“This is a photo that was taken near the Grand Hotel in Prishtina, Kosovo on the 30th of August, 1990. The man in the photo is named Faik Rexhepi from Preshevo and he is my cousin. He was demonstrating to show his loyalty to the land of Kosovo as an Albanian. He said to the crown: “Ky është Atdheu im, përtej tij nuk kam ku të shkoj” – “This is my motherland, beyond this I don’t have anywhere to go”.
“Leading the wave of Serbian nationalism, Milosevic in 1989 enacted what had long been a goal of the nationalists — the rescission of Kosova‘s autonomous region status. For Kosovar Albanians, loss of this special status in Yugoslavia was a defining moment. Thereby they lost their political voice while their police, courts and schools were all placed directly under Belgrade. This action capped a series of policies from Belgrade that had been designed to favor Serbs in Kosova and to restrict Kosovar Albanians‘ opportunities so that they would leave Kosova altogether. The decade had begun with the 1981 demonstrations by Albanians in Prishtina. These demonstrations had started as a protest of conditions at the university food service, but had been co-opted into the broader political goal that Albanians had long sought, namely, having Kosova become Yugoslavia‘s seventh republic. Albanians in Kosova wanted to be treated on a par with other ethnic groups, They pointed particularly to the Montenegrins who were less numerous than the Kosovars but who nevertheless had their own republic within federal Yugoslavia.
The demonstrations were put down with police force and martial law, and many Kosovar Albanian professionals were fired from their positions and never rehired. Throughout the 1980s it became more and more difficult for Kosovar Albanians to secure jobs in Kosova. At the same time Serb colonists were guaranteed jobs and apartments if they settled in Kosova.
Refkije Jakupi, an Albanian-American who was then a graduate student at the University of Michigan and did internships in Kosova, remembers the changes in Prishtina before and after the loss of autonomy. She cites gatherings in the Grand Hotel in Prishtina in the summer of 1987 when Albanians and Serbs both socialized there. But by December of 1988, the same area had become more segregated and the atmosphere tense. By the summer of 1990 even the signs in the hotel were no longer in Albanian; rather they were only in Cyrillic.”