The Herald, Sharon,
PA Published Friday, March 26, 1999


Not everyone backs attack; Local Serbians weigh in

By Erin Remai
Herald Staff Writer

As the United States bombed Kosovo on Thursday, local Serbian Americans watched the news with sadness, anger and fear.

"I'm extremely disappointed in our president," said Sam Bellich, program director for the Mercer County Area Agency on Aging, who is Serbian American. "I can never remember us getting involved in a civil war and I don't think we have any business being over there."

The situation hit closer to home for the Rev. Slobodan Jovic, pastor of St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Hermitage. Rev. Jovic was born in Yugoslavia and came to the United States in 1988. His brother's family lives just three-quarters of a mile from the fighting and he is worried because he hasn't been able to reach them by telephone.

"I feel terrible. This is a pure criminal act against the Serbian nation," Rev. Jovic said. "They're destroying Serbian property, lives, generations ... the Americans are destroying everything."

Rev. Jovic said he loves the United States and is grateful and thankful for all this country has given to him, but he said the situation in Kosovo saddens him. He said he does not believe Serbs have been slaughtering ethnic Albanians.

In his Wednesday address to the nation, President Clinton said the killing of ethnic Albanian citizens morally required the U.S. and NATO allies to intervene.

"There is no ethnic cleansing," Rev. Jovic said. "From the very beginning, American foreign policy was anti-Serbian.

"It's very hard to make any good conclusion on this," he added. "Sometimes I'm asking why ... you can tell what kind of emotional suffering I've had. It's too much for me."

Bran Vuich, retired Farrell fire chief and president of the St. George church board, said that while he feels the bombing is wrong he doesn't feel anyone should be killed, whatever their ethnic background.

"It's very depressing to know there are going to be a lot of innocent people killed," Vuich said. "Our church is not in favor of any killing, whether it's Serbs, Albanians, etc."

Rev. Jovic said Kosovo was the birthplace of the Serbian state and is considered by every Serbian as the holy land, something that local Serbians feel strongly about.

"Living without Kosovo is like a body living without a head," he said. "The Serbians are not going to give up."

"Kosovo has been part of Yugoslavia for 1,000 years," said Vuich. "It's the heartland of the Serbian Orthodox religion."

Dr. Russell Martin, history professor at Westminster College, said to the Serbians Kosovo is like the heartland of America, such as New England or another region.

"The Serbians are willing to take a bloody nose for something they feel is part of their national identity," Martin said. "It's hard to imagine Serbia without Kosovo."

Milos Miodrag, Farrell, who came to the United States from Serbia in 1951, summed it up in one sentence: "Kosovo is Serbia, Serbia is Kosovo."

In a letter to Secretary of State Madeline Albright from the Peace Mission of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the church states the belief that an interim settlement in Kosovo that grants autonomy to the Albanians would eventually lead to "a complete exodus of Kosovo Serbs from the province."

"Such an outcome is completely unacceptable and a threat to the peace of the entire region," the letter stated.

Rev. Jovic went on to say he felt disappointment because Serbia has always been an American ally.

"They forgot about everything in the past ... I don't understand. That's what makes me so sad. I'm very saddened about what's going on in Europe," he said.

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Updated March 26, 1999
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