No sooner did I post a blog about a Kosovo Albanian in Edmonton, who was still mythologizing his war in Kosovo, than we got an even thicker-layered sob story about Kosovo Albanians in Nebraska.

As Bill Dorich titled his email about this one, “Get out your handkerchief…”

A new American family: After fleeing Kosovo, at home in Nebraska
(Lincoln Journal Star, By Peter Salter, Dec. 25)

They didn’t know what to make of the 200 strangers offering them applause, balloons and teddy bears when they stepped off the TWA flight 14 years ago.

But they had already seen so much. They had hidden and huddled together in dark basements. They were marched at gunpoint through the streets of their own city. They were loaded into train cars and hauled, with other Albanians, out of Kosovo. Like animals.

They lived in a field, sleeping in the mud. They lived in a camp…That changed in late May 1999, when they learned the name of their destination.

Nebraska? They had never heard of such a place. An airman unfolded a map of America and put his finger in the center.

And a few days later, Bahtije Govori and her sons, daughters, daughters-in-law, grandchildren — the same 14 who shared their big home in Kosovo’s capital…landed in Lincoln.

Lincoln was waiting. It had read about the brutality and genocide and ethnic cleansing of Albanians in the late 1990s. Men rounded up and slaughtered, buried and burned in mass graves. Families driven from their homes.

“We had a really happy childhood,” said Tina, now 32. “It was a good life. I had happy memories until the war.”

There it is, again. Happy memories. Until the war. The war that Albanians insisted on, and persisted in, for decades. So, living in Belgrade-run Yugoslavia wasn’t, after all, bad for Albanians, the most subsidized ethnic minority in Yugoslavia.

The change, the tension, came gradually.

The Serbs closed her public school after she finished the fourth grade, so students met with volunteer teachers in a neighbor’s unoccupied home.

There’s that familiar inversion of the Albanian boycott of public institutions. In addition to the recent handling of this here, Bill Dorich wrote to writer Peter Salter the following:

…Before this war the Serbian government provided schools in Kosovo that taught in both Albanian and Serbian. There were 7 Albanian radio stations and a dozen Albanian newspapers in Kosovo. Ms. Govori can pretend that Albanians were persecuted by the Serbs but the fact that the Tito government provided a “form of welfare” unheard of in any communist country speaks volumes about how Albanians were treated. I remind [you] that when the war broke out, more than 90,000 Albanians fled to Belgrade…into the arms of their Serbian enemies?

When Tito granted “autonomy” illegally to the Kosovo Albanians from 1978-1989, Albanian authorities fired every Serbian teacher, judge, doctor, policemen and government official. Albanian authorities banned the Cyrillic alphabet and the Serbian language used by the Serbs since the 8th century. Over 2 million books were burned along with priceless religious manuscripts. Two major Serbian libraries, and two Serbian monasteries went up in smoke. Serbian girls and Serbian nuns were raped and hundreds of Serbian farms were burned in an Albanian effort that forced over 100,000 Serbs to leave Kosovo. This was ten years prior to the current war in 1999.

Back to Mr. Salter’s Christmas-day hack job, 14 years debunked:

…The massacres started in 1998. Led by Slobodan Milosevic, Yugoslav soldiers and Serbian forces were hitting hard, targeting ethnic Albanians.

By early 1999, even Pristina didn’t feel safe. Especially at night. Their home didn’t have a basement, so they’d all gather in a cousin’s house…

That night, they looked out that window and saw the officers marching their way, dressed in black, like a SWAT team.

“We were just running, a bunch of people. Then some people we didn’t even know, they said, ‘Come in here.’ So we went.”

The soldiers came later. A knock on the door, and they were marching through their city, guns pointed at them. They seemed to walk through the day, Tina remembers, more Albanians joining them all the time.

“Eventually, everybody marched together in the main street. We didn’t know where we were going. They just told us to walk.”

The guns led them to a street blocked by tanks, turrets pointed their way.

“This is it,” Hateme said to Tina. “They’re going to shoot us all here.”

They didn’t.

How about that? Lucky thing those gun-pointers weren’t the Albanians’ KLA heroes. Or the family wouldn’t have lived to tell the tale.

They eventually loaded them into a train car, the 14 of them sharing a small cabin. No water, no fresh air, no answers…

“The train would start going and then it would stop. Every time it would stop, you wouldn’t know what to expect.”

Then they were walking again….They ended up in the borderland between Kosovo and Macedonia. They had nothing.

People were dying. Old people, children, who couldn’t hold on long enough for relief supplies — food and blankets — to fall from the sky.

The Govoris made it to the tents of the refugee camp in Macedonia…They told humanitarian workers they wished to go to Canada or Germany, where they had family.

But one day, Fahri found their names on a list, Tina said.

America.

We insist!

…In Lincoln, Curt Krueger was busy. The Catholic Social Services resettlement staffer had learned a big family was waiting at Fort Dix in New Jersey for their new home to be ready.

Fort Dix. That military base that four Albanians wanted to shoot up.

The story the world had been watching — the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo — was about to hit home.

“It was a big thing nationally,” Krueger remembered. “’60 Minutes’ did a story on the ethnic cleansing and it was on the covers of Time and Newsweek. There were stories in the newspaper.”

After a scramble to find and furnish homes, volunteers and reporters gathered at the airport on June 2, 1999.

But they hated their first house, tucked behind a U-Stop at 27th and E, old and dirty….And worse, after surviving so much together, they were split among three rentals: Bahtije and her single children in the house; a son and his family a few blocks to the south; a daughter-in-law and her kids miles away.

“We were all heartbroken when we moved here,” Tina said. “We didn’t know anything and we were all separated.”

Know-nothing Americans. Don’t they understand that Albanians live at least 12 to a house? Which in American-living terms translates into the bare necessity of a mansion.

… “I remember all of a sudden we were taken to this really, really horrible house,” Lena said. “Everything was cracking. We thought it was terrible. And we were depressed; we thought we were going to be stuck in that house.”

If they thought that house was bad, I’ve got a yellow one I can sell them.

So many years later, Georgia Stevens wants to apologize. The resettlement volunteer has long been bothered by their early splitting of the Govori family.

That bitch!

“Oh, my goodness. We put them in three apartments. And they were so far away from each other. I have regretted that for a long time. We were so naïve.”

No apology needed. Bahtije and her children found a better home, closer to their brother’s. And Tina has warm memories of Georgia Stevens. When Tina and her younger brother, Ramush, were given bikes, Georgia followed them in her car all the way down D Street to their English lessons at Park Middle School. Making sure they knew the way.

They celebrate Thanksgiving now. They go all out: turkey, potatoes, beans, stuffing. They’re grateful. […]

The Dorich letter to Mr. Salter adds:

…This article reveals a disgusting truth…14 years after 78 days of bombing and $70 billion in damage to Serbia, journalists…still have a knee-jerk reaction of blaming the Serbs. Not since Hitler has “Collective Guilt” been used so successfully against the Serbian Christians in a Muslim dominated Kosovo.

Today, there are 1.2 million Serbian refugees…this represents twice the combined number of Croatian, Bosnian Muslim and Kosovo Albanian refugees, so it is rather clear who was the most skilled at “ethnic cleansing.” [Mr. Salter] should be ashamed of such ruthless journalism meant to pull at heartstrings while camouflaging the real human rights violations in Kosovo against tens of thousands of Serbian, Roma Gypsies and [other] non-Albanian minorities that exceed 250,000 victims.

In the reply which Mr. Salter was decent enough to write to Mr. Dorich, he wrote:

Mr. Dorich –

I appreciate the letter, and the additional context.

This was a story about one family starting over in Lincoln, Nebraska. I did not intend to advocate, offend, sympathize or gloss over anything. I included their backstory about leaving Kosovo so I could show our paper’s readers what that family remembered going through before they landed here. Again, I was telling just one family’s story – not the story of all Albanians or all Serbians or all the atrocities.

Thanks again for your letter.

Peter Salter

Since Mr. Salter doesn’t think he took any sides, anyone who can succinctly explain to him how his article, like a million others like it, was a bit more damaging and insidious than “just one family’s story,” can email him at psalter@journalstar.com.

Never mind that it was a million of these uncorroborated one-sided tales in 1998-99 that got us on board a jihad in the first place.

******UPDATE******
Oh never mind. I emailed him myself. With the following letter:

Dear Mr. Salter,
…Allow me to explain what was wrong and unfair about your article, which did all of the above: advocated, offended, sympathized, and glossed over. I’ll briefly take you through just the earlier paragraphs of your own article, complete with thickly-laid accentuation, for dramatic effect:

Lincoln was waiting. It had read about the brutality and genocide and ethnic cleansing of Albanians in the late 1990s. Men rounded up and slaughtered, buried and burned in mass graves. Families driven from their homes.

Here you’re recycling pre-war claims and labels which — by the end of 1999 — had been shown to not be based in any fact. Publics from the UK to Germany demanded an accounting from officials such as Robin Cook and Joschka Fischer as to why their countries were dragged into a war on premises of ethnic cleansing and genocide that used grossly inflated numbers. No one ever got an answer. And so, to this day — despite Daniel Pearl’s and others’ findings in the fall of ‘99 that the Yugoslav Army was centering its operations on KLA towns — we’re treated ad nauseum to a fresh round of recycled obsolescence. And no one corrects anyone. Albanians, meanwhile, are all too happy to perpetuate the original perception for gullible Westerners. They’ve even come to believe it themselves, which is why they seem so in earnest when talking about it.

While much trumpeted mass graves like the Trepca zinc mine turned up empty, and roundups like the “stadium concentration camp” didn’t exist, if you want to talk about burnings and mass graves, look up the town of Klecka, where 22 Serbs were killed and burned.

In addition to every newspaper running the story of Kosovo not being ethnic cleansing, much less genocide or even intended genocide, the proceedings at The Hague court reluctantly showed the same. That’s why Bosnia and Croatia indictments against Milosevic were tacked onto the Kosovo indictment. Because there was otherwise nothing there. Milosevic was flushing out KLA. Defense witnesses including Serbs and Albanians testified how everyone was told to stay in their homes or, when too dangerous, to leave but come back after the crossfire was over. Sometimes that latter option was executed indelicately, which is where we got scenes of Albanians being “marched at gunpoint”:

They had hidden and huddled together in dark basements. They were marched at gunpoint through the streets of their own city. They were loaded into train cars and hauled, with other Albanians, out of Kosovo. Like animals. They lived in a field, sleeping in the mud. They lived in a camp…

Considering that the vast majority of refugees had been ordered to leave by the KLA (for the benefit of Western cameras), your pointing the finger at the disproportionately fewer cases of Serb troops doing the marching of Albanians (and for less nefarious purposes) is a distortion.

Ah but you were just faithfully repeating what the family told you. That’s pretty much how we got into the war in the first place. This was the war notorious for “information” being transmitted directly — directly — from Albanian lips to reporters’ notebooks to newspapers. With none of the usual story-vetting processes interfering. I see the tradition continues.

…The Serbs closed her public school after she finished the fourth grade, so students met with volunteer teachers in a neighbor’s unoccupied home.

Naturally, you didn’t check out whether this really was the case, or whether there might not have been an organized Albanian boycott of Yugoslav public institutions, the way separatist movements usually start.

Blood was starting to spill onto other parts of the country, but it was scattered, isolated.

“Country,” Mr. Salter? Province.

The massacres started in 1998. Led by Slobodan Milosevic, Yugoslav soldiers and Serbian forces were hitting hard, targeting ethnic Albanians.

There weren’t “massacres” of Albanians by Serbs, certainly not any that were officially directed. The army and police were ordered to protect civilians. That’s why your favorite Albanian family made it out alive. This was all demonstrated at the international court. And it’s why the staged massacre in the town of Racak was needed.

There were isolated war crimes, mostly by irregulars but a few by actual soldiers or police, and the culprits were prosecuted by Yugoslavia itself. Again, your “targeting ethnic Albanians” was in reality the army and police targeting KLA rebels and their stronghold villages, as confirmed in after-the-fact reporting by WSJ’s Daniel Pearl and others.

And this was the moment they fled their old world, their longtime home — photos in their backpacks, baby nieces in their arms. This is the story they carried, what Lincoln couldn’t see and couldn’t know….They joined cousins and neighbors, cutting through side streets and backyards.. They eventually loaded them into a train car, the 14 of them sharing a small cabin. No water, no fresh air, no answers. For Tina, that was the scariest stretch of their journey… Then they were walking again, this time between the rails because the land along the tracks was peppered with mines. They ended up in the borderland between Kosovo and Macedonia. They had nothing…People were dying. Old people, children, who couldn’t hold on long enough for relief supplies — food and blankets — to fall from the sky.

In touches like these the implication is that this was all drummed up to be done to Albanians, rather than a conscious path and sacrifice that Albanian themselves chose, motivated by nationalism, in order to acquire the Kosovo appendage of their Greater Albania. (Or are you still not familiar with that quickly unfolding endgame?)

She remembers a man insisting on returning home. They saw his body in the street when the sun came up; he had been shot.

You would have readers believe that the man could only have been killed by Serbs. Considering that he was trying to return home, against KLA orders, there was at least as likely a chance he was killed—as promised–by KLA, who were watching everyone in a way that would make the KGB blush. It was a threat backed up by NATO bombs, which targeted Albanian areas that weren’t emptying out, and refugees heading back home. The cases of such KLA-inflicted punishments — especially punishments of Albanian “collaborators” such as government workers, plus Albanians who were friends with or married to Serbs — being labeled as “Serbs did it” are too many to count, and were an integral part of padding atrocity numbers.

There’s an act in Las Vegas now that goes by the name Recycled Percussion. That’s what your article was like: recycled percussion. And I’ve got a 14-year headache from it.