Kosovo and Divorce

 In Blog, Collaborative Law, Cool Stuff

If you know me, have noticed my company name, or happen to be reading this article (which should be
all of you), you’ve probably noticed my unusual last name – Starcevic (unusual around here anyway). I
have always enjoyed the guessing game that some people like to play about its origin.

No, I’m not Russian, although I did take Mr. Walker’s Russian language class in high school at Albia.

No, I’m not Bosnian, although you’re getting warmer.

It’s actually Croatian – my great-great grandparents having come over from Croatia to work in the coal mines and farm in Southern Iowa in the 1880’s. I’ve always wanted to go back to see it, especially after a family member did so recently, and it’s on my bucket list of places to visit. My sources tell me that the Karlovacko beer festival is a great time!

You may also know that I am an officer in the Iowa Army National Guard. What you may or may not know is that Iowa and Iowa National Guard have formed a strategic partnership with the county of Kosovo and the Kosovo Security Forces, in that same part of the world where my family came from long ago. …it’s not the exact same part of the world, but it’s close. And there are some interesting parallels between the story of Kosovo and the work that I do in family law.

I was fortunate enough to recently see the documentary film “With a Cup of Sugar: Kosovo. Today. Tomorrow.” a documentary by Luke T. Harwarth. It was a great film – I highly recommend it. Visually, the film was stunning – filled with beautiful shots of the breathtaking landscape of Kosovo. It was also very moving. The film is a story about the partnership between Iowa and Kosovo, and it highlight’s the background of oppression, atrocity, struggle, and hope for the future of the people of the county. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, check out the trailer here, it will be well worth your time.

One of the most moving parts of the film for me was the personal story of Brigadier General Xhavet Gashi, who was with the Kosovo Liberation Army. He tells his story of oppression, of physical abuse at the hands of his local police, and his experience in Kosovo’s war for independence against Serbia. Make no mistake, war is brutal, and I’m sure terrible things were done by both sides.

However I was struck by General Gashi’s sincere intent with reconciliation and making peace with his former enemies. Basically he takes the position that…it’s on us, who were part of that cause, to spread the message to others, that ok, we fought for our cause…next step, we can build something else…friendships can be built, reconciliation can be built… Despite a difficult past, the General sees the bigger picture and wants to make peace and rebuild his country for the benefit of future generations.

As someone who assists people in what can be the ultimate personal battle of their own lives – divorce and child custody cases, I find this remarkable. Some of my clients can do this, but many more can not. Many parents with children continue to fight, continue to pick at each other, and continue to leverage any opportunity to “get even” with the other parent, long after the battle of divorce is over. And I don’t need to tell you which party ultimately loses in this type of situation…it’s not the parents.

Let me ask you…if a guy who lived in fear for the physical safety of his family and friends, was beaten by his local government officials, and fought in a war for independence can find reason and hope to reconcile with his former enemies, why can’t all of us do the same? And especially in family law, where the well-being and future of our children are concerned? If he can see the need to reconcile, then we all should be able to.

I don’t have the answer to these questions, however I can tell you that for some families, the families that decide to litigate their divorce, that their war never ends. We’re not even talking about the type of conflict in Kosovo…a county on the faultline of Western and Eastern European cultures, at the crossroads of three major world religions, in an area with centuries of ethic tension and violence, and in a part of the world that has sparked two major world wars…we’re talking about families…people who loved each other, people who built lives together, and people who will be bound together forever with children and grandchildren.

This is what I think collaborative law is about – ending the war, rebuilding for future generations, and making peace…and making peace not by imposing force, but by the mutual consent and free will of both parties. If people in Kosovo want to rebuild, can see a brighter future, and see reason for hope, then I think all families can, especially the ones who chose to divorce.

If you weren’t lucky enough to see “With a Cup of Sugar” yet, you can watch the trailer and sign up for notifications about the film.

I hope that you will. There’s much work remaining to be done in Kosovo, and admittedly it won’t be easy (it’s not easy for my client’s families either), but I hope that you have the chance to learn what the people of Kosovo can teach us about forgiveness, hope, and building a better future.

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