Independence Sparks Dreams for One Kosovar Expat

Zana Blaku, a 23-year-old Kosovar expat moved to the States to escape the 1998 war with Serbia, in which 10,000 civilians were killed. Now that Kosovo has declared independence, she dreams of returning to help the chronically ill.

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RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Welcome to independence. That's what the United States and some members of the European Union said to the news of Kosovo's announcement Sunday of it's independence from Serbia.

Kosovo sent 192 letters to foreign states seeking recognition. Germany, Britain, France and the U.S. obliged. Serbia promptly withdrew it's ambassador from Washington, D.C., and a displeased Russia called Kosovo a false state and is seeking the backing of the U.N. Security Council to call the move null and void. Spain - fence sitting for the moment.

That's on the geopolitical level. On the personal front, 23-year-old Kosavar expat Zana Blaku says it's a day everyone has been looking forward to for a long time. Zana moved to the States to escape the 1999 war with Serbia, in which 10,000 were killed. And Zana joins us in the studio now. Thanks for being with us.

Ms. ZANA BLAKU: Thank you.

ALISON STEWART, host:

This is very exciting for you. Ten years after that happened, you're about to finish up your doctor of pharmacy program in St. John's in Queens?

Ms. BLAKU: that's right.

MARTIN: Do you think you'll go back?

Ms. BLAKU: Well, at first, considering my profession, I would start my career, establish my career here. And I'm definitely looking forward to help as much as I can - go back to Kosovo and try to help the health care system and institutions there.

STEWART: What was your first reaction when you heard the news of the declaration of independence?

Ms. BLAKU: oh, it was absolutely great. I mean, it's a day that we all had been waiting for. Generations of people have dreamt of this day, and it's really historic and we're looking forward to a great start and building a great new nation.

STEWART: Did you talk with friends and family on the ground?

Ms. BLAKU: Yes.

MARTIN: What was the situation like?

STEWART: We've seen pictures of celebration. But describe what…

Ms. BLAKU: Everybody was out in the streets celebrating, dancing. It was just wonderful.

STEWART: Can you explain to people why it would lead to people dancing and celebrating in the streets, what they had been experiencing that this would cause such elation?

Ms. BLAKU: Well, I was born in 1984, and all that I remember for the first 14 years of my life - which is as long as I've lived in Kosovo - we were oppressed. I mean we don't have basic human rights. We were not allowed to use our own language, although we made up more than 90 percent of the population in Kosovo. Our school system was basically a parallel system. We went to houses improvised as schools. We had absolutely no conditions to study there. Our daily life was basically not the way it was supposed to be in a country in Europe in 21st century.

MARTIN: Serbia has said that this is akin to the U.S. losing New England, a portion of it's country - territory that it considers it's own. So you see any credence to their argument?

Ms. BLAKU: No. Actually, I see it's totally the opposite, where it actually Britain who's losing control over the United States. It's basically a colony being lost in the 21st century, because Serbia has occupied Kosovo before and it's basically the undoing of a mistake that the Western power made at the beginning of the century by taking chunks of parts of Albania, the actual country, and giving them to Serbia. And that's basically Kosovo now. Because you cannot have 2 million people move overnight into Kosovo, have houses there and land and everything, which is what Serbia has been claiming.

STEWART: Also want to point out that this morning there's - I don't know if you know this or not. There's already been some violence on certain border posts. There's been some skirmishes. Did you expect would be some sort of violence between Serbs burning down - they burned down one border post, that some of the wires are reporting now.

Ms. BLAKU: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the Serbs have always been the first class citizens in Kosovo. They were, in the way, the rulers there - having rulers, basically, having every right to do anything they please. So now they're absolutely not happy to have lost that status. Although, I mean, the new Kosovo government has pledged to respect all of its citizens regardless of their ethnic backgrounds, but Serbs, I mean, they're not happy to have lost their superior status.

STEWART: What do you think will change the most for the day to day lives of people of Kosovars living there?

Ms. BLAKU: Well, first of all, the people are happy that they're going to be free. They're going to be, you know, able to say who they are without being afraid of being punished and, you know, being free of saying who - what their ethnic background is. And then we understand that we're going to have to work hard to build an economy, because as we know, Kosovo is not really that developed. But now with the independence, we're going to have the foundation set for a successful country. Different organizations are going to be able to invest. We're going to have basically a new nation.

MARTIN: When you go back, do you have places you want to visit?

Ms. BLAKU: Absolutely. I mean, I have a lot of friends there, and Christina(ph) going out - you know, we have a good night life there and all that, so.

STEWART: Looking forward to that.

MARTIN: You're ready to go back and party, is that what you're…

Ms. BLAKU: Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Is there already a national anthem? Is there a song that already exists?

Ms. BLAKU: Actually, when the independence was declared, as far as I understood, that we have the flag. But the national anthem hasn't yet been decided.

MARTIN: Huh. I wonder who will write that. Zana Blaku, Kosovar expat, soon to be doctor of pharmacology, thank you so much for coming in and sharing your personal story (unintelligible).

Ms. BLAKU: Thank you. Thanks.

STEWART: We really do appreciate it.

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