Reluctant refugees: Kosovars in Texas
Safe, but sad
May 18, 1999
DALLAS (CNN) -- They are ethnic Albanians who fled the fighting and, for now, live in Texas. While Agim Orana and his wife, Teuta, say they feel safe in their new home, their hearts are still in Kosovo.
"I feel guilty," says Agim, formerly a university professor in the Serb province where his family joined hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled to neighboring countries. "But, at the same time, I'm hopeful we'll be going home very soon."
Adds Teuta, who had been a dentist in their hometown of Pristina, "We want to continue our lives as before."
The Orana family -- including son Andin, 10, and daughter Dea, 5 -- were part of the first wave of Kosovars given permission to come to the United States, which has agreed to accept up to 20,000 refugees.
When NATO launched airstrikes against Yugoslavia on March 24, Teuta fled with her children to Macedonia. Agim says he stayed behind for a week until Serb forces came to his house and gave him 15 minutes to leave.
The Oranas left behind everything and everyone, including Teuta's sister, who, they say, has vanished.
"We left to protect the kids," says Teuta, "not necessarily from being hurt but from watching the massacres with those innocent eyes."
Taking advantage of a family reunification plan offered by the U.S. government, the Oranas are crammed into a two-bedroom apartment in the Dallas area with Teuta's other sister, a brother-in-law and their children.
If they choose, the new arrivals can become U.S. citizens. For now, their days are spent with the paperwork of American life -- obtaining identification cards and undergoing health checks.
While lucky, the Oranas are also reluctant to fully accept their new life. What they really want is an end to the fighting so they can take up Washington's offer of return air fare.
When the family arrived in the United States, "someone asked me if I'm happy," Agim told CNN. "'No,' I said."
Teuta, in tears, says, "We don't talk about what we miss the most."
Correspondent Charles Zewe contributed to this report.
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