On Saturday, October 13 I arrived in Kosovo for a week of work with members of the US Embassy as this week has been designated as national crime victim’s rights week. It will be an exciting week and as guest of the US, I appreciate the fact that I have been treated so courteously.
It is Sunday evening (830 pm in lovely downtown Prishtina. Just caught up on the USA news on TV watching BBC. I read a lot about the history of Kosovo and the civil wars in this region since just about the beginning of time. The population is 92% Albanian (mostly Muslim) with about 4% Serb and then a mixture of Turks, Bosnians, Romas (also referred to as gypsies), Kosovo has been an independent country since 2008, however, it is not fully recognized as such by the United Nations because of ongoing world politics. But it will – soon. . There is still a great deal of tension between the Albanians and the Serbs....as there has been for centuries. Last night I could hear the Muslims chanting their prayers but for the most part the people do not devoutly practice the traditions of their faith.
Last evening, I went to dinner with my embassy contact person (Michelle) and her husband Constintino (Tino) and their 3 year old son (Costos). We had a great meal. I am not sure what it was but it was interesting. The coffee came in a tiny cup and was very strong. They are a delightful and beautiful family. Michelle and Tino are both former county prosecutors.....Michelle in Hudson and Tino in Essex and the US Attorneys office. He put his career on hold so they could experience this job for Michelle. She is from Sussex County and was in KittatinnyHigh School in 1989 and she told me she was strongly impacted by the death of my son Tony. Needless to say, it is like we have known each other for a long time.
Breakfast today was interesting. A bunch of interesting breads and sweet rolls (I passed because I am still cutting carbs) along with a ham and some cheeses plus some granola. The coffee is very strong coffee...makes my heart pound. The people here are so sweet and considerate. It was self serve and although I was told that most people do not tip, I gave him 2 Euros which made him very happy. The annual income averages around 4500 Euros a year. The people are warm and friendly and they love Americans. There is a statute of Bill Clinton and one of George Bush. Near the Clinton statue is a store called HILLARY....named for her when she visited to see the statue.
I went to the Serbian section outside the city this afternoon. The poverty and effects of the past bombing are very evident. I visited a Christian Orthodox monastery in the Serbian section that was built in the 14th century. The first person I encountered was a boy (around 8 yrs old) who was begging for money. This was very difficult. He was scruffy and very sad. When I left the monastery, I encountered an elderly lady with just 1 tooth in her mouth who was handing out candy and also begging for money. While very sad there was still a great deal pride about her. When we later saw her again as our car passed her by, she waived vigorously with both arms and blew us kisses.
I also visited the Mother Theresa statue in Prishtina. She was Albanian. It is somewhat ironic that this statue of a Catholic sits in the middle of this predominately Muslim city.
My itinerary for each day is pretty full and I start tomorrow at 8am. I am excited. I have a lot of information on victim’s rights in Kosovo, so I have been reading a great deal about the history and related victims rights issues.
Jet lagging a bit.....so the body is still slightly confused about the time.
Richard Pompelio, Esq. is a member of the law firm of DiFrancesco Bateman, Warren, N.J,. and he also serves as the Executive Director of the New Jersey Crime Victims’ Law Center in Parsippany, N.J. He can be reached at 973-903-9848 and firstname.lastname@example.org.