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Kosovo's "Anne Frank with a laptop" starts school in Berkeley

students studying
School is why Bejtullahu and three of her friends came to Berkeley; ethnic Albanians were banned from schools and universities in Kosovo  

CNN's Rusty Dornin reports on how Kosovo's 'Anne Frank with a laptop' and her friends are adjusting to the United States.
Windows Media 28K 80K

September 4, 1999
Web posted at: 8:55 p.m. EDT (0055 GMT)

From Correspondent Rusty Dornin

BERKELEY, California (CNN) -- It's a long way from the war- torn streets of Kosovo to the streets of Berkeley, California, once known for their anti-war fervor.

It's a journey across miles and cultures made by Kujtesa Bejtullahu, who told the world by e-mail of the horrors of war in her country. The 16 year old risked her life by sending messages to her pen pal in the United States. Those postings were shared with America on National Public Radio.

Now the girl who was often called "Anne Frank with a laptop" is in America with three of her Kosovar friends on a church- sponsored educational tour.

Academic concerns are high on the teens' agenda. For eight years, ethnic Albanians were barred from attending schools and universities, so they gathered in private homes using any books they could find.

"No labs, not much room ... no gyms, not much literature at all ... so we've had problems with everything," Bejtullahu said.

"We will have chance to improve our English (and) to educate ourselves in another system," another student, Grese Sefaj said. "We heard so many things about American system ... educational system ... good things."

Emotional bonds despite cultural differences

Even before they started school, they learned of the differences between their homeland and life in America.

"I saw here there are a lot of different nationalities and religions in the school, and I think it's a good experience for me," student Ligrid Begolli said.

Berkeley is not exactly the average American city, and that makes it special for the teens from Kosovo. It is their first visit, but they were aware of Berkeley's '60s anti-war legacy.

"I knew that was the first place free speech (was) going (on) and people were against the war in Vietnam and I'm against the war (in Kosovo)." Sefaj said.

The teens share the same anti-war philosophy and call themselves "post pessimists"; not quite optimistic, they say, but moving in that direction.

It is a philosophy with one basic tenet.

"If you can't be friends ... don't become enemies," Begolli said.

Simple lessons -- ones that the teens hope to teach new friends in their new world.

Special: Focus on Kosovo
  • E-mails from Kosovo

CNN/Time Transcript: Hello, Adona

'Anne Frank of Kosovo' brings message of tolerance to U.S.
August 26, 1999

UC Berkeley
Youth Radio
  • Emails from Kosovo Part I
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