For Milwaukee UE Member
Kosovo Refugees Plight
A Phone Call Away
For UE Local 1172 member Frieda Abasovksi, the horror behind the
heart-rendering scenes of refugee Kosovar Albanians seen on the TV news is only a family
phone call away.
The Everbrite worker is an ethnic Albanian from Macdeonia; her brother and
sister, still living there, in recent days have taken in refugee Kosovars.
Her family lives near the Greek border, on the other side of the
Macedonian republic from the now-troubled border with the Serbian province of Kosovo.
Still, the thunder of war planes at night over their quiet country town is scary for
Abasovskis sister and four little girls. "They are afraid Yugoslavia will pour
into Macedonia," Abasovski says.
And the grim reality of ethnic cleansing is no further away than the
Kosavar refugees under their roofs. "My brother and sister can actually see these
people, their bruises, the kids hungry, crying," the UE member reports.
According to her brother and sister, the refugees say Yugoslav military
forced them from their homes with scant notice, ransacked their homes and destroyed
personal documents marriage licenses, titles to houses and land. "They took
their identities," Abasovski says. "If they go back they will be nobody, nothing
will exist of them."
After removing the women and children from their homes, military personnel
separated the young men and either shot them on the spot or took them away. One man now
staying with Abasovskis brother faked his death and escaped; the other men he was
with were thrown into a barn and burnt, he says.
The horror continues as refugee families are separated on the trail of
exile, ending up in different camps. "Imagine being in a store and your little child
lets go of your hand and you are separated for a few minutes," the Local 1172 member
says. "They are ending up in different countries, they dont know where they are
going to wake up or where they are going to sleep."
"All the Yugoslav president wants is his power," Abasovski says.
"All these people [the Kosovars] want to do is live, to live free."
There is a great personal sadness for Abasovski, a Moslem, because of her
childhood friendship with her Serbian Christian neighbors and how "one man and his
army" have besmirched the Serbians reputation. She regrets that the United
States and her allies did not act sooner to help the Kosovar Albanians, but recognizes
that in the short-term, at least, the NATO military intervention has worsened their
In hoping for a resolution to the conflict, the UE member declares that as
Americans, "we are not killers, we are peacemakers."