At 3 a.m. Sunday, while most Utahns were asleep, transplanted Kosovars watched on satellite television and wondered what would happen to the breakaway province that had just declared independence from Serbia.
Members of the Bushis family one of at least a score of refugee families from Kosovo now living in the Salt Lake region watched events unfold together at the Salt Lake City home of parents Shaip and Mevlide Bushi. Starting at 1 a.m., the family's telephones began ringing from calls coming in from Kosovo with the news of independence.
"We're very happy," daughter Mynevere Bushi said. "But so many people have died for no reasons." When the family left Kosovo, "we had nothing."
She is excited about the prospects of Kosovars opening schools that had been closed by Serbia, and happy that "we're not under their occupation."
Majlinda Bushi, her younger sister, said, "We heard that they were going to push it through about two weeks before," referring to the Kosovo Assembly's declaration," and we just kept waiting for the thing to happen."
On Sunday," it was really exciting," she said. "We didn't sleep that night at all."
At first, the declaration seemed "scary" because people were unsure what would happen. But they saw how many of the Kosovars were celebrating and having fun, and they became less fearful, she said.
"We ended up having a barbecue the very next day and celebrating along with it."
Majlinda Bushi said independence is "something we wanted and finally we're going to be recognized as a nation." Kosovars are in favor of it "because we are different from the rest of Europe," she said. "It's not just ethnically."
"We always wanted to be able to study in our own language." The Serbs would not allow that, she added.
Serbia does not want Kosovo to be independent, but they brought us to this point, she said.
Mynevere Bushi, an ethnic Albanian who fled her native Kacanik, Kosovo, during the violence in 1999, grew emotional while talking about the family's escape. She was about 21 at the time.
"When we left it was the eighth of March, and we had to walk through the woods to the mountains, four days and four nights." The family had no bread but obtained some cheese. People were leaving their town in southern Kosovo and fleeing to Macedonia because of fears of ethnic attacks.
A neighbor was killed at the time "because he didn't leave," she said. "His wife was like paralyzed. ... He was taking care of her." She said he was shot by a sniper from a distance.
"Of course we still have tears now," she said. She recalled that when the family reached the border of Macedonia, her grandmother was very sick. The older woman died at the border.
Mynevere Bushi said the family was dirty and hungry, and three Macedonian men provided showers and bread.
Asked about the declaration, she said, "We've been waiting for it like nine years now."
Since Sunday's declaration, the United States, France, Britain, Belgium and Germany have recognized Kosovo as a sovereign country. Russia, Serbia, Spain and others have refused so far to accept Kosovo's independence. A possible reason for Spain's reluctance may be that it has been battling Basque ethnic separatists for decades, according to The Associated Press.
At a United Nations Security Council emergency meeting, Boris Tadic, president of Serbia, insisted that declaration of independence was a flagrant violation of the 1999 U.N. Resolution 1244, which he said had reaffirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, including Kosovo. The independence of Kosovo resulted from friction between the ethnic Albanian Kosovars and the Serbs who controlled the province until 1999 and still claim it as part of Serbia.
NATO officials have vowed not to allow violence in the region.
Buba Roth, formerly from Belgrade, Serbia, is hopeful peace can prevail, but worries that the move to independence could eventually spark violence and hesitant to comment because of the complexity of the situation."Whatever peaceful solution is there, I'm very happy with it," Roth explained.
"The only comment is I hope this is not going to turn into larger violence, not only in Balkans but in Europe," she said.
Fazli Drenca, a West Jordan resident who became a refugee from Skenderai, Kosovo, in 1989, exclaimed, "Oh man! There's nothing better than that (independence) in my entire life.The good thing is separation 'from those idiots,'" he said.
If he had not left, Drenca said,"they would probably capture me or kill me or put me in prison for life."
"After this act, the world will no longer be the same," he said, quoted in a U.N. summary. Tadic said many countries in the United Nations have separatist movements, and asked, "Are we all aware of the precedent that is being set and are we aware of the catastrophic consequences that it may lead to?"
The declaration came nearly nine years after NATO bombed Serbia to end what State Department Undersecretary Nicholas Burns calls "the attempted ethnic cleansing of more than 1 million Kosovar Albanian Muslims."In a briefing earlier this week, Burns also provided a nutshell description of recent events in Kosovo. He referred to the brutal war that (former Serbian President Slobodan) Milosevic fought with them, and of course, the NATO intervention in 1999 and nine years of United Nations rule since then."