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 Photo provided by Donika Bardha

Photo provided by Donika Bardha

From the left, Ferdinand Samarxhi, a journalist; Donika Bardha; Hashim Thaci, president of Kosovo; and Ekrem Bardha pose for a photo after the Bardhas received a Presidential Medal from the Kosovo government.

West Bloomfield family receives award from Kosovo president

By: Maddie Forshee | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published July 30, 2018

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Residents Ekrem Bardha and daughter Donika Bardha celebrated U.S. Independence Day different than most — they were honored with a Presidential Medal from the president of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci. 

Kosovo has a population of around 4 million. Southeast Michigan is home to the largest Kosovar and Albanian populations in North America. 

Ekrem Bardha is the honorary consul general to Albania and has spent over 50 years as an activist on behalf of his home country, as a voice for those oppressed by Yugoslav rule and victims of ethnic cleansing and genocide. 

“I believe in human rights,” said Ekrem Bardha, now 85. “(When) human rights are violated, we should be aware and do something about it. ... If you unite people, make them aware of what’s going on, something will be done.” 

Ekrem Bardha fled the formerly communist country and came to the United States in the late 1950s. 

After coming to metro Detroit, Ekrem Bardha worked at the Ford Motor Co. plant before opening the Bardha Salon in Birmingham with his wife and his three brothers. After that, he began franchising McDonald’s locations throughout metro Detroit. 

Throughout his time in America, Ekrem Bardha has spent a significant amount of time as an activist and lobbying on behalf of the people of Kosovo. 

He led an anti-communist activist group and established the National Albanian American Council in Washington, D.C., a group that lobbies on behalf of Albanian-Americans. The lobby is no longer active since Kosovo achieved independence. 

Ekrem Bardha worked to lobby for the United States to get involved, and in 1999, the U.S. and NATO led an intervention. 

“Because of the lobbying and getting information out there more and more, people can make easier decisions,” said Donika Bardha. 

“Now, today, Kosovo is a free country,” said Ekrem Bardha. 

Donika Bardha received the same award as her father. She has worked alongside her father for years and also has headed up her own projects. 

Ekrem Bardha has met six U.S. presidents and has worked with government officials on the national and local levels. 

Donika Bardha joined her father in activist work throughout the 1990s as they supported the democratization of Albania. 

“I think that it shows that when there are situations where there (is) oppression, human rights abuses and injustices, if individuals ... work together to help the situation, you can do a lot and a lot can be done,” said Donika Bardha. “My father … worked with others. If you really want to work toward helping people, you can.”