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Admir Ekmestic, former soccer player, at Mrki’s Place, a Yugoslavian private social club. Photo: Tom Stoelker.
Admir Ekmestic, former soccer player, at Mrki’s Place, a Yugoslavian private social club. Photo: Tom Stoelker.

Queens is by far the nation’s most diverse urban area, and Astoria, notably settled by Greeks, gives Jackson Heights a run for its money in terms of cultural diversity. Just off the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, one block of 30th Avenue is home to an Italian baker, wine merchant, salumeria, and Catholic parish; a Bosnian butcher; Mexican, Chinese, and Thai restaurants; a Greek-owned laundromat; an Egyptian tobacco shop; an Irish pub; and two social clubs, one Greek and the other Yugoslavian.

Admir Ekmestic used to play soccer in Yugoslavia, until the civil war there. He and his friends from Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Croatia escaped the worst of the war, and now sit in front Mrki’s Place, drinking beers and nursing shots. “This gentleman is from Croatia,” Ekmestic said, gesturing towards a friend. “They fight over there; now everything is fine, now we enjoy.”

When asked why everyone gets along in New York City and not at home, he responded, “There’s a million-dollar question. Over there, the politicians just make a big setup for all of us—you know what I mean. And here it’s  the right thing. It works.”

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> Astoria, Queens: Admir Ekmestic, Former Soccer Player, at Mrki’s Place  ONLINE EXCLUSIVE
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