Written by Malinda Just Wednesday, 05 March 2008 13:39
Two weeks ago, Kosova, an impoverished territory in Europe with a population of mainly ethnic Albanians, unilaterally declared independence from Serbia.
Currently, Serbia refuses to recognize the declaration, and the United Nations continues administration.
The declaration of independence has been long-awaited by the people of Kosova, said Matt Krebs, a former Hillsboro resident who has been living and working in Kosova, along with his family, for nearly four years.
“Since arriving here in August of 2004, the outlook of the region has been focused on independence,” Krebs said. “The mood has been a combination of looking back with much anger and pain at the conflicts of the ’90s, to looking ahead thinking, ‘Surely independence will solve all our problems and fulfill all that we need.’
“Everyone spoke of how things will change for the better as soon as independence comes.”
Krebs, wife Judy, and daughters, Landry, 9, and Anika, 4, were drawn to the post-communist region in Europe. The family works in community and agricultural development in Kosova and currently plans to remain through June 2010.
“The enormous tragedies from the conflicts in the ’90s between the Serbs (Serbians) and Albanians captured our hearts,” Krebs said. “We came hoping to develop relationships and learn from people in a culture much different than the one we come from.”
Kosova is a landlocked region and one of Europe’s poorest. More than half of its people live in poverty.
Ethnic Albanians number about 2 million—90 percent of the population. There are an estimated 100,000 Serbians remaining following a post-war exodus of non-Albanians.
While unrest remains between the ethnic Albanians and the Serbians, Krebs said the people of Kosova are deeply grateful to America due to the Clinton administration initiating the NATO airstrikes of 1999.
“More times than we can count, when we’ve met people for the first time, we’ve been greeted with tears and words of thanks,” he said. “The people insist that were it not for America, they would not be alive.”
Despite the help of foreign governments and its newly declared freedom, Krebs said Kosova has many challenges to overcome.
“It is difficult to discern how deeply the people trust this new ‘independence,’” Krebs said. “They’ve declared independence in the past only to have it squashed and deemed unacceptable.”
If Kosova’s declaration of independence is accepted, Krebs said the road ahead is “long and full of many challenges.”
“Decades of conflict and pain don’t go away overnight,” he said. “Economies don’t change overnight.”
But Krebs said it is important to remain hopeful for the region.
“We hope for young leaders to grow up with a vision for service, peace and reconciliation,” he said. “Leaders mindful of the past, but having the ability to look ahead with accountability, humility and integrity.
“We hope for improved relations with all neighboring countries in the Balkans.
“We hope for healing to come to so many that have suffered loss.”