Monthly Archives: July 2013

Hello Kosovo, Hello Iowa! Embracing our connection people-to-people

Opinion piece by Kayley Grant

The Kosovo-Iowa partnership should be a proud collaboration for both citizens of Kosovo and the denizens of Iowa. Given Kosovo’s short lifespan as an independent country, it is remarkable to see such a small nation establish links across trans-continental borders.

To understand the monumental leap Iowa has made, one first has to understand a little about the state of Iowa itself. Iowa is not a state teaming with diversity. The most trans-continental we Iowans get on any given night, is going to the local Mexican, Chinese, or Italian restaurant. Iowa’s primary method of economic income is agriculture. This is everything from food crops, specifically corn and soy beans, to selling tractors and tractor parts. The average high school student would not be able to point out Kosovo on a map, let alone be knowledgeable of the partnership just formed. I, myself, a fairly well-read and informed individual was notified from a friend, who is the only Kosovar I know. Iowa is not the birth place of culture. It is a place of cornfields, soy beans, and farmers. This is why I was surprised and little proud to learn of Iowa’s partnership with Kosovo

My first introduction to Kosovo was through a good friend. I remember asking her where she was from and she said with great pride “Kosovo”. I just nodded my head like I knew what she was talking about, but in reality I hadn’t even heard of Kosovo. Having never heard of the country called Kosovo, that night, when I got home from school, I researched a little about it. I learned that Kosovars had just recently declared independence from Serbia. I live in a state that is in a free, independent country, something that I took and still occasionally take for granted. I cannot imagine living in a place that is not already free, nor can I conceive being alive to witness my own nation’s birth.

What began as a military partnership has developed into something much more. Kosovo, but also Iowa, must be vigilant however, and continue to further pursue other ways to partner outside of the realm of agriculture. There is so much more that we can learn from each other. I stress the words “each other” because in order for this partnership to be fruitful, it can not be one sided. Iowa has as much to learn from Kosovo as Kosovo does from Iowa. The first step in any partnership is education. We must continually educate each other for the benefit of both of our existences. Iowa and Kosovo must keep the channels of communication open, so as to ensure that both parties are able to take full advantage of this partnership.

The greatest way to learn is to experience something first hand. If Iowans, specifically students, had the opportunity to see Kosovo , it could be the start of something beautiful. Fewer people have greater drive and motivation than that of students and as Iowa is one of the leading states in education in the nation, it is fitting that Kosovars educate our students in their ways and customs. Iowa students should be exposed to something outside their “comfort zone”. While the current arrangement is a good beginning, it is the future generations of Iowans and Kosovars that will continue this partnership. How can one understand the other if we are never given the opportunity to observe?

Bravo Kosovo for reaching outside your borders, and kudos to Iowa for striving for diversity. Look forward to our continuing partnership.

Kayley Grant is a graduate of Wartburg College, where she studied Biology, Political Science, and Spanish. She will be a first year law student at Drake Law School in Des Moines, Iowa. She is currently working as a legal assistant at Klatt Law Offices, P.C.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect Kosovo Diaspora’s editorial policy.

Aida Bytyçi Telegrafi strives to unlock the mysteries of the human genome

Aida Bytyçi Telegrafi is a certified genetic counselor at the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. She was among the first Kosovar students to attend Graceland University in Iowa through a scholarship program. Aida received her BA degree in Pre-Medicine with minors in Psychology and Chemistry. We talked with Aida about her memories from Iowa, her work, and plans for the future.

Aida recalls that her first impression of Iowa was the flatness of the state; yet, that made for some beautiful sunsets and stargazing at night. While studying at Graceland, Aida played tennis in the varsity team and was part of the honors program. She says that the warmth and hospitality of Iowans made it easy to cope with homesickness. Years after graduation, Aida is still in touch with friends she made in Iowa.

As part of the quest to advance her professional interest in medical genetics, Aida received a Masters degree in Human Genetics from Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Currently, Aida is a genetic counselor at Johns Hopkins University’s Institute of Genetic Medicine and works with children and adults who have a variety of different genetic conditions. She works as part of the healthcare team that helps diagnose patients and is involved in sending different genetic tests to achieve this. She provides support and information to patients and their families on the inheritance and management of genetic disorders. In addition to providing clinical care she is also involved in many different research projects. To learn more about her work, see below Aida’s talk (in Albanian) at TEDxPrishtina.

Aida has also been seeking funding to launch educational projects about genetics in Kosovo. She is excited about the recent partnership between Iowa and Kosovo and future cooperation in education, healthcare, and other areas.

Italian club AS Roma signs a contract with 14 year old Lirim Kastrati

When Lirim Kastrati was born in 1999 in Malisheva, during the Kosovo War, his parents did not realize that he would be signing a contract with one of the most famous football clubs in Italy fourteen years later. Earlier this week, Italian media sources revealed that AS Roma had signed the teen, currently a player for the Padova Club, San Paolo. Lirim is a versatile central defender that occasionally duals as a midfielder.

Former Roma player, Bruno Conti, has arranged this deal. Club director of youth categories, Conti gave Lirim a tryout in Trigoria, Roma’s training facility. He expressed interest in Lirim and was willing to work more with him. Roma was not the only club interested in Lirim; Juventus, Inter, and AC Milan have also been taking note of the youngster’s talent. In the end, however, Lirim chose AS Roma and will join them in August.

Lirim’s first season is highly anticipated, and he is expected to add more information to his résumé in a few years.

Iowa – Kosovo: A Development in Partnership

After formalizing the sister-state partnership program which commenced back in March 2011, Kosovo and Iowa are at the forefront of developing different mutual projects. The relationship that started with 700 Iowa National Guard soldiers that served as part of the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo is going to expand in the upcoming months. A great example of these partnerships is a new cooperation in the fields of culture, sports, youth and cultural heritage.

A delegation from the State of Iowa in the United States of America had a meeting with the Deputy Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Hajdin Abazi, with whom they discussed on culture, sports, youth and cultural heritage, with a special emphasis on the opportunities of cooperation in these fields. The organization of Sister States aims to reach partnerships with States of the world in various fields.

The Deputy Minister Abazi, while talking for the achievements and challenges, has informed the guests with the developments in culture, sport, youth and cultural heritage. He said that numerous tangible results have been achieved in the last years. He also emphasized the cooperation of Kosovo with many States in the field of culture. Abazi said that the MCYS is interested in promoting its culture and enhancing cultural exchanges in other fields. In this respect, he expressed the commitment of the MCYS for cooperation with Iowa as well.

On the other hand, Tom Rial, the President of this organization, discussed the organization of activities and on this occasion expressed his interest in establishing relationships between artists, athletes and youth of Kosova and Iowa.

In this context, it was agreed upon to continue coordination to develop joint activities in Kosovo and Iowa in the near future.

The original article was posted at the Kosovo Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports website. To read the original article follow this link  HERE 

Shaqiri, Xhaka and Behrami: Pledging for UEFA recognition of Kosovo

Xherdan Shaqiri is known for walking on the filed with three different flags embossed on his soccer shoe: the Swiss, Albanian and Kosovar flag. He respects the Swiss anthem but does not place his right hand on his heart, nor does he move his lips. Alongside Shaqiri stood also Granit Xhaka (signed by the German team Borussia) and Valon Behrami (Italian club Napoli). Albania’s captain, Lorik Cana, who also plays in Italy for Lazio, was also bron in Kosovo. Last year’s World Cup qualifying match against Albania was a very special match, not only in terms of ethnicity but also in terms of politics. Ethnicity plays an important role because the Swiss national team has 9 players who were either born in Kosovo or who are ethnically Albanian. According to Shaqiri, the game against Albania was an emotional game for him. On that game, two-thirds of the crowed was Albanian and Kosovar. The flag with the Swiss white cross was outnumbered by the double headed black eagle three to one.

The situation is not only emotional in terms of ethnicity and emotions, politics play an even more important role, even if some might say that politics do not belong into soccer business. Kosovo does not have a recognized national soccer team, nor is Kosovo’s status not internationally clarified. There are EU member states that still do not recognize Kosovo. Due to a lack of unanimities, the UN has not yet accepted Kosovo as a member. The governing body of Europe, UEFA, has caught Kosovo in the middle because it requires UN membership before admitting a country to play. So far, 37 of UEFA’s members have recognized Kosovo. However, in May 2012 Sepp Blatter, the Swiss president of FIFA (soccer’s world governing body) has announced that Kosovo would be allowed to play noncompetitive matches against its members. This is an important step and may bring Kosovo closer to membership. At that time this statement caused controversy on the Serbian side of the border. Likewise, Spain and Russia do not support this step either.

So what we have now is a Swiss team with numerous players with an Albanian heritage. It is likely that those players started playing for Kosovo as soon as Kosovo was accepted into UEFA. Is Switzerland afraid of losing its players? The Swiss media dramatized this question, while, in fact, Switzerland might be in favor of Kosovo’s entrance into UEFA. What is known for sure is that Shaqiri, Xhaka and Behrami signed a petition that pledges support for accepting Kosovo’s national team. Shaqiri was sure that he was always going to play for Switzerland, but that was before the idea of a Kosovar national team existed. Xhaka is sure that if Kosovo was granted a recognized national soccer team, he would play for Kosovo.

Just like Kosovo’s independence generated fears over setting a precedent for other non-recognized nations, it will do the same on an athletic level. This is the main point where political and athletic interests meet. Regardless, on the above mentioned World Cup qualifying match, Shaqiri scored Switzerland’s first goal but he did not celebrate. After the game Swiss-Kosovar players exchanged jerseys with their Albanian colleagues. Shaqiri then walked off the field wearing an Albanian jersey, the black double-headed eagle against his heart and the three flags on his shoes.

See also this article in The New York Times.

Wall Street Journal: Kosovo Team Vies for World Cup of Plowing in Alberta, Canada

The original article was posted at the Wall Street Journal. To read the original article follow this
By Alistair MacDonald 

From the Olympics to soccer’s World Cup, major team sporting events refuse to recognize Kosovo as a nation. One does, though: the World Plowing Championship.


That has catapulted men like Afim Sharko and their plows to the status of sporting heroes in their Balkan homeland of Kosovo, the former province of Serbia which declared independence in 2008 but has yet to gain United Nation’s recognition as a state.

This weekend, Mr. Sharko and his team of two farmers will be in the fields of Alberta, Canada, hoping to bring home the Golden Plow — the plowing world’s equivalent of the World Cup – and burnish the national credentials of a state starved of major sporting events.

“Why shouldn’t we plow as Kosovars?” Mr. Sharko said. “This competition is very important for Kosovo,” he said.

Last year’s Kosovar entry into the World Plowing Championship was its first in any international competition, according to Mr. Sharko. They finished last on a leader board of 30, a loss Mr. Sharko, team coach, put down to lack of experience.

Despite the low placing, the team was feted back home, with a round of television appearances, newspaper interviews and a government-held reception for the returning heroes.

This week, Mr. Sharko arrived in the central Alberta town of Olds, and immediately dropped to his knees to touch soil he had long revered.

“For a plowman, this is a dream,” said Mr. Sharko, currently studying for a PhD in soil science. Almost two thirds of the soil in Kosovo is composed of clay, but in Alberta’s black soil, it’s only 20%, he said.

For the past three days Mr. Sharko’s two competitors, farmers Esad Shehu and Lulzim Shehu, have been practicing for the two-day event in which tractors are used to plow furrows in different types of field. They are judged on criteria such as speed and how straight and deep their furrows are. It’s a competition typically dominated by Irish and British teams, whose fans arrive in big groups with faces painted in their national colors.

Host nation Canada was among the first to recognize Kosovo, whose wider recognition is being stymied by Serbia. (The U.S. also recognizes Kosovo and led the air bombardment that helped clear Serbian troops from their former province in 1999.)

“We welcome all Kosovars to plow in Canada as Kosovars,” said a spokesman for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.”

Diaspora Students Attend Summer School in the Mountains of Kosovo

More than 40 students from countries as Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France and Norway attended the summer school ”TO KNOW THE HOMELAND.” The main goals of this summer school were to learn the Albanian language, communication and to share knowledge with locals. Few of  the topics discussed during this summer school were the importance of homeland and language through Albanian literature. 

Minister of Diaspora, Mr. Ibrahim Makolli visited the summer school “To Know the Homeland,” which is being held at the Rugova mountains . The school is attended by more than 40 students who are a part of the Albanian school in diaspora, from countries such as Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France and Norway.

Minister Makolli in his visit had the opportunity to negotiate directly with students and learn firsthand from lessons and activities that are performed during these days. Minister Makollli informed the students with the nature of classes, countries that have visited, history of  cities like Peja, Deçani, martyr graves in Prekaz, Koshare and Gllogjan, Prizren, Gadime cave etc. Children stated that the attendance and visits were very useful at understanding their parents homeland, national traditions and historical values ​​of Kosovo.

Minister Makolli said that “we are trying through these forms, courses, schools, excursions, enable our children from diaspora to know each other, with their peers in Kosovo and visit places that make the history of Kosovo”.

Students presented paintings that they have been working on these days and artistic program of poetry, songs and Albanian dance.

The summer School “To Know the Homeland” is a traditional event, taking place annually,  and is being held within traditional manifestation of the “Days of Diaspora 2013″.

National Albanian American Council Newsletter, Summer 2013

The National Albanian American Council (NAAC) released its periodic newsletter about its activities during the summer month. The newsletter has a summary of activities of this year’s Hope Fellowship program, a USAID funded project that empowers women leaders of Kosovo to create collaborative, sustainable, positive change in government, civil society, and business that strengthen the democratic process and promotes prosperity for all peoples in the country. The newsletter also includes Albanian American Population Statistics,  reported by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011.

Enis Kamenica: From an Immigrant to an investitor in Kosovo’s Health Care Services

Enis Kamenica, a 31 year-old immigrant for more than 15 years in Switzerland has decided  to return to invest and work in Kosovo’s health care services. 

Enis Kamenica was educated in Switzerland and graduated as a dental technician. For a short time, he became successful, and opened two dental clinics, initially the first one in Lausanne and then in Geneva. With all the good conditions and revenues from these clinics, Enis always dreamed of opening a clinic in Kosovo. “I always dreamt of opening a business in Kosovo,” he said. “We were forced to flee with my family during the regime but parents have educated us, and also reminded us never to forget where we came from.”

Despite the difficulties, Enis began his journey with the opening of the first Swiss Dental clinic in the town of Ferizaj where he invested over 150,000 euros and employed about 10 workers. “Certainly there are some basic difficulties that we face here that one is not subject to in Switzerland” Enis says. “However, with a commitment and determination one can also make it here but I hope the conditions improve because the business friendly environment encourages more investors.” Today, his clinic enjoys a highly respected reputation among the residents in Ferizaj and its success led Enis to increase his investments and open the second clinic in the same town. Today these two clinics employ over 25 people and it has the most up-to-date technology and European standards. This is a great example of success that Mr. Kamenica hopes to continue and is looking to expand its operations to other cities in Kosovo.


The story does not stop there. His creativity has aroused interest among many citizens where, with his desire to help the children of this city, Enis has begun to promote control services with a clinic-on-four-wheels. The owner in question has turned a mini-bus vehicle into a dental clinic and will now start to offer free dental checkup for all children in schools in the town of Ferizaj. This gives you the opportunity to move our services close to them. “I am a parent of three children and taking into account the terms and conditions of these kids, I believe that the prevention measures can help them improve their wellbeing in a long run.”

Mr. Kamenica says that so far has offered free services to mentally challenged children and also a special care for war veterans and their families.  He hopes that this project will be extended to other institutions such as FSK, and other NGO’s where everyone will have free access to perform free dental checkup. He believes that citizens did not have portable clinics earlier and he said that this idea also raises the level of awareness among parents that early care for children’s teeth is a preventive measure that should not be overlooked and also helps in their overall health.

“I think this is a good start and the diaspora has tremendous potential and if there is more institutional support and better elementary conditions on the ground, there will also be an increase in investment “Enis said. Despite the everyday difficulties, there are encouraging success stories and Enis Kamenica  is a part of that successful journey.


Kosovo forms a new internatinonal partnership: becomes a sister-state with Iowa

The Governor of Iowa, Terry Branstand hosted a Kosovo delegation led by Prime Minister Thaci on  Thursday, 13 June 2013. They formalized the sister-state partnership program which commenced back in March 2011. The relationship between Iowa and Kosovo dates back to in 2003 ,when 700 Iowa National Guard soldiers served as part of the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. This partnership is a step forward for the newborn country of Kosovo, which is building its international partnerships and mutual cooperation. The Governor is expected to travel to Kosovo during his European trip in July 2013. 

The article was written by Rod Boshart for WCF Courier. Click here for original article.

DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad announced Thursday that Iowa will form a sister state relationship with the Republic of Kosovo.

During a Statehouse meeting with Hashim Thaçi, the prime minister of Kosovo, Branstad also announced the he plans to travel to Kosovo in early July to officially sign the sister state agreement – which will be Iowa’s ninth sister state arrangement.

The Iowa governor said he also will participate in events and business meetings in the Veneto region of Italy, which currently is an Iowa sister state, and he will pursue business leads arranged by the Iowa Economic Development Authority in Germany and Switzerland as part of his trade mission.

“Many Iowans have served with peacekeeping efforts in Kosovo and it is very fitting for Iowa to form an official sister state and enhance our partnerships in the areas of agriculture, economic development, public health and education” Branstad said in a statement.

“The focus of our trip to Kosovo and the European region will be to foster Iowa’s sister-state partnerships and promote Iowa’s exports, while exploring options for companies interested in building facilities here in our state,” he added.

During their meeting, Branstad and Thaçi discussed an Iowa-Kosovo partnership, which began informally through the more than 700 Iowa National Guard soldiers who have served on peacekeeping missions there since 2003 that has evolved into a formal relationship through the State Partnership Program (SPP) commenced in March 2011.

For more information on Iowa’s sister state program, visit:


For more on the partnership, see Des Moines Registrar coverage of the story.