SOU student to talk about childhood in Kosova, role of nationalism in Balkan conflict

Flamur Vehapi was 15 years old when the war started.

His native Kosova (also known as Kosovo) was torn apart by ethnic warfare that pitted Serbians against Kosovar Albanians. His childhood home was destroyed, and soldiers barred the doors of his elementary school.

Seeking shelter from the persecution and the daily massacres organized by military rule of Slobodan Miloševi?, the family fled the country. They lost everything, and spent the next few years in refugee camps in Macedonia, Italy and Switzerland.

Vehapi learned many languages during his time abroad, becoming proficient in  English, Turkish, Italian, German, Serbian, and French. After the war, he returned home and finished his education.

In 2005 Vehapi came to America to attend Rogue Community College and served as a student senator. Now, as a psychology major at Southern Oregon University, he is a student ambassador for Kosova and a public speaker, sharing his story and the history of his country in schools and organizations in Southern Oregon.

On Thursday, Feb. 7 at 4 p.m. in the Meese Room of SOU’s Hannon Library, Vehapi will discuss the rise of nationalism in the Balkans, its effects on the society and how it led to the fall of Yugoslavia in the 90s. He will also read from his book, The Alchemy of the Mind. The event is free and open to the public.

During this presentation Vehapi will attempt to expose a phenomenon that tore his society apart and finally led the nations of former Yugoslavia to great bloodshed. Furthermore, the structure of conflict-prone nationalism in its recurrent and widespread appearance will be examined and assessed in terms of its historical roots, evolution, and socio-political consequences. The focus of the talk will be the examination of how it nationalism configures identity, historiography, nationhood, democracy, and human values, above all.

Vehapi’s newest book, The Alchemy of Mind, was inspired by Rumi and other poets and philosophers, as well as his experiences during war in Kosova during 1998 and 1999 which forced Vehapi and his family from their country. The insights of these sixty poems are laced with irony and Vehapi’s understanding of our common humanity. Despite the irony, the message of the book is one of peace and unity. This is Vehapi’s second book; while still in Albania, he published a book of poems, written in Albanian, that include drawings of his destroyed home and other wartime scenes.

Vehapi is currently working on a third book, this one about his life experiences. Copies of Alchemy of the Mind will be available for purchase and signing after the lecture. For further information, call 552-6816.

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