YES Programs



Student Celebrates Her Country in Times Square

Viona  In Times  Square

February 17th is Kosovo's Independence Day, and now Kosovo is three years old. If I were home, I would be out in the streets singing and dancing while carrying Kosovo's flag in my hand. But this year I am living in the USA, so there's no way to be able to do this.  

I was thinking how great it would be if I were back home just for one day to celebrate this beautiful day with my people. But for me, this day was probably going to be a normal one.  That was not really the case.

My host family told me that I should dress formally and be ready to leave at 9am on February 17th. I was in the car when my host parents turned to me and said "Today we're going to the center of the world to celebrate your country's Independence Day." I was shocked and screamed, "We're going to New York?!" and gave them a hug, I was so excited.  

We arrived around 11am, got a snack at McDonald's and in half an hour I saw people arriving in Times Square. As we walked closer I realized that nobody was speaking English - they were from Kosovo and Albania. An event had been organized by the Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer.  

The first name to be mentioned in Mr. Stringer&#39;s speech was mine. I was so honored, everyone had turned to applaud me, this young exchange student from Kosovo. I also had the chance to meet the Ambassadors of Kosovo to the U.S. and the U.N. and the publisher of the most noted Albanian language publication in the U.S., <em>The Illyrian</em>.<br />
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There was also a singer from Kosovo, Merita Halili, who sang our respective national anthems. I was so proud to hear the Albanian anthem in the middle of Times Square. I couldn&#39;t believe it &mdash; I felt like I had gone back home for one day and came back. I couldn&#39;t stop smiling, and I am so grateful to my host parents who have made me feel so good.</p>

It was one of the sweetest surprises I've had since I came to the USA. In the U.S. it is possible to organize an event and invite people to celebrate their country's independence day, even if it is a newborn country and is far away. I saw once again that here everything is possible.  

By Viona M., YES Kosovo '11