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Kosovar Family Finds Refuge in N.C.

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GRAHAM — Hundreds of Kosovar refugees were flown to Fort Dix in New Jersey in May. Thursday, some of those refugees arrived in North Carolina. A family of seven was welcomed by a church group in Graham who is sponsoring them.

They walked for miles fleeing the Serbs. They walked for days desperately seeking food and shelter. Thursday, the Baftiu family walked into the open arms of Graham Presbyterian Church.

"We went away from the danger and this is like paradise to us," says father Bafti Baftiu.

The Baftiu family -- father, mother and five children, ages 15 to 21 -- are the first Kosovar refugee family to re-settle in North Carolina.

They are unique to the Tar Heel state, but their story mirrors the horror of so many others.

"We left our homeland, Kosovo, April 3, because we were run out by the Serbs. They made us leave, otherwise we would be killed," says Baftiu.

Members of Graham Presbyterian worked aggressively through World Relief Refugee Services, saying they wanted to help a family.

Mickey McClure is the team leader of the group that convinced the relief agency to send the Baftiu's to Alamance County.

"We just want them to see the world is not all like the world they've experienced. There's a different world out here and there are people that care," she says.

The Baftiu family spent weeks in refugee camps, struggling to survive like so many Kosovar Albanians. They thought there was no hope. Now they will be living in a house donated by a church family.

The whole experience was too much for some family members. They say they cried tears of joy for what they now have and tears of deep sadness for what they left behind.

"I left the rest of my family in the mountains where they were hiding from the Serbs, the guns and the bombings. I don't know what is going to happen to them. As far as for us, we are very fortunate," says mother Vahide Baftiu.

The Baftiu family is the first to come to North Carolina with no family ties. Now their family is the Graham Presbyterian Church.

There are about 30 Kosovar refugees scattered across the state staying with family members who live here.

Church members say they will help as long as they are needed.

The state is still looking for interpreters who speak Albanian for this family and other refugees who are expected soon.

Volunteer medical and mental health personnel are also needed.

If you want to volunteer or donate housing, furniture or cash, call the North Carolina CareLine at1-800-662-7030

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Mark Roberts, Reporter
Jim Young, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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