Qosya, who has not made a film for 17 years, said "Kukumi" was his way of showing how years of ethnic conflict had dehumanised people in the region.

The film, shot entirely in Kosovo, received its world premiere late on Wednesday at the Sarajevo Film Festival.

"I felt uneasy during the first years of this whirlwind and felt a certain dehumanisation of people who did not understand and help each other," Qosya told a news conference.

"The whole movie is a metaphor. Freedom is when you help someone and when you understand the other person too," he added.

The three main characters are two men and a woman -- Kukumi, Hasan and Mara.

Despite coming from a mental institution, they often appear to cope better than others with life in postwar Kosovo, with its ethnic tensions, U.N. bureaucrats and the foreign troops who occupied the province.

But a misunderstanding with NATO forces raises the question of whether the characters were better off inside the asylum.

"The role of NATO troops in Kosovo has had positive but also some negative consequences," Qosya said. "I can't understand their role now; it has become totally undefined."


Qosya said the province's problems stemmed partly from uncertainty over the future.

Kosovo is still legally part of Serbia. The Serbian government and Kosovo's now-tiny Serbian minority hotly oppose the independence Kosovo Albanians want.

Talks over the final status of the province are expected to start this year or next, depending on progress on issues including human rights and democracy in one of Europe's poorest corners.

"Everything is undefined, and that is accompanied by a lack of character and principle among the people," Qosya said.

Through a simple plot and sparing dialogue, the director portrays the tensions between those people who left Kosovo during Serb rule and the war and those who stayed on throughout.

The main characters seem most at ease when left undisturbed in uninhabited settings, such as when they drive a railway car along deserted tracks, gaze at a lake in an abandoned quarry or convert a rundown stable into their home.

Qosya said he had difficulty raising funds for the movie in a region struggling to provide the population with basic services like health care. But eventually Kosovo's authorities agreed to foot the 600,000 euro bill.

Croatia's Jadran Film provided the equipment, and the all-Albanian cast and Qosya worked without pay. "Kukumi" is in the competition programme for the best regional movie award at the Sarajevo festival.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I know I said I would do an entry on how/why I came to be involved with the Albanian community, and over time become an adopted member of it, but for right now, I thought I would post this press release from AACL (Albanian American Civic League), which was posted a couple of months ago on the ALBANEWS e-mail list. All I can say about it is "it's about time!" I for one am sick and tired of pundits from both the left and right maligning the Albanian people as a PEOPLE, making false statements about them, accusing them of all being fans of Taliban-style Islam, involved in narco-terrorism, Al-Qaida, etc. To anyone who knows the Albanian people, their culture and their history (as I do), such accusations should be laughable. But the problem is that waaaay too many people take these jag-off bandits, er....pandits, er....pundits as being some sort of divinely-inspired source for news and truth. And so it's not very funny at all to me.

I have been saying for YEARS that the Albanian community and it's friends need to stand up to this stuff, and not just say "nobody pays any attention to those people (the pundits)", or "who cares what they say about us?" Because the simple fact is that people *are* paying attention to these self-appointed opinion makers, and we *do* need to care what people are thinking about us. In fact, the latter is just good, common sense. IMO, if you don't stand up for yourself, and give answer to the BS that people might be saying about you, then in a very real way, you are, in effect, by your very silence affirming what they say, or at least that's the way it will likely appear to the average person. As a matter of fact, I proposed on several Albanian related discussion lists nearly 2 years ago that some sort of Albanian Anti-Defamation League was needed to combat the calumnies being spread about the Albanian people (esp. Kosovars). Unfortunately, though there was some interest, nothing came of it at that time.

But anyway, the far lefties and far righties alike are continuing their smears of the Albanian people (watch for a future posting where I profile some of those folks) unabated, and in fact such slanders, if anything, have been increasing as of late, so any sort of educational/defense organisation that is dedicated to putting out a proper, accurate image of the Albanian community is all to the good....even if it is a bit late in coming. I hope that everyone reading this will support Mr. DioGuardi and his co-workers in these efforts.
Politics and Religion: The Public Relations Challenge for All Albanians

by Hon. Joseph J. DioGuardi

President, Albanian American Civic League

Where does one begin when trying to deal with such universal and
controversial issues as politics and religion? As an American, I have
been taught that you cannot mix politics and religion. Our U.S.
Constitution bears directly on this with its "establishment" clause,
which prevents our government from establishing or endorsing any
particular religion, church, or faith. This is conventionally referred
to as the Constitutional separation of church and state. Yet many
issues have arisen, even in America, where politics and religion
collide. These issues, such as abortion, gay rights, "faith-based"
initiatives (basically social welfare programs run by certain churches),
and even the presence of the Ten Commandments in governmentally owned
buildings, have polarized the U.S. electorate so much that even
presidential elections are now being won or lost by razor-thin margins.
The public mixing of church and state is abhorrent to most
Americans, and herein lies the public image challenge for the Albanian
people, who have not, until the Albanian American Civic League started
in 1989, used western-style lobbying and public relations to counteract
Serbian and Greek government and Orthodox church propaganda against them
as socalled "radical Muslims" and "KLA terrorists" tied to certain "Al
Qaeda cells" in Albania, Kosova, Macedonia, and Montenegro. All
Albanians know these are big lies being used for political reasons by
the Serbs to get back Kosova and by the Greeks to control the political
and economic outcomes in Albania and Macedonia.

But what do the American people know and believe about the Albanian
people? And, what do key countries in Western Europe
believe-especially those sitting on the UN Security Council in whose
hands lies the future of the Albanian nation of seven million people
living side by side in the Balkans, but unfairly divided before, during,
and after World War I into six different political jurisdictions to keep
Albanians subservient to Slavs and Greeks? Serbs and Greeks, in
particular, continue to wage a "holy war" against the Albanian people as
the socalled successors to the Ottoman Turks who occupied the Balkans,
including Greece and Serbia, for more than 500 years. They arrogantly
and grudgingly blame Albanians, who were all Christian until the
fifteenth century, for converting to Islam and continuing it today in
their Christian Europe.

We are, I believe, at a major turning point in the history of the
Albanian people. The key issue now is whether the political, economic,
and social life for all Albanians in the Balkans will get better or
worse. Will Kosova become independent of the UN administration and
completely free from Serbia and the former Yugoslavia in the next twelve
months? Will the people of Albania remove the openly corrupt government
of Fatos Nano in the July elections this year and begin the road to real
democracy and free enterprise there? Will Macedonian Slavs completely
implement municipal decentralization and the Ohrid agreement this year,
so that Albanians finally can attain political and economic equality and
social justice there? Will Montenegro, in gaining its independence from
Serbia, finally treat its Albanian citizens with respect and equality?
Will Greece admit its genocide of the ethnic Albanian Chams of Northern
Greece and its suppression of the Albanian language and other human
rights for some 500,000 Albanians, including Chams, Arvanites, and
immigrants primarily from Albania who come to Greece in search of work?
Will Serbia finally implement the peace agreement with the UCPMB in the
Presheva Valley, so that the 100,000 Albanians who were unfairly severed
from Kosova and annexed to Serbia in 1956 can enjoy all the rights and
privileges of their Serbian neighbors?

Do we wait for God or some other force to make things right for the
Albanian people? Do we just say "God willing" or "Inshallah" and sit
around and do nothing while the traditional adversaries of the Albanian
people, basically Serbia, Greece, France, and Russia, plan to extend the
political subjugation and economic slavery of the Albanian people of the
Balkans? (If one has any doubts about the veracity of the latter,
please consider at least 60 percent unemployment in Kosova, 40 percent
unemployment in Albania, 75 percent unemployment in Presheva, no
recognition of Albanian political, human, or economic rights for over
500,000 Albanians in Greece, and a very uncertain future for 60,000
Albanians in Montenegro and 800,000 Albanians in Macedonia.)

The Albanian American Civic League and its affiliates, the Albanian American
Foundation and the Albanian American Public Affairs Committee, through
its volunteer leadership under a former U.S. Congressman of Albanian
heritage and Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, a professional publisher, author,
and political strategist, and a board of directors consisting of
forty-three ethnic Albanians representing all parts of the Albanian
nation of seven million in the Balkans and fifteen million worldwide and
who contribute much of the funds raised to accomplish the Civic League's
objectives, have decided to act in an even more concerted way to combat
the Serbian and Greek propaganda machines.

What we did in New York City at the Sheraton Hotel on May 15, what
we did with Jewish and Christian religious leaders in New York on May
16, and what we did with religious and political leaders in Washington
from May 17 to May 20 was both historic and effective. Basically we
accepted the public relations challenge of the Serbs and the Greeks, and
their supporters, by actively responding to their publicly proclaimed
(since World War II, at least) myths about the Albanian people. By
joining with Jewish and other political and religious leaders on the
fifteenth anniversary of the Civic League, coinciding with the sixtieth
anniversary of our Jewish brothers and sisters being freed from the Nazi
death camps in 1945, we sent a strong message to all Americans that
Albanians are a very tolerant people who saved all Jews already living
in Albania and surrounding Albanian lands during World War II, as well
as all Jews who were fortunate to escape from Western European
countries, and from Serbia and Greece, into Albanian lands in Kosova,
Macedonia, and Montenegro. And, by bringing Bishop Sopi, Fr. Lush
Gjergi, and Fr. Shan Zefi to be with us and to speak at the Sheraton
dinner and testify on May 18 before the full House International
Relations Committee in Washington, cochaired by Congressional leaders on
both sides of the political aisle, Chairman Henry Hyde and Congressman
Tom Lantos, we sent a strong signal that Albanians share, harmoniously,
three major religions-Islam, Catholicism, and Orthodox Christianity.
This is not the image that Serbia and Greece want Americans to know, but
this is the reality of the Albanian experience in the Balkans and all
over the world, and we "showcased" it in New York and Washington for all
to see. We have now set the stage for a huge public relations battle
with Serbia and its allies in the UN, and this is a campaign that we
must win this year if Kosova is to gain its independence from Serbia,
once and for all.

For those of you who could not attend our historic fifteen
anniversary dinner, "A Salute to Albanian Tolerance, Resistance, and
Hope: Remembering Besa and the Holocaust," we honored three great
Jewish Americans-Harvey Sarner, who wrote Rescue in Albania (the story
of Albanians risking their lives to save Jews in World War II, which was
handed out to everyone who attended), Norman Gershman, the fine arts
photographer who made two trips to Albania and one to Kosova over the
past year to photograph and record the Albanian families who saved Jews,
and Mike Fishman, the president of Service Employees International
Union, Local 32BJ, for empowering thousands of Albanians in the New York
Metropolitan area with jobs and benefits. Our keynote speaker was
Congressman Tom Lantos, a Jewish American who himself escaped the Nazi
death camps and who introduced the first Congressional Resolution for
Kosova's independence in 1992 and in many Congresses since then. Also
speaking at the dinner were House International Relations Committee
Chairman Henry Hyde and former Chairman Ben Gilman (another great Jewish
American) who has championed Albanian human rights and independence of
Kosova with me and Shirley for over twenty years now.

Other speakers included New York's senior U.S. Senator Charles
Schumer, New York State Senator Jeff Klein, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik (the
head of the New York Board of Rabbis), Rabbi Arthur Schneier (Appeal of
Conscience Movement), Bishop Mark Sopi, Frs. Lush Gjergji and Shan Zefi,
Fr. Pjeter Popaj, Kosova Minister Ardian Gjini, and Albanian Professors
Petrit Zorba and Apostol Kotani (the Albanian-Israeli Friendship
Association). Governor Pataki and New York State Senator Nick Spano
sent their official greetings from Albany in the form of a New York
Senate Resolution supporting the independence of Kosova, which was
passed on May 10, 2005, and signed by the Governor in time for our
anniversary dinner. (It is presented in full in our dinner journal.)
Albanian Orthodox Bishop Nikon, Boston Orthodox Church Chancellor Fr.
Arthur Liolin, and Cardinal Edward Egan of New York also sent their
greetings and blessings to us that evening. So this was not just a
celebration, it was the first "canon blast" across the bow of the
Serbian and Greek propaganda machines that the public relations battle
for the image and future of the Albanian people is now joined.
The second canon volley fired by our Civic League and its delegation
from Kosova and Albania was on May 16 at prearranged meetings with Rabbi
Schneier at his Park East Synagogue offices and with Cardinal Edward
Egan at his residence. It was very important to meet with Rabbi
Schneier, an internationally respected leader for human rights, social
justice, and peace, and we are deeply grateful to our good friend Ben
Gilman for facilitating this meeting. (Rabbi Schneier had just returned
from a trip to Russia with President Bush to commemorate in Moscow the
sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Jews from the Nazi
concentration camps.)

The timing of our meeting could not have been
better since a delegation of Serbian Orthodox priests met with Rabbi
Schneier three weeks earlier in New York and placed photos with him on
the website of the Serbian Unity Congress (the lobby of Belgrade and the
Serbian Orthodox Church) to gain political advantage in Washington
before our hearing and in making their case to the Bush administration
that "Kosovo and Metohija" should remain an integral part of Serbia.
(While I will report on the great success of this meeting in a future
article, please see the photo of the important working session that we
had with the Rabbi and Bishop Sopi et al.) The one thing that really
stuck in my mind after this meeting was the look of surprise on the face
of Rabbi Schneier when, in answer to a question, Bishop Sopi revealed
that there is no communication between him and the leader of the Serbian
Orthodox Church, even though Bishop Sopi has tried to reach him on
several occasions in the last two years. The Serbian Orthodox Church
clearly showed its lack of respect for Bishop Sopi and his large
Catholic congregation in Kosova when, according to Bishop Sopi, the
Serbian Patriarch picked up the phone in Belgrade on one occasion, but
immediately handed it to his secretary to continue the conversation with
the Bishop. Rabbi Schneier, who has labored hard to bring so many
religious and ethnic factions together around the world, was unaware of
this and clearly shocked by Bishop Sopi's revelation. He promised to
make ethnic and religious peace and reconciliation in Kosova and Serbia
one of his immediate priorities.

The meeting with Cardinal Egan at his residence behind St.
Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan just before we left for Washington was
noteworthy in several respects. (Using my position as a former
Congressman and as a Knight of Malta in the Catholic Church, I had set
this up directly with the Cardinal's secretary.) Our delegation was
greeted very warmly by Cardinal Egan, who voiced his support for the
Albanian people and promised to follow up on my suggestion to have an
annual Mass for all Albanians at St. Patrick's Cathedral either on the
occasion of Mother Teresa's birthday (August 26) each year or on Flag
Day (November 28). (Please see the photo of our delegation at the
Cardinal's residence.)

The third shot across the bow of the Serbian propaganda machine and
their "Orthodox lobby" in Washington were our meetings with Congressmen
Lantos, Hyde, and Rohrabacher, and the full House International
Relations Committee hearing on Kosova on May 18, to which the Bush
administration sent the third highest ranking State Department official,
Ambassador Nicholas Burns, to deal with the failing U.S. policy for
Kosova and the Balkans. It was obvious to all at the beginning of the
fully packed hearing room that this was going to be an important hearing
on Kosova's final status. The day before the hearing, a major article
appeared in The Washington Post, entitled "Bush Has Plan to Act on the
Status of Kosovo." After not being able to convince Hyde and Lantos to
postpone or cancel the hearing, the Bush administration decided that it
was time to act and try to stop the political and economic conditions in
Kosova from deteriorating any further. This was a big win for our
lobbying efforts, since the Civic League has been saying, since the end
of the NATO bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999, that the United
States, and not Europe or the UN, has the power and should have the
determination to lead a process that culminates in the independence of
Kosova-the only real option for lasting peace and stability in the
Balkans and, therefore, in Europe, which is in the vital interest of the
United States (see Shirley Cloyes's testimony for Kosova at, which makes this case very well).

The fourth round of our public relations campaign against Serbian
lies and propaganda took place in Maryland and Washington, where our
delegation led by Bishop Sopi met with Cardinal McCarrick, leader of the
Catholic Archdiocese in Baltimore (see photos), Archbishop Montalvo, who
is the Papal Nuncio representing Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican in
Washington (see photo), and with the leaders of the U.S. Catholic
Conference of Bishops and Catholic Relief Services. This phase ended on
a high note in Washington on the morning of May 20, where, with the help
of former Congressmen Ben Gilman and Lee Hamilton, we were able to
position Ardian Gjini, Kosova's Minister of Environment and Spatial
Planning, and AACL Balkan Affairs Adviser Shirley Cloyes to give
speeches about Kosova at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for
Scholars in Washington (see photo). I spoke briefly at this forum as
well, ending my comments by thanking the Center, on behalf of all
Albanians, for the crucial role that President Woodrow Wilson played in
saving the State of Albania from total political and geographic
annihilation at the end of World War I.

Finally, on May 20, Shirley and I headed to New York with Ardian
Gjini, while Bishop Sopi, Frs. Gjergji and Zefi, and our Civic League
board members from Michigan, Marash Nuculaj, Zef Dedivanaj, and Kol
Dedvukaj, headed for Michigan to report on our successful trip to Fr.
Anton Qira and the Albanian people of the greater Detroit area. Shirley
and I unexpectedly joined the delegation again at St. Paul's Church on
May 23 to attend the funeral of Pjeter Nuculaj, Marash's first cousin,
who was tragically hit by a truck and killed while we were in
Washington. He was only forty years old and left behind a wife and five
children. I was honored to be asked to speak at Pjeter's funeral, and I
will close with some of the words I said to try to comfort the family,
our good friend and patriot Marash, and the Albanian community there. I
said that God has a purpose, in life and in death, for each one of us.
Since we are only mortal, and we know from our faith and experience that
God's ways are not man's ways, we do not know why Pjeter was taken from
his family and from us so early in his productive life. I said further
that any one of us can be called by God today or tomorrow and that an
important lesson from Pjeter's tragic death (for all of us) is to love,
hug, and appreciate one another everyday, and not take our lives, our
family, and our friends for granted. We are easily distracted from this
lesson by our daily obligations and habits, and we need to recognize
this fact if Pjeter's, or anyone's untimely death for that matter, is to
mean anything for us. I ended by saying that I believed that Pjeter was
now with Mother Teresa in heaven, and that we should all pray to him and
to Mother Teresa to give us the peace, wisdom, and courage we need to
help our family, our friends, and the Albanian nation.

I began this article by affirming the separation of church and
state. I end this article by affirming the presence of God in
everything that we do and that we must take time to listen to God's
voice in all of us. This is obviously a personal, not a political,
statement, as it should be. I believe that I have heard God's voice in
the Albanian people, Christian and Muslim, especially when my father,
speaking Albanian to his youngest sister, met the Albanians of Kosova by
accident in 1985 during my first year as a Congressman, and then again
in 1993 when I met Shirley, again by accident. I know now, more than
ever, that I must continue to act, as well as pray, for the Albanian
people, especially those seeking freedom for Kosova now from their
Serbian oppressors in Belgrade. I believe that there has never been a
better time for all Albanians in the Balkans and that we cannot let this
great opportunity to gain worldwide respect for the Albanian nation slip
through our fingers through inaction or ineffective action.

May 30, 2005