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  • Jerome Kocher

40. Why I Go!

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

I'm traveling to Kosovo on the Balkan Peninsula this Summer. Friends ask me why I am going there , . . wherever there is! The initial inspiration came from Michael Totten's travelogue "Where the West Ends" followed by Rudolf Abraham's "Trekking the Peaks of the Balkans Trail." In 2016 I visited Eastern Europe from Hungary through Serbia to Bulgaria and Romania. That was a snapshot. Now I want to return to "the country that doesn't exist" . . . Kosovo.

Why I go!

1) History. It’s only been 33 years since the Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. Romania and Albania had two of the most brutal dictatorships with Ceausescu and Hoxha. I want to see how resilient they have become to have survived that brutal past. Kosovo was a region of southern Serbia populated mainly by Muslim Albanians. Tito gave it a status of autonomy from Beograd within the old Yugoslav communist bloc. But to Serbia, Kosovo is the heart of old Serbia and Kosovo itself is the site of “the field of blackbirds” where the Ottoman Empire defeated a Balkan alliance in 1389. This opened the door into Europe. This defeat is as meaningful to Serbia as the Shia celebrating their massacre by the Sunni. The phrase “Never Again” has been deeply sown and fueled Milosevic’s ultra nationalistic campaign after the “Fall” in the 90’s. A separation by Albanian muslims in Kosovo was a reminder of the Ottoman Empire's crushing victory. In Serbian, Kosovo means "blackbird."

2) Underdog. Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, but is not recognized as a sovereign nation by half the countries in the world. Even a Google search will show it as a dotted-lined region of southern Serbia, but not as an independent nation.

3) Jews. The Albanian citizens were some of the most protective defenders of Jews during WWII in Eastern Europe. Because of this history and being a small unrecognized sovereign nation, Israel is sympathetic to Kosovo’s struggle for survival and has been a strong support to Kosovo with humanitarian and material aid. Ironically, Israel could not diplomatically recognize Kosovo because that “friendship” would damage Kosovo's recognition by other Muslim countries. The relationship was like a girl friend that you can’t officially go public with because it would unleash a wrath by others and be fatal to her. Only in 2021 was this curse dispelled when Kosovo opened an embassy in Jerusalem and became the first Muslim-majority territory to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

4) Youth. 53% of Kosovo is under 25 as of 2018. Not sure how dated that is now. It’s youthful and entrepreneurial. As harsh as it sounds the only hope of transforming its tragic past is for the older generation with its memories to pass away. The scars and wounds are too deep. The same dynamic, not of average age, but of generational change could probably be said of Serbia. It's too deep.

5) Love. It’s the only place I can go and say I’m an American and they will say we love America and you. Coffee is on the house. Because Clinton and NATO saved them from genocide this Muslim nation loves the USA. If I wanted a free breakfast I could even say I love Hillary. But that’s a bridge too far. I’ll pay for breakfast and keep my soul. So In summary, Kosovo is the only place I can receive a free cup of coffee and some love for saying I’m American. That won’t happen in SF or LA or TJ or Berlin! It’s pretty simple. Go to the most complicated and troubled part of the world for some peace of mind. As an American I am so spoiled and insulated, I need to be reminded of how other people live. I need some humility. That brings us to “compassion.” I may be going to find some of mine, rather than looking for theirs.

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BlueFlame NoenDragon
BlueFlame NoenDragon
Jun 10, 2023

Your stories are always inspiring and meaningful to me! :)

I will always read them like a path of a journey or in a travel of another world.

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