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Thanksgiving for 500 in Serbia

Thanksgiving for 500 in Serbia

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Charles “The Host” Cather

The company I work for, Work and Travel Group, held the largest alumni summer work and travel event in the history of the world this past November.

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500 students from 2008-2016

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Mikser House in Belgrade

We had a massive Thanksgiving event at Mikser House in Belgrade Serbia on Thanksgiving.

upstairs displays

Upstairs displays

We had students from 2008-2016

We had students from 2008-2016

decor

Decor

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Throwing down Red Bull

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Checking in students

Work and Travel crew

Work and Travel Group crew

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Stage

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Can you feel the love?

 

Placing ribbons on each guest

Placing ribbons on each guest

 

We brought in over 500 former students from 2008- 2016 to experience an American Thanksgiving and to win some prizes.

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Students piling in

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Students having some free beverages

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Around 500 former students of summer work and travel

Once the students arrived, they were given coupons for two free alcoholic beverages and unlimited soda, juice and soft drinks. We started off serving some Serbian pies and American pie for them to snack on before our main course.

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Mixing Serbian and American foods. Serbian pie

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American apple pie

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Students enjoying some pie

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Two of my favorite students checking out the displays

We let the students mingle for an hour and then had the prize giveaway. We had the students from work and travel 2015 submit their favorite picture from their summer in the US. Once we received the photo, we placed it on our Facebook page to see which one received the most likes. The three with the most likes, received a refund of their program fee which was between $1,000 and  $1,300! The prize money came from CIEE and Work and Travel Group.

 

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Handing out prizes to the lucky winners

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The winners! Each one won their program fee back! 🙂

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Free pictures from InstaPrint

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Main course of 10 turkeys, gravy, potatoes, cranberry sauce

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Juicy turkey

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Beautifully laid out turkeys

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Students enjoying the meal

I was the host of the entire event so I had to nibble around between talking and preparing for my next presentation. I hated that part of the event because I love to eat.

After dinner, it was time to interview a few of our students about their experiences in the USA.

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Students telling about their experience in the USA

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Some great kids!

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Filip Uzelac telling about his time in St. Louis

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Sinisa Vojvodic discussing Chatham, Massachusetts

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Selecting the winners

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Congratulating the winners

The last segment of the night was another prize giveaway. Puzzle Group donated three vacation packages to be given away at random. We used a lotto wheel to randomly select a number that was on top of their ticket.

The night ended around 11pm when the buses arrived to bring the Nis and Novi Sad students back to their cities. I felt my night was successful as the host. I only had a few minor errors in my presentations. Not bad for someone who hated public speaking in high school.

We had a 5 minutes video made about the whole entire event that you can watch here.  A great time was had by all of the attendees.

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Posted by on December 23, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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Serbia’s British Friend


kev4What is one thing that can be very annoying about having so many Serbian Facebook friends? Having your inbox flooded with the same info and links on anything that is going on in Serbia. That is how I first heard of Kevin Shannon, the adventurer , who was planning to march all the way across Serbia. There were over 20-30 folks who were sending me something from the local newspapers and tv stations about him and his mission. We had connected over Facebook and he asked me to join in on part of journey. I wish I had taken the opportunity to do so not only for my health, but to experience a little bit of his adventure.

We bumped into each other again the “Exit Festival Global Adventures” tourism conference. I was there to giving a presentation on my social network and blog while he was there to present  “Walk Serbia”. I decided to quiz him with some more detailed questions about his time in Serbia.

1. Where are you from and what do you do?

So: my name is Kevin Shannon and I’m from the UK. Currently I run my own small creative design studio called Chips & Gravy studios

2. How in the world did you get the idea to “walk across Serbia”?
 

I originally visited Serbia the first time in the autumn of 2010 whilst on 10,000 km cycling expedition from the UK to the far end of Turkey and then back again. On that visit to Serbia I completely fell in love with the country and made some great friends. During the 3 to 4 months that I spent in Serbia I spend most my time in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Sabac and Nis. When I returned home I realised that I’d only seen a fraction of Serbia and although I had learnt about the country a little there was still Hell of a lot more to see. So I decided that one day I would return to Serbian  and walk the length of the country.kev2

3. What did you know about Serbia before you came here? 

Before I visited Serbia first time I didn’t really know that much about the country. I had simply drawn a line across Europe and Serbia happened to be on that path. I knew the region was obviously famous for conflicts and I had a they recollection of seeing the NATO bombings on television when I was younger, but that was really it. But as I was cycling through countries before I got to Serbia I was warned that Serbian people what do horrific things to me once I crossed the border. Of course I don’t believe this but when your cycling on your own across Europe these warnings do not fill you with confidence.


4. Prior to visiting Serbia for the first time, give me four words that you would used to describe it…
Unknown, War, Scary, New
5. How long did your walk take?
The walk is actually two walks. The first in February 2013 took me five weeks and during that time I walked from the border with Hungary down to the city of Nis. My second walk was in July 2013 and I walked from south west Serbia back to the north of the country, which also took five weeks.kev1
6. Biggest complication.
The biggest complication was issues from walking with such a heavy pack. My left knee became very sore during the first walk, and during the second walk I had horrific blisters on the sole of one of my feet.
7. Funniest situation.
I was in a small village about 75 km north of Nis, feeling very tired and the little homesick and out of nowhere a group of young kids came up to me with pieces of paper and pencils. The oldest had a hand written note in English which said that they were big fans and have been following my journey in the newspapers. Because they knew my route, they knew I would be passing through the village and so had taken it in turns to keep a eye out for me, just so they could get an autograph – they had been waiting for 3 days.kev5
8. Favorite part of your journey.
The end? No, i’m just kidding. It’s actually very hard to pick a favourite part of the journey because so much happened but if I had to say one thing it was the generous hospitality everybody that i met on the road.
9. How would you compare Serbian food to your normal cuisine back in England? 
Serbian food is very rich with strong flavours, and of course there’s a lot of meat. Which is really the case in England. I guess if I had to make a comparison I would say that Serbian food it’s very much like a traditional English roast dinner that is served in most households every Sunday – however in England you have that once a week  and in serbia you have it almost everyday
10. Did you ever feel threatened or in danger?

I never really felt threatened or in danger, even in small Kafanas in the middle of god knows where surrounded by big, burly Serbian guys. The biggest issue with regards to safety to me was the packs of wild dogs. They were always a concern when I was walking in the mountains or sleeping out at night.kev6

11. What 4 words would you use to describe Serbia after walking from top to bottom and back?

Beautiful, friendly, Great food, my second home 

 

12. Will you return to Serbia? What would you say to someone that is considering a visit to this part of the world?

Without shadow of a doubt I’ll be returning to Serbia – in fact I returned earlier this year for a conference where spoke about my was through Serbia. I already have plans to take my fiance to Serbia,  have my stag party there and maybe one day by small house somewhere where I can spend my summers (not walking)

 

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 13. You have decided to publish a book about this exciting adventure, right? Tell me a little about the project.

OK, So the project was quite simply to walk through Serbia to try and discover the real Serbia. In my original trip to the country i felt i’d only scratched the surface and was intrigued to see more of the country so i set up Walk Serbia. When you look around the internet looking for more info on Serbia you’re met with a lot negativity (except for a few sites included yours) and i decided that i wanted to create a document of my personal journey to not so much counteract the negativity but give a truthful view of a country. Now, don’t get me wrong, i expected it to be a positive trip due to prior experiences but i was open to negativity also – i essentially wanted to create a truthful account of spending 10 weeks tramping around the country. And this is, i hope, what i’ve done.
I’m still in the process of writing the book – i’ve rewritten some chapters 4 times – but i decided that i would set a date (in my head) for it’s release. So now i’ve set up a website – walkserbia.com – which will be the hub for all things to do with the book including, the opportunity to buy the book, perhaps some videos from the road, exclusive photos and information on speaking engagements and a potential book tour. For the moment i’ve thrown up a very simple landing page which has a small blurb about the book and an area to signup to the newsletter which will give you exclusive updates, a free chapter here or there and an exclusive discount on the final book. I set up the newsletter for the reasons i just mentioned, but something amazing happened when i did – i realised just how much interest there was in reading the book; not just from Serbia but from all over the world. Serb’s from Australia, the USA and Canada and even South Africa have sent me messages to tell me they would like to buy copies for friends, families and co-workers which is exciting…and daunting.
My plan for releasing the book was to self-publish and through friends in Serbia distribute the book there and of course here in the UK. But, with the response i’ve had so far i’m not looking at other options. I’m thinking about getting the book translated into Serbian, i’m going to start looking for distributors in the US and Australia AND if the list keeps growing i could have a great opportunity to promote the book to publishers around the world  which will then (if i’ve done my job right) help to give the world a better understanding of Serbia.
Just like the journeys themselves felt like a community – i had people tweeting, facebooking and emailing to help influence what i should visit and where during the walk – the book is starting to feel the same.

 

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in What others think

 

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Serbia’s Pride…. Patriarch Pavle


Patriarch Pavle

Patriarch Pavle

I am not a religious guy. It is one subject that always seems to divide people and has caused numerous wars. My family is made up of many different religions. We have Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Catholics, Agnostics, and Atheists. I have lived and worked with Jews, Muslims, and every other type of religion you can imagine. The thing I always notice about religious people is how they tend to judge others and claim to have superiority. I am a believer in helping my neighbor, bringing people together, treating people with mutual respect, and not dividing people into little groups. If this will cause me to burn in the fiery depths of hell for eternity, so be it.

St Sava in Belgrade, Serbia

St Sava in Belgrade, Serbia

Serbia is a country that is dominated by the Orthodox faith. It is one of the most interesting things for me. Chicago is the 2nd largest Serbian city on the planet and we have a few Orthodox Churches, but I never paid that much attention to them until coming to Serbia. When I shut my eyes and think of Serbia I get visions of the ancient Orthodox churches that litter every corner of this country. Many of them are over 500 years old!!! They have that unique shape and style that you don’t see everyday. The Orthodox faith is the majority religion in many Eastern European countries including : Bulgaria, Russia, Greece, Belarus, Macedonia, Montenegro,Moldova, Romania and Ukraine.

Those of us from the USA know little about the Orthodox faith. The Catholic and Orthodox churches started their division in the year 1053. It was known as ” The Great Schism”. I am not a religious scholar and will not pretend to be. There are some significant differences between the two religions. You can find some of the differences here    http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/reading/ortho_cath.html Some of the most obvious differences are :

**the location of the “Holy City”. In the Eastern Orthodox religion it is Constantinople, Turkey and in the Roman Catholic it is Rome.
**the leader of the religion. In the Eastern Orthodox faith it is a Patriarch and in the Catholic faith it is the Pope.

** the way the make the sign of the cross. Roman Catholics tend to go left to right while Eastern Orthodox go right to left.

**the look of the church and the steeples. see pics below…

Catholic steeple

Catholic steeple

Orthodox steeple

Orthodox steeple

His Holiness Patriarch Pavle was born as Gojko Stojcevic in a small village in present day Croatia. He lost both of his parents at a young age and was raised by his aunt. He studied in Belgrade and was majoring in Theology and Medicine. He graduated from University of Belgrade in 1942. He worked as a construction worker after WWII and then took his monastic vows in Ovcar. That is when he received the monastic name Pavle. He later took post-graduate studies in Athens, Greece when he returned in 1957 he was elected as Bishop of Ras and Prizren. He held that position for 33 years before becoming Patriarch in 1990. He held that position until his death on November 15th, 2009.

Riding the bus in Belgrade

Riding the bus in Belgrade

His Holiness is known for his humility. My favorite quote of his was when he was asked why he always walked or took public transport. He replied “I will not purchase one until every Albanian and Serbian household in Kosovo and Metohija has an automobile.”

Here are a few great stories that show how humble of a man he was ……….

serb-patriarch-pavel

******Mercedes Story******

Patriarch Pavle, as he was known, continued to live a simple life even after he moved to the new residence – the Patriarchal Palace – in Belgrade. People form Belgrade often encountered him on the streets, riding the train or the bus … Once, while walking alone the hilly street of King Peter the I, towards the Patriarchate, a Mercedes – last model barely passed him, the driver – a priest from one of the well-known parish in Belgrade, stopped the car and said:
– Your Holiness, permit me to invite  you in! Just tell me where you heading …The Patriarch entered the car, and as  soon as it  started moving, asked:
– Tell me, Father, whose  car is this?
– It’s mine, your Holiness!
– Stop it! – the Patriarch replied, he then got off, made the sign of the Cross and said to the priest:
-May the Lord, watch over you!

*****The Black Automobile Story*****

The great session of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church had just ended. As it was the customary, his Holiness was heading to the vespers service at the Cathedral. When he exited the Patriarchal Palace, he saw many black limousines parked near and asked:
– So many luxury cars, who do you think they belong to?
– To our bishops, Your Holiness! They came with them to the Synod meeting-replied the priest who accompanied him. 

 Oh, God watch over them, what would they’ve traveled with, if they weren’t taken the monastic vows of  poverty?!

******The Travel Story******

In the Patriarchate building, it is often heard the story of the Patriarch dialogue with the deacon accompanying him everywhere; as they were ready to go to the church in Banovo Brdo, the deacon asked:
– So, how are we traveling? By car?
– By bus! – the Patriarch replied with determination.
– It’s crowded, it’s stuffy in the bus, and the church is not close …
– We’re going (by bus)! –
 His Holiness replied shortly.
– But … – the Deacon, following him, advance a new argument, — Your Holiness, it is summer, many people go to Ada Ciganlija [a famous pool] and buses are full of barely naked people. It is not appropriate...
– You know, Father – the Patriarch replied back – one can  see what he desires to see!

******Message to American Envoy*****

When bishop Pavle became Patriarch, (the director of BOS Museum recalls), many delegations and many foreign representatives have expressed their desire to meet him. The active American ambassador at that time in Belgrade, Warren Zimmermann, also came. The Patriarch received him in the Patriarchal Palace. The ambassador conveyed greetings and congratulations on behalf of the American people, himself and the President. At the end of the formal protocol, the ambassador had asked:
– How may we help you?
– Your Excellency, don’t intervene by setting obstacles, that is how you can help.
 (…)

*****Raising Salaries*****

 

Patriarch Pavle refused, in fact, to get paid. He only received a small pension he was entitled to as a formal bishop of Raska and Prizren. All his needs were modest, given that he sewed his mantle and repaired his shoes ... Yet, he still had some money left of that pension. What was left of it, he divided among poor or donated it to other purposes of civic good.

It remained memorable his reaction as a bishop in 1962, when a request from bishops was made to increase their salaries:

– “But why, since we are not able to spend what we already have?”.

He did, likewise with what he received as gifts. If he received mantle material, he keep it until he met a monk or a priest not been able to afford it. Then he would calculate how much they would need to sew a cassock (mantle) and give them exactly that, so he may share the rest with others.
Renowned historian Zika Stojkovich, who has worked with the bishop Pavle during his assignment in Raska and Prizren, when editing his work”Monuments of Kosovo”, complained once to the Patriarch of the difficulty of raising money to continue the print of the work-series he had started and belonging to one of the most prominent Serbian writers, Milos Crnjanski. After been listening to him, the Patriarch rose, went to his bed, raised the pillow, picked his wallet, took out three thousand marks and handed to Stojkovich:
– “Here, it’s my contribution for the printing of Crnjanski Milos’ books. May it be for your assistance. ”

funeral

funeral

Regardless of your religous philosophy, you can see why he was loved by the Serbian people. It is a shame that more religious leaders didn’t learn to lead by his example. May His Holiness Patriarch Pavle rest in peace for eternity!

 If you haven’t done so…. please join us at Say Serbia. It is a website a few friends and I created to show the world the REAL Serbia. http://www.sayserbia.com/

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2013 in Through my eyes

 

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Biggest Embarrassment to Serbia and its People


numb_Khan-Mohammad-Irteza-294x300
I know , I knowwwwwww… People are always telling me to STAY away from Serbian politics. I am just curious to find out where the majority of my friends sit on issues.  I stay farrrrrrrrrr away from your politics, just like to see your views.

I asked a poll question the other day looking for the best leader of Serbian lands since 1900 and for the biggest Serbian hero. The poll is still going strong. I was asked by a few people to add a poll for them to vote on the worst of the worst in recent Serbian history. I apologize for not adding all the names or neglecting some. Please be respectful in your comments to others. This is a big world with many different view points. Your people have gotten a bad wrap over the last 20 plus years. I started a neat little series on Youtube to break some stereotypes against Serbs. If you haven’t watched it, please do!! 🙂 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzePnUSVI0U

Thank for all the messages of support after the airing of my Prva Exploziv episode. It is great to have so many Serbs show their love for me. Volim vas. If you haven’t joined Say Serbia yet, please do!!! http://sayserbia.com/  We are going to be in Blic soon!!!

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2013 in Through my eyes

 

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Greatest Serbian Leader and Hero


Srpski_Vojnik Feb. 1912 by Stefanovic

I have traveled to almost every corner of this great country. It amazes me to find such differing views in such a small place! Serbians are very open to me about their politics and their personal beliefs. I never judge anyone and usually just sit and listen. I am interested to get an idea of where my friends and followers stand.

Please vote on these two polls. I will study and read up on the winners and provide an interesting blog post about them. The “Serbian Hero” question was left with an option to add your own!

Thank you in advance!!! Please join our new Serbian website…… SAY SERBIA….. http://sayserbia.com/. We are trying to create a place to bring together Serbians, foreigners that are interested in Serbia, and create a place to find out about EVERYTHING Serbian! Feel free to click on a category and add your input, pictures, opinions, videos, etc.

 
35 Comments

Posted by on June 6, 2013 in Through my eyes, Uncategorized

 

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How to Avoid Irritating Serbian Grandmothers


One thing to expect when entering a Serbian home is to be offered a pair of house slippers! 🙂 I found this so funny! It didn’t matter if you were in the northern part of the country or the extreme southern part… if there is a grandmother in the house…. YOU BETTER TAKE THEM UP ON THE OFFER!

I have never owned a pair of house slippers and we never wore them growing up. I can’t remember going to a home in the US and using their house slippers to walk around in! 🙂 Maybe it is because many of our homes are carpeted. My grandmother and other old ladies would wear them, but not young men! Different story in Serbia. 🙂

I was invited to a friends birthday party in the little village of Krajisnik, Serbia. He lived with his grandmother and great grandmother. They had never seen or spoken to an American before. 🙂 The great grandmother was about 90 and so sweet. She kept speaking to me in Serbian and my friend would have to tell her over and over that I was American and didn’t speak Serbian. She kept using some foul language that I understood to tell him that she didn’t believe him. hahahahaha…I had to keep asking him to translate. She was telling me how one of her sons was perfect and handsome and the other was lazy and worthless. AHAHAHAH! The other thing she kept mentioning was my lack of slippers! She said it 3 or 4 times. She couldn’t walk very well, but she got up and got me a pair and placed them at my feet! 🙂 She was a doll! She also LOVED TITO!! HAHAHA.. My friend and his cousin would aggravate her by mentioning Boris Tadic. She wasn’t a fan of him! One thing is certain… Serbian grandmothers treat you like their own! She didn’t care if I was from America, next door, or Ethiopia … I was going to wear those slippers If I liked it or not!!!! 🙂

Put on the slippers when they are offered.. 🙂

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2012 in When in Serbia

 

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Serbs Saved US Secretary of State


You probably know my political leaning after reading many of my blog posts. I am a Democrat that leans heavily to the left. President William J. Clinton was 1st elected president in Nov of 1992. He defeated George H.W Bush in a handy victory. I remember being a freshman in high school and watching the debates and the inauguration  at my grandmother’s home. It was a happy moment for me. It felt good that a member of my political party had been elected to the highest office in the land. I liked the fact that he was a small state governor and enjoyed mocking the “southern twang” in his voice.

 

The 90’s were a great time for me. I had just entered high school, was close to getting my driver’s license, and really enjoying my younger years. We did experience a terrible situation during this decade. My birth home burned to the ground in June of 1992. I was staying up a little later than normal watching the end of Robin Hood. I smelled smoke very strongly and went to my father’s room to wake him. He jumped up and got all of us out of the house. I had to run in a few times to get my baseball cards. 🙂 They drove down to my grandma’s house to call the fire department. They arrived in a timely manner, but the house was already a total loss. We lost all of our clothes, most of our pictures, furniture, and everything that you collect over a lifetime. 😦 My father has always been very talented at building homes. He built our new, larger home on the same spot as the old one. That was the only negative that I can remember about the 1990’s.

It was a totally different situation in Eastern Europe. Yugoslavia had started to break apart. There was war, destruction, OUTRAGEOUS inflation, sanctions, the end of the socialist era, etc… Things were really hard on all the families that I spoke to during my travels around Serbia. I couldn’t imagine living with the everyday problems they had to deal with! They told of working all month and receiving their salary and it would only buy one loaf of bread!!!!! UNREAL!  A few families told me that their income was higher than it had ever been. The sanctions had made it tough to find gasoline. One of my buddies told me about his father sneaking into Bulgaria and Hungary for large amounts of gasoline. They brought it back and sold it for large sums of money. Sad, sad times. 😦

On March, 24 1999, President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeline Albright decided to use military force to stop Serbias attempt to keep the southern portion of their country, Kosovo. The strikes lasted from March 24,
to June 10. It was known as “Operation Merciful Angel” or inside the US State Department ….. as “Albright’s War”! By all accounts, it was Madeleine Albright who convinced Clinton, against the better judgement of the Pentagon, that the Serb leader would back down after a little light bombing.She claimed that he was no more than a schoolyard bully who would retreat after one good punch on the nose”.

 Did the Serbs do something personal to Albright and her family?? YES, THEY DID! They saved them from  certain death in the Nazi concentration camps. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUDm9quq8XA

Madeline Albright (born Marie Jana Korbelová on May 15, 1937) was the first woman to become United States Secretary of State. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton on December 5, 1996 and was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate 99-0. She was sworn in on January 23, 1997.

Albright was born Marie Jana Korbelová in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) and raised as a Roman Catholic by her parents, Josef Korbel and Anna Spiegelova, who had converted from Judaism in order to escape persecution. She has a brother, John, who later became an economist, and a sister, Katherine. “Madeleine” was the French version of “Madlenka”, a nickname given by her grandmother. Albright adopted the new name when she attended a Swiss boarding school.

The Korbelovas fled Czechoslovakia in 1936 due to the advancing Nazi forces. They found a home with some friendly Serbs in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. From 1936 to 1939 the Korbel Family lived in Belgrade, and were given refuge and protection by Serbs. Many of her Jewish relatives in Czechoslovakia were killed in the Holocaust, including three of her grandparents. They returned to Czechoslovakia in 1939 only to flee the communists in 1948. They moved to Denver, Colorado where her father took a job at the University of Denver.

She was asked what her biggest regret was. She was  criticized for defending the sanctions of Iraq under Saddam Hussein in a 1996 interview with Lesley Stahl on CBS’s 60 Minutes. When asked by Stahl with regards to effect of sanctions against Iraq: “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright replied: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.” She expressed regret for this remark in her 2003 autobiography, where she wrote,”I never should have made it, it was stupid,” and that she still supported the concept of tailored sanctions.

It is amazing how one can quickly turn on their friends. I am not going to start an “Albright bashing” campaign here.I am just pointing out some facts that many are unaware of. My country needs to adopt Ron Paul’s approach to foreign policy. Pozdrav……..

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Through my eyes

 

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