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For Milwaukee UE Member—
Kosovo Refugees’ Plight
A Phone Call Away

MILWAUKEE, Wis.

Frieda Abasovski
Frieda
Abasovksi

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 Abasovski’s 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 Abasovski’s 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 don’t 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 plight.

In hoping for a resolution to the conflict, the UE member declares that as Americans, "we are not killers, we are peacemakers."

UE News - 04/99


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