Art Rascon documents Kosovo's freedom fight

December 17, 2007 9:12:03 AM PST
In Kosovo, people there are continuing to fight for independence. And a man who has close ties to Houston is leading the charge. Last week, the European union agreed by an overwhelming majority to support the province of Kosovo's break away from Serbia.

"This was the first big massacre that took place in Kosovo," said Avni Spahiu.

Spahiu has a host of painful memories.

"And because of this the entire nation rose up and started to fight," he said.

As a lifelong journalist in Pristina, Kosovo, he proved that the written word is more powerful than the sword.

"Democracy doesn't come easy does it?" we asked him.

"Of course it's a difficult path also, but we are very firm to continue walking on this road," said Spahiu.

His writings more than a decade ago helped launch the freedom movement in Kosovo to a whole new level. Serbia responded with an ethnic cleansing campaign that forced one million Kosovars from their land, killing thousands along the way.

"It was a heavy price we had to pay for all of this," he said.

So many friends and family members were killed in that conflict There were thousands of women and children killed in those initial attacks by Serbia. It is those ugly reminders that help Kosovo continue to move forward in its struggle for independence."

In 1999, the United States got involved, ending the war and for the past seven years, Kosovo has been under NATO rule.

"America saved this nation and we will be forever grateful," he said.

But what this veteran freedom fighter wants, like everyone else here, is independence for Kosovo.

"We owe it to these people who gave their lives and who sacrificed their families and everything they had so that this national could have its freedom," said Spahiu.

With this land so close to true freedom, people are already celebrating. Construction is booming. The city is bustling with activity and there's a tremendous outpouring of gratitude to Houstonians for their part in helping war refugees.

"I was there with my family and the people of Houston helped us a lot, " said Spahiu. "Not only me, but dozens of Kosovar families there."

But until that day of independence actually comes, Spahiu reflects on the tremendous sacrifice.

Today, the war ruins are badges of honor and a rallying cry for a people who have suffered from years of tyranny.

"We are resting in peace, my sons," read Spahiu from a tombstone at a Kosovar graveyard. "When our country calls on us, we will come back to life again."

A new life that includes freedom. It's what all there long for.

There are two countries among the united nations that strongly oppose independence for Kosovo -- Russia and Serbia. If independence is not granted by early next year, most political experts agree that Kosovo will declare its own independence. Some believe that may lead to war with Serbia.

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