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Sullivan (center) with Kosovo Albanian refugee children in northern Albania, May 1999

In 1992 Stacy Sullivan was a graduate student at Columbia University, studying journalism and international affairs. When a professor asked her class to write about ethnic communities, Sullivan chose the Albanians of East Tremont, the Bronx. Several months later, Sullivan went to Albania to work with a group of journalism students on the country’s first independent student newspaper. She intended to stay the summer and wound up staying for a year.

During that time, Sullivan met scores of students from Kosovo, the Albanian-populated province across the border in Yugoslavia. The Serb-ruled government in Yugoslavia had implemented an apartheid regime that denied Albanians basic rights, including education in their language. Years before fighting would begin, the students talked to Sullivan about the coming war.

When the war started in Kosovo in 1998, Sullivan was back in New York, having spent several years covering the Bosnian conflict for Newsweek. She was intrigued to discover that many of the Albanian guerrillas were outfitted with American supplies—U.S. Army fatigues and Radio Shack walkie-talkies. The U.S. government wasn’t supporting the rebels, so who was? Sullivan remembered the émigrés she had interviewed for that journalism class back in 1992. They were natives of Kosovo and some of them, she reasoned, must have ties to the rebels. Rather than returning to the Balkans to cover the war, she went back to the Bronx where someone suggested she speak to an Albanian roofer in Brooklyn. Her interviews with Florin Krasniqi laid the groundwork for Be Not Afraid, For You Have Sons in America.

Sullivan is currently an editor at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, a non-profit organization that trains journalists in countries recovering from war. In addition to Newsweek, her articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, The Washington Post, Men's Journal, and others. She lives in New York City.

Email Sullivan at stacy@stacysullivan.net

Photo by Les Stone


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