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Serbs in Chicago Protest Bombing

March 27, 1999

CHICAGO (AP) _ Prayers for peace and shouts of solidarity filled Daley Plaza as 1,000 Serbian-Americans crowded into downtown Chicago on Friday to denounce the NATO air attacks on Yugoslavia.

The noisy demonstrators waved Yugoslavian, Serbian and Kosovar flags, held signs with caricatures of President Clinton as Adolf Hitler and chanted ``Zivela Srbija!″ _ Long Live Serbia.

``Hundreds of NATOs can bomb us. They cannot bomb us enough,″ bellowed Slavko Panovich, president of the Serbian National Defense Council of America, which helped organize the demonstration. ``We can endure any bombing.″

An estimated 350,000 ethnic Serbs live in the Chicago area. Many of the demonstrators were bused downtown from the suburbs.

To the protesters, Serbia and Kosovo are one: ``Kosovo is Serbia,″ they chanted.

Albanians say they are the original inhabitants of Kosovo, as well as other areas of the southern Balkans where Albanian-speaking people live. Clinton has said NATO is simply protecting these ethnic Albanians, who make up about 90 percent of the population of Kosovo, from Serb aggression.

Most ethnic Albanians are Muslims, descendants of Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians who converted to Islam during 500 years of Ottoman Turkish rule.

Serbs are staunchly Orthodox, following Christian traditions similar to the Russians, Greeks and Bulgarians.

Demonstrators repeatedly expressed an allegiance to the United States but a hatred of what America was doing in the Balkans.

``They’re bombing schools in Belgrade. They’re killing innocent people. It’s shameful,″ said Lana Denic, 45, of suburban Northbrook. ``I love the United States. I love the American people. But I hate Clinton. I hate the government.″

Vesna Mojsic, 14, has lived her entire life in the United States but visits relatives in Kosovo every summer.

``I think it’s horrible. I think Bill Clinton is starting World War III, and Americans should open their eyes and see that,″ Mojsic said. ``My whole family is back there. I’m just extremely worried.″