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Balkan Neighbors In Queens Peaceful Despite Raging War – QNS.com

Balkan Neighbors In Queens Peaceful Despite Raging War

As the war and NATO bombing rage on in Yugoslavia bringing to the forefront the ancient disputes between Serbians and ethnic Albanians in that tragic country, right here in Queens are thousands of immigrants from both sides.
In some neighborhoods such as Ridgewood, many of these people are living, working and shopping side by side, far away from their war-ravaged homeland and worrying about the fate of their family and friends who remain in Kosovo.
Reports this week tell of tens of thousands of terrified Kosovers fleeing their burning homeland intensifying a massive refuge crisis in neighboring Albania and Macedonia — the largest in Europe since World War II — leaving relatives here in Queens terrified. The Borough has the largest concentration of members of the ethnic groups involved in the war in the United States, with over 20,000 Yugoslavians alone residing in Queens. The "ethnic cleansing" is driving out 4,000 people an hour who are fleeing into Albania, Europe’s poorest nation and according to news reports, mass executions are taking place through the region.
The uneasy peace between Serb and Albanian immigrants here in Queens can be seen at a number of shops along Seneca Ave. in Ridgewood. At "The International Bakery" lines of Serbs and Albanians could be seen last Saturday. "Someone might try to make a joke, only because we try to leave the troubles back home," said one of the workers in the store. Mike Stefanovik, a Serb butcher on the same block said "Everyone is worried sick but we talk among ourselves. We’ve got both Serbs and Albanians coming in here but we don’t ask where you’re coming from and we speak English," he said. Copies of both the Serb newspaper and the Albanian paper can be seen side by side on store counters in the area.
Many of those interviewed this week by The Queens Courier asked that their names be withheld for fear of either reprisals to relations back home or starting arguments with neighbors here who are on the other side of the issue.
A Bosnian Muslim man from Queens, whose parents were murdered in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992 says in response to the U.S. bombing in Yugoslavia, "Who else will prevent these people form human catastrophe." According to the man, in Omarska, Bosnia only five women out of hundreds survived the concentration camps. "These women were raped and beaten and even though alive, their souls are dead."
He also said in Srebrenica, Bosnia, 9,000 men were killed and the U.S. had satellite pictures of these camps and did nothing. In Bosnia, Serbs gave guns to Bosnians and told them to kill other Muslims or the Serbs would kill the Bosnians and the Muslims, he claims.
He also said, the Ottoman Turks conquered the Slavs 500 years ago forcing many Slavs to covert their religion. Like Hitler in World War II, "Serbians killed the intellectuals in Bosnia to be able to control the masses," the man said. Three-hundred thousand Bosnian Muslims have died at the hand of Serbians and there are two million refugees. Kosovo is 91 percent Ethnic Albanian, which is mostly Muslim. The Albanians are now refugees being pushed into the Prokletije mountains."
"There are Serbian websites on the internet where Muslims are portrayed as the butcher, when in reality the Serbians are the murderers," he said. There are six cities that were called U.N. "safe havens" including Grorazde and Srebrenica and yet people still died. The situation in Yugoslavia can be a third world war." He said if he was given the chance to go to Bosnia, "I would go and fight for Bosnia," but before his parents were murdered they forced him to come to the U.S.
Margan, born in Croatian, now living in the U.S. for over ten years also has been affected by the war in the Balkans. He lost a cousin in the bombing by the Yugoslav military during the siege of Dubrovnik in Croatia. In response to Milosevic’s actions, he said, "Milosevic is a two-faced man, he puts his nation before human rights and it should be the other way around. He doesn’t speak for the majority of Serb people." He also called Milosevic, "a diagnostic of Hitler." When asked what he thought of NATO forces in Kosovo, he said "Action is justified." He also commented, "NATO will win, Milosevic will have to heed to the force."
Ms. Yoon, also a Queens resident thinks, "I don’t agree with Yeltsin siding with Milosevic. He’s the reincarnation of Hitler. It must be stopped before it becomes as extensive as the six million Jews who died under his boot. It’s all about money. The economy is boosted by going to war, the selling of artillery as in World War II and during the Persian Gulf War."
A Queens man originally from Uzbekistan answered in response to Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s siding with Milosevic against the United States. He said, "Russia wants to show power, to show that America is not the only superpower of the world." He also said the American embassy in Moscow was almost bombed by a Russian against the bombing in Kosovo.Another man living in Forest Hills, also from Uzbekistan said, "It doesn’t matter which side is right or wrong, innocent people are getting hurt, and it should be stopped. I’m sure it can be stopped. Anyone can take a gun and shoot, it’s easy, but it doesn’t solve the problem."
Maik Iovanovic’s family lives in Vladimirovac. From the Z&Z Music International store on Fresh Pond Road which specializes in Yugoslavian music, he said that "so far" they are fine, but they are living with shortages in food and they are scared.
Iovanovic said the bombings should stop because it is "not going to solve anything" in this conflict that has been going on for over 600 years. "The land belongs to Serbians," he said, "it is like if we [Serbians] tried to take over Ridgewood. The President wouldn’t let us do that. We live here and we are allowed to believe what we want but we are still Americans.
"It is not right that people are dying on either side. It doesn’t matter what [ethnicity] you are" he said, the death still must stop. What is needed is for everyone to "stop and talk," Iovanovic said.
Meanwhile, in an eerie reminder of another mass tragedy of the 20th century, Queens survivors of the Genocide of the Armenian People, when the Turkish Ottoman Empire massacred 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children, are being invited to join the Commemoration of the 84th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide when a mass "gathering" is held in Times Square, 43 St. and Broadway, in New York City, on April 25 at 2 p.m. A special presentation honoring the survivors is planned. Special reserved seating will be held for survivors and their families.
For more information, call (212) 744-3958.

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