Category Archives: Society

Suzanna Shkreli gives a voice to the voiceless with her motivation and success

The daughter of Albanian immigrants from Montenegro, Suzanna Shkreli is the embodiment of the American Dream thanks to her hard work and dedication.  After finishing law school at the age of 24, she became a lawyer in Macomb County, Michigan prosecuting homicide, drug crimes, assaults, and domestic violence. Her determination propelled her in the national limelight when she ran for the U.S. Congress in 2016.

The congressional race for Michigan’s 8th district was important, not only for Suzanna but also the community that she sought to represent in Washington.  When asked about the main points of her campaign, she said:

“I fought for Michigan’s middle class families by focusing on the issues that affected them. I wanted to help grow the economy, by supporting small businesses that would create good-paying jobs, and strengthen our middle class. I spent my childhood helping my family’s diner grow and I know that small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities.

I fought for the full development of our renewable energy sources, and sought to move us closer to full energy independence. By utilizing new technology and reconfiguring our energy sources, we can create new good jobs and serve as an example on combating climate change without sacrificing economic growth.

Another major issue that was foundational to my platform was fighting to build a strong public education system that will provide students with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century global economy. Improving schools and ensuring the best education possible for Michigan families starts with investing in our schools from pre-kindergarten to high school graduation and beyond. Access to quality educational opportunities is key, but affordability issues must also be addressed to ensure every child in Michigan can succeed. As a product of Michigan’s public schools and universities, I believes we must make college and higher education more affordable for everyone who wants to earn a college degree.

I fought for women. In Congress, I wanted to vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which protects domestic abuse survivors. I wanted to pass legislation like the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which further prevents discrimination in the workplace. Most importantly, I believe women are able to make their own health care decisions and am dedicated to fighting back against politicians who want to outlaw a woman’s right to choose.

Suzanna has since returned to her job to give a voice to the defenseless by prosecuting crimes against children in the Child Protection Unit. When asked about her job, she says this with full confidence: It is a difficult job and heavy on my heart, but I find a great sense of fulfilment in being able to advocate for children in the courtroom. I am in a position to defend the defenseless, to give a voice to those who might not otherwise have it, and to give those children a piece of mind that their perpetrator won’t be able to hurt them again. That work has been the honor of my life.”

Suzanna is thankful for her parents who worked hard to ensure that their children could pursue in a high-quality education that would open doors to a bright future. As an Albanian-American, she is conscious and proud of her heritage.  Her background shaped her political identity from an early age. As a child, she watched President Clinton’s statement and commitment to end the ethnic cleansing and humanitarian crisis in Kosovo. This solidified in her the values and principles of what it means to be American – that a democratic, free and independent nation would stand to protect those in need.  

During her congressional campaign, Suzanna was endorsed by President Obama, who understood and appreciated the history of friendship between Albanians and Americans. She also introduced President Clinton at a rally in Michigan during Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.  

Many young Albanians, especially girls, reached out to Suzanna to tell her the positive impact she had made on their lives by emboldening them to fight for what they believe in.  “Losing is hard, but moments like that fill me with pride and remind me of how vital it is to keep going,” she said. “The fight for justice and a better tomorrow is an honorable fight, and an achievable reality no matter where you live, and that we owe it to one another to pursue it together.”

Albanian Diaspora in America

Suzanna believes that the role of the diaspora in America and abroad should be to create organizational support for Albanians across the world to advance in all areas of life such as growing businesses or running for public office.

“The diaspora should be unified as first and foremost, we are all Albanians, regardless whether we are originally Malesia Madhe, Macedonia, Albania, or Kosovo,” she said.

She remembers how the diaspora came together to help during the war in Kosovo and calls for similar mobilizations for other causes. “The diaspora has not coalesced around a cause of that magnitude since, and it is time to do so again. There are many causes for Albanians to fight for, whether it be integration into the EU or access to medical treatment in Albanian lands. These issues need the attention and dedication of the diaspora, and we cannot wait until there is a tragedy to spring into action. There is a new and vibrant generation that is eager for change and opportunity, and with the commitment of the diaspora, a better tomorrow exists for Albanians worldwide.”

She suggests that Albanians should strengthen their own networks by providing opportunities to the younger generation, their communities and abroad. For example, business owners can provide the chance for young Albanians to work at their facilities and have them learn their trade and hone their skills.

It is evident that Suzanna is committed to contributing to making the world a better place. She has the will to fight for what is right and the fire to carry on.

As they continued to develop their love for nature, five young men from Kosovo recently joined forces and took their passion to another level.

Arian, Taulant, Leorent, Adi, and Kushtrim are the founders of Supercampers—a group that organizes camping and hiking trips around Kosovo. Driven by their love of nature, about five years ago, these young men started exploring the natural beauty of Kosovo’s ancient mountains. “We have mainly been inspired by the endless potential that Kosovo’s nature has to offer and by the many experiences each of us has had while travelling for work to Europe and the US”, say the founders. Each of them were able to draw lessons from the way other countries have embraced and incorporated nature in their respective cultures. Supercampers want to apply those lessons towards creating a similar culture in Kosovo.

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The idea to create something like Supercampers has been brewing for a long time, according to them. Seeing how such initiatives are rare in Kosovo, they decided that showcasing Kosovo’s beauty is the best way to give back to the country.

During the past five years, the founders have been able to hone their skills and have come across numerous beautiful and interesting places in the country. As a result, Supercampers now organize hikes and camping trips in many different locations in Kosovo. During each trip, their goal is to be able to discover something new and then to share it with others. Some of the most popular spots remain Bjeshket e Nemuna (Rugova Mountains) and Sharri Mountains. In addition, Supercampers have also started working on branching out and organizing trips to the neighboring countries, such as Albania, Montenegro, and Macedonia.

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Considering that it is in the initial stages, Supercampers’ current plans include mostly weekend camping and hiking trips. However, the founders hope to extend the length of the trips during summertime. During the summer months, Kosovo becomes a popular tourist destination for thousands of Kosovar Albanians who live abroad. Supercampers want to be able to help acquaint people with what Kosova has to offer in addition to the vibrant urban atmosphere.

Finally, Supercampers understands that proper usage of social media and technology can be very beneficial. They have embraced the social media world to the fullest as the most convenient and effective way to reach their targeted audience. “By taking advantage of technology and modern media, we think that visually documenting our activities will help us reach the goal that we have set for ourselves—promoting Kosovo and its beauty and showing the world that we are capable of organizing and creating beautiful things.”

A quick look at their Instagram feed and their Facebook page will give you the urge to pack up your bags and leave on the first possible flight.

In the summer of 2015, the University of Konstanz and the University of Prishtina collaborated to run a biological summer school, held in Junik. While running the school, the director, Dr. Schmitz along with eight biology students from the University of Konstanz, two biology students from the University of Prishtina and a taxidermist of thee natural-history museum of Stuttgart talked about a potential museum. It was Liridon Hoxha’s idea to open a specialized museum for natural history.

20150808_120054Liridon Hoxha, a biology student at the the University of Konstanz explained for Kosovo Diaspora the main idea for having such a museum. Hoxha who is completing his MSc in Konstanz, Germany is originally from Kosovo. He is an active member of many student groups, such as Green, student’s parliament, Etudes Sans Frontiéres. While attending meetings at Etudes Sans Frontiers, he heard about projects in countries such as Congo, Afghanistan, and Chechenia all of which face numerous challenges. This motivated him to do something for Kosovo.

Hoxha then started a group called ‘Work group Kosovo’, with some of his friends. They brainstormed about what possible projects they could do for making studying in Kosovo possible and in the same time better. Having a background in Biology, Hoxha explained that he always wanted to raise people’s awareness about nature and how they could protect it.

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After the excursion of four universities located in different cities of Kosovo (Prishtina, Peja, Gjakova and Prizren), representatives of the Municipality of Junik, environmental organizations and the Agency for Environmental Protection of Kosovo (KEPA), are interested in cooperation, they have expressed interest and would like to implement this project together with the University of Konstanz. The aim of this ambitious project is to strengthen education about the environment in Kosovo, and improve the scientific data on the flora and fauna. They also hope to boost tourism and the local economy through this project.

It is worth mentioning that during the team’s trip to Junik Mountains, students came across rare species or habitats, which have disappeared from other European countries. For example, they found Lanius senator, a bird type that has abandoned the territories of European fauna long ago.

Global Albanians Foundation

The Massachusetts Albanian American Society (MAASBESA) and the Albanian American Women’s Organization – Motrat Qiriazi (AAWO) announced their partnership to develop the Global Albanians Foundation (GAF) financed by Albanians living abroad and others who wish to support not-for-profit organizations in Albania, Kosova, Macedonia, and Montenegro.

According to the organizers, the not for profit sector receives less and less support from the international donor community as the countries in Southeastern Europe develop. However, there is still a great need for financial and professional support in the not-for-profit sector so that pressing social and economic development needs can be addressed in the future in a sustainable manner. Without the support of Albanians living abroad, it will be very difficult to meet the needs of the not-for -profit sector and civil society in Albania, Kosova, Macedonia, and Montenegro.

They propose that creating a Foundation that initially focuses on giving small grants targeting many different not-for-profit organizations throughout the countries in Southeastern Europe where Albanians live is the best way to reach and assist a wide and diverse group of people and organizations.

Work Program: The work will be carried out in three phases over several years with only Phase 1 below being considered for financing at this time. Phases 2-3 are presented here to give an idea as to a possible long-term vision.

Phase 1: August 2015-December 2015 — $10,000 for 10 grants of $1000 each

Phase 2: January 2016-December 2017 – same as phase 1 on larger scale

Phase 3: January 2018 and Beyond – Create Global Albanians Foundation

During Phases 2 and 3, larger grants than $1,000 would be considered, of course, depending on the amount of money raised. In addition, they would seek grants and financing from private and corporate foundations, Albanian and non-Albanian private individuals and businesses, and other organizations that might want to use the GAF as a conduit for philanthropic and charitable activities in Southeastern Europe.

A Board of Directors consisting of five people will oversee the work. The Board of Directors will initially include two active members from each of our organizations plus one other person from outside of our two organizations.

For more please click HERE 

Football Helped Me Present a Different Side of Albanians to Sweden

Sweden is a rather small country in Scandinavia where more than 9 million people reside. When you mention Sweden to the non-Swedes, they usually ask whether polar bears walk around the Swedish cities on a daily basis. However, the matter of fact is that you have greater chances in meeting an Albanian football player in the Swedish League than getting introduced to a polar bear.

Approximately 40 000 Albanians live in Sweden, leading one to at times forget that one is in Sweden since there is an Albanian around every corner. Unfortunately, Albanians in general have a bad reputation in Sweden. On numerous occasions people refer to me as a Swede just because I am not a troublemaker but rather someone who often raises my voice and reminds everyone that being Albanian does not mean that you come from a criminal family. Of course, do not misunderstand me – I love Sweden. I have been living in this country for more than 20 years. My roots, however, are red and black. Fed up by the negative perceptions, I always wanted to help give Albanians a better image. I never knew how to go about this, however, until an idea came upon me in 2010.

It all began in June 2009, when I was 18 and when I got interested in watching football, after seeing the U21 Euro Cup that hosted by Sweden. Emir Bajrami and Labinot Harbuzi were among the players who represented Sweden, leaving me shocked and wondering when Albanians learned to play football. The experience inspired me to follow other events and the Swedish League (Allsvenskan). I was surprised by the number of Albanians who played in the first league and their presence in the National Team. But, when I spoke of this to my friends, only a few had heard of these Albanian talented young people.

Since I was new to the world of football, I had to work hard to learn everything there is to know about this wonderful game. I stayed up late at night in the library, reading about football and memorizing entire career paths of several Albanian football players, sharing the information with people who had negative perceptions of Albanians. “Did you know that Besart Berisha scored the fastest hat-trick ever (6 minutes) in Australia’s A-League?” was one of my favorite phrases. Since I wanted to have an impact on many other people out there with a negative image of Albanians I began a blog a year after the above mentioned events – Albankollen.

Albankollen means “keeping track of the Albanians” in Swedish. I began by writing a few things I knew but the blog gradually grew and I gained followers from around the whole country. My work was even recognized by Kosovo’s head coach, Albert Bunjaki himself! The former Örebro SK and Kalmar FF assistant coach was impressed by me and called me to help him with the team when Kosovo played its first official friendly game.

Kosovo welcomed Haiti to the field as its first contenders when the home team announced the former Swedish NT assistant coach Tord Grip as Kosovo’s assistant coach. This caught media’s attention even more. However, he was not the only familiar face in the Swedish newspapers.

Kosovo’s NT was led by Anel Rashkaj, a former Halmstads BK player who currently plays in the Norwegian Sandnes Ulf. Lined up alongside him were Ardian Gashi and Loret Sadiku, both playing for Helsigborgs IF at the time. Another Swedish player present was the striker Shpetim Hasani, a player of Örebro SK. The game against Haiti ended in a draw (0-0) and several of the Scandinavian teams welcomed back their players during the spring of 2014.

This was a great event and it helped me a lot in my mission of introducing several players and young talents to Sweden. Apart from the ones I mentioned above, the current Malmö FF player Agon Mehmeti and his former teammate Dardan Rexhepi are both Albanian. In addition, Etrit Berisha, the first goalkeeper of Albania’s National Team, managed to make his way to the Swedish All Start Team last season but left the country to play for Kalmar FF in Lazio shortly before the season ended with Besnik Rustemaj, Liridon Leci and Alban Dragusha accompanying him. Besides these, Valdet Rama played in Örebro SK a few years ago together with Ilir Berisha, Kushtrim Lushtaku and Shpetim Hasani while the 22-year-old Dardan Mustafa in Gefle scored his debut goal in the Swedish League this year. However, he was not the only one to do so. Even Elfsborg’s youngster Arber Zeneli, born in 1995, accomplished the same this season.

The number of Albanians playing football in Sweden is even greater, of course. They helped me achieve my goal of presenting a different image of Albanians to Sweden in these past years. I recently overheard two people on the bus talking about my blog. One of them commented on the number of talented people around the world while the other responded that he has heard about them through my blog – Albankollen. Their conversation made me walk out of the bus with a huge smile on my face my heart full of joy. This inspired me to make a change – I shut down Albankollen last month and began a new era – welcome to the Albanian Eagle Football!

Vienna Focus Group comlpeted successfully

Virtual Registration of Diaspora initiative has successfully completed the discussion forum. Held at the premises of the Kosovar Embassy in Vienna, the event gathered representatives of the departments of Kosovo, specifically the Ministry of the Diaspora, representatives of various Albanian organizations in Austria and numerous members from the civil society. The forum once again highlighted the importance of meeting directly with citizens and exchange of information with related institutions.2

The discussion form brought together participants from Kosovo,Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania. A question and answer session with the  Secretary of the Ministry of Diaspora, Mentor Borovci, Director of Media Department of the Ministry of Diaspora Mr. Lorik Pustina and the Consul of Kosovo in Austria, Mr. Imer Ladrovci.1

Among many question, a rather important one was raised by Mr. Abdullah Abdullahi from Prizren, who asked whether Albanians who have Austrian citizenship have the right to register and proposed that the registration process intensify during the summer months. Representatives of the Ministry of Diaspora explained that this registration will not cause legal trouble to anyone and does not create any legal complication with dual citizenship, thus it encourages diaspora community members of every legal standing to register.

Mr. Hamez Morina from the ESIKS organizations in Vienna is seeking to promote the Diaspora Registration by ease of access to public services or  reward based program. Another efficient method highlighted by Mr. Morina has been contacting members of the diaspora previously engaged in projects such as “Brain Gain”.

The discussion form has been characterized also by numerous questions regarding Albanians from Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania.  Mr. Sabri Osmani from the city of Ulqin demanded that the registry is more inclusive, alongside Mr. Osmani, a number of people demanded that the Kosovar embassy contact the Macedonian and Montenegrin counterparts in order to expand the reach of the registry.3

Empowered Kosovar in Germany: Elona Kastrati’s Feminist Protest

Elona Kastrati made headlines in Karlsruhe, Germany, with her awareness campaign on gender equality. She chose “International Women’s Day” to spread her word on sanitary pads, which she put on the main road signs with provocative writing superimposed on the pads.

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The twenty year-old Kosovar shares her thoughts on the campaign in an exclusive interview for KosovoDiaspora.

KD: What made you do it?

EK: I was thinking about how menstruation is a taboo theme in our world.

KD: Could you very shortly tell us about the activity and how it started?

EK: I stuck feminist quotes for GENDER equality on menstruation pads i was with my sister Nora in my city and so we started

KD: Was the reaction all positive, or, were there critiques of your activity?

EK: Of course there were critiques but mostly good ones! I dont care about bad ones because its good that poeple at least talk about it

KD: Is there anything brewing in the near future?

EK: Yeah some little street art things and a speech in TEDxPrishtinaWomen

You can follow Elona on instagram.Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 9.48.16 PMElonaK