Feelings are mixed on new nation
FARGO -- Razim Mani wrapped up his shift at Fargo's Lone Star Steakhouse just before midnight Saturday and bought his American co-workers drinks. Back at his south Fargo apartment, the Kosovo expatriate tuned in to an Albanian news channel and hu...
FARGO -- Razim Mani wrapped up his shift at Fargo's Lone Star Steakhouse just before midnight Saturday and bought his American co-workers drinks. Back at his south Fargo apartment, the Kosovo expatriate tuned in to an Albanian news channel and hunkered down for a sleepless night.
Just before 9 the next morning, the news he eagerly awaited came: Kosovo, a predominantly ethnic Albanian enclave in Serbia, declared its independence. The wakeful Mani kicked off a day of celebration with his family.
But the development didn't put Jovica Rahasovich, a West Fargo resident and an ethnic Serb from Croatia, in a celebratory mood.
"It's sad news for me," he said. "Kosovo is the birthplace of our nation."
On Monday, the reactions of local former Yugoslavia residents echoed the conflicting emotions the news stirred in the Balkans. Kosovo natives of Albanian descent rejoiced; Serbs bemoaned what they see as an inflammatory unilateral move by the Kosovo government as well as the swift U.S. backing for independence.
These reactions - much more muted than raucous celebrations and protests in Kosovo - captured the often relentless zero-sum logic of international politics.
The Manis, a family of five who settled in Fargo as refugees in 1999, recorded three DVDs with footage from celebrations that erupted across their homeland.
"This is a historical date," said Mani, who could still be found clutching two remotes in front of his blaring TV set Monday afternoon. "This is something you want to have for the rest of your life."
His and his sister's family drank champagne and shared in a festive meal, but it's been hard to bring the 20 or so area Kosovo families together for an all-out bash. Many work long hours and incompatible shifts. Mani and his brother-in-law, Hismet Luzha, eyed the TV set wistfully, wishing they were partaking in the jubilation back home. Mani had tried to book a flight to Kosovo's capital, Pristina, for this weekend, but all flights were full, he said.
For Rahasovich, the U.S. support for Kosovo independence was a second major disappointment in his adoptive homeland, after the 1999 U.S.-led NATO strike that ended a Serbian campaign to quash ethnic Albanian separatists. He saw backing for independence as a classic divide-and-conquer move: "To the West, Serbia looks like an enemy, for what reason I don't know. It's disappointing to me."
He said American politicians could use a deeper historical knowledge of the region, which Serbs regard as their country's medieval heartland.
Hatidza Asovic, a native of Montenegro, which last year peacefully seceded from Serbia, met the news with mixed feelings. She understands the excitement of Kosovo expats, whom she assists as an interpreter at Fargo's Cultural Diversity Resources. But she's disappointed with lingering profound divisions in the former Yugoslavia, and she worries the move toward independence might drag the enclave in ethnic strife.
"Many of us fear this is another civil war coming up," she said. "I don't think this will bring any stability."
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