THE PLAIN DEALER (Cleveland Ohio)
Sunday, June 20, 2004
Serbia and Montenegro's
struggles being ignored,
Plain Dealer Reporter
A decade of war has left much poverty in Serbia and Montenegro in Southeastern Europe. The unemployment rate has reached 40 percent and hospitals are poorly equipped.
The country's economic struggles come at a time when the bulk of international aid and attention is directed toward Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Although there is no oil in our country, there are people," Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia and Montenegro said Saturday during an interview in her hotel room at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. "You can't punish the people. You either rebuild the country or you punish the country, you can't do both. And our country needs to be rebuilt."
The princess was in Cleveland to attend a gathering held Saturday night by Sam Miller, co-chairman of Forest City Enterprises. Her Royal Highness wanted to show her appreciation for Miller's donations in October to her nonprofit Lifeline Humanitarian Organization, which provides medical equipment, educational materials and supplies to her home country.
The country's condition has worsened since the NATO bombings in the late 1990s that ousted former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. The princess is married to Crown Prince Alexander II, and in July 2001, they returned from his family's exile of more than 60 years, which was enforced first by the Nazis and then by the communists.
Since then, even with a democracy slowly gaining form, the country has yet to recover.
Her Royal Highness tells of visiting a school where half of the 1,600 children go hungry because they can't afford lunch. At the hospitals, elevators are broken and only one-third of the equipment works. Rubber gloves, thrown away after their first use in America, are washed and re-used hundreds of times in her homeland.
"You see it every day, every hour of the day," she said. "You see the loss of life there, the misery, the sadness in their eyes, and I want to bring them happiness and smiles."
To improve the country's situation, she started a foundation in August 2001 that included her Lifeline Humanitarian Organization. The nonprofit group spreads awareness of the country's economic situation and raises money to purchase ambulances, educational materials and supplies.
The princess stressed the need for international aid and said her country is held to a double standard. When Iraq and Afghanistan experienced war, bombings and economic sanctions, the international community made plans to rebuild those countries.
"And we have been forgotten," she said.
Her humanitarian efforts have begun to take form, although she said much more is needed. She recalled an orphanage where children slept under tables and beds. Now, it's like a luxury hotel. Recently, a jet with 20 tons of humanitarian aid arrived from Indianapolis. Eight U.S. doctors also came. She said she cried.
This was the third visit to Cleveland for the princess, who once studied in Colorado and Texas. She met Miller in October at a gathering hosted by Alex Machaskee, president and publisher of The Plain Dealer. The event raised $150,000 for Lifeline.
Miller's party Saturday was attended by more than 270 people, including Tommy Thompson, U.S. secretary of health and human services.
THE PLAIN DEALER
Sunday, June 20, 2004
About the princess
Formal title: Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia and Montenegro.
Born: Nov. 13, 1943, in Athens.
Education: Studied in Switzerland and at the Universities of Denver and Dallas.
Languages: Fluent in Greek, English and French.
Work: She is the director of health in Serbia and Montenegro. In 1993, she established the Lifeline Humanitarian Organization to help children, the elderly and refugees - regardless of religious or ethnic origin - throughout Serbia and Montenegro. She helps raise money for medical supplies and food. For details, visit www.lifelineaid.org
Copyright © 1998 NJ.K.V. Prestolonaslednik Aleksandar II
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