"Yugoslav bureaucrats still try to humiliate Albanians in U.S."
By Dean Fidan
A recent visit to the Yugoslavian consulate proved to be a sad reminder of the ethnic degradation suffered by Albanians at the hands of the Yugoslavian government.
I accompanied my cousin and his family to obtain visas to visit relatives still living in Yugoslavia. My cousin is returning there with his wife (a permanent resident of the United States and a holder of a Yugoslavian passport) and two children. At the consulate, we had two languages at our disposal, Albanian or English.
Since my cousin and his wife are from a remote village, they never learned to speak Yugoslavian. However, the officials thought otherwise--that the couple were disguising their hatred of Yugoslavia by refusing to communicate in the official tongue.
Visas for my cousin and the children were processed easily. Not so for his wife. Apparently, the officials wanted all information given on her application written in Yugoslavian. To add to the confusion, the arrogant official in charge said (we later learned), What business do you have in Yugoslavia, if you dont speak Yugoslavian?
Gestures were enough to tell us the message, but containing our anger to avoid complications, we kept quiet. My cousin and his wife were embarrassed and bowed. We felt that such behavior on the part of officials was uncalled-for because Albanians were in the region long before Slavs ever discovered the Christian West, in medieval times.
Their attitude was a good example of the Yugoslav attitude toward Albanians: Step on the meek! By commenting as he did, the official was saying: Albanians who leave their lands for freedom and prosperity arent welcome back on a visit.
After the visa was eventually processed, we breathed a sigh of relief as we left, for our tempers were beyond limit.
Later, we went to a Yugoslavian travel agency and we had more of the same frustration. Although the airplane tickets couldve been processed quickly in English, a native American agent insisted on communicating with us in her broken Yugoslavian. The gaps in her sentences gave her away--even to outsiders like us! My wife is an American of German descent, and I was born in Istanbul to Albanian parents.
My cousins ordeal was typical of what weve heard others tell of difficulties with Yugoslavs. But good grief!--a native American practicing Yugoslavian on non-Yugoslavs [in the heartland of America]? We were always led to think that English, not Yugoslavian, is the international language [of choice]. Of course, we felt they were sending us a message with this behavior of theirs.
Truly, we were deeply disturbed by this experience. Thank God we are U.S. citizens where freedom and respect for all ethnics is an inalienable human right, and prejudice is punished by law.
-- Published by Chicago Sun-Times [a daily newspaper], Friday, March 3, 1989; Commentary page; Personal View section. These details [about me] were included with the article at the time: Dean Fidan is a former DePaul University graduate student and advocates U.S.-Albania relations.