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'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., The Illyrian.
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't believe it — I felt like I had gone back home for one day and came back. I couldn't stop smiling, and I am so grateful to my host parents who have made me feel so good.

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