Expatriotism

U.S. Serbs take to the streets to protest the bombing

Kosovo, the site of a bloody battle between Serbs and Turks in 1389, is hallowed ground to Serbs. They say they are fighting terrorists who are trying to rob them of ancestral lands.

Most Kosovar Albanians want Kosovo, which is 90 percent ethnic Albanian, to become an independent state.

"The Serbian people, we lost the battle of Kosovo 94 years before Columbus set sail for America," says Stojsic. "The Serbians were occupied by the Ottoman Turks for two and a half times longer than the United States has existed. There are churches in Kosovo that are older than the Islamic religion, from before Mohammed was born. These churches are just ancient. There is nothing there that's Albanian that shows any kind of historical tie to them. Kosovo is like the most holy Serbian place there is."

Then how does he feel about the plight of the Albanian refugees? The killing?

"Oh, it's terrible. And now with the NATO bombing, everyone is leaving. Nobody wants to stay there and get bombed. From 40,000 feet you can't tell a Serbian from an Albanian. Just a little bit ago on TV they showed 30,000 Serbians leaving Kosovo and a bunch of Gypsies and Turks. It's not just the Albanians leaving."

How does he explain the murders, the systematic slaughtering of unarmed citizens? The Bosnian Serbs committing mass murders to "ethnically cleanse" Muslims and Croats from Bosnia earlier this decade?

"It just so untrue. If you want an independent source, get someone who was actually there," Stojsic says. "I wasn't there. But I know the war crimes were on all sides. Whoever was basically a minority in a certain area got the brunt of the attacks."

Natasa asks, "Why don't they report the Serbian genocide? Do you know how many of my friends who have called me crying, saying that their family was slaughtered? This is so deep-rooted. Back in World War II, the Croats killed a million and a half Serbs. That was never widely reported. We are not waging war on anybody. This is a civil war. We are for the common cause of Kosovo. We will all give for Kosovo. I will personally give my blood for Kosovo. We are all like that. I mean, nobody likes to see children [killed] like that, and that doesn't matter what race you are. We are not cruel."

Then who are the Serbs fighting?
"NATO. When somebody drops a bomb on you, aren't you going to defend yourself? We are not waging war on anybody," she says.

The Serb campaign to rid Kosovo of its ethnic Albanian majority began in small villages, then reached the cities and finally the province's capital, Pristina, which some refugees describe as a "ghost town."

"We have no problem with Albanians," says Natasa, "the misinformation here is that it's about religion, and it's about land. We don't care; Albanians can live there. The only reason that there is war now is because they [Albanians] want to declare Kosovo part of Albania."

"The Serbian thing," says Stojsic, "the whole war in Kosovo right now is Albanian terrorists have been attacking Serbian police and Serbian armies."

Does Stojsic feel any animosity from his co-workers, from people driving past while he protests on the street? Anybody threaten him because of his Serbian genealogy?

"No, not at all," he says. "Everyone's pretty cool. Everyone has their own opinion and stuff. And just about everyone I talk to doesn't believe that American troops should be over there. Half the people don't even know where it is, and to them the president has made a clear point as to why they are there. People tell me on the streets, the general American population, 'We support our troops, but we fear Clinton.'"

How does he get his information?
"Over the Internet. We have a Serbian Internet network. We just get all kinds of different news from all these different countries. Wherever there is a Serbian church, wherever there is a Serbian community, every night they are doing the exact same thing [protesting]. Not only in America and Canada, but South America, Australia, New Zealand and all over Europe."

How big is the Serbian-American community here?
"There is between five and seven thousand of us. Every Serbian group in Phoenix is in on the protesting. And we'll keep it up as long as the bombing's going on."

How long does he think this conflict will continue?
"You never know with Clinton; he doesn't have any foreign policy. So whatever the polls say, he is going to go with."

Will there have to be a partitioning of Kosovo on the part of Serbia for this to resolve?

"A partitioning? Yes, maybe. The two sides need to get together.
"NATO is a defensive alliance, and Yugoslavia and none of that area except for Greece is a member of NATO. And if anyone attacked a NATO country, I'd be all for them bombing."

When all is said and done, does Stojsic take pride in being an American?
"Oh yeah, absolutely.

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