Kosovo refugees find haven at Georgia retreat
June 21, 1999
COMER, Georgia (CNN) -- Five thousand miles from fear and gunfire, dozens of Kosovo ethnic Albanians have found sanctuary in a wooded retreat in northeast Georgia.
Rather than running from Serb snipers, the refugees' children ride bicycles at the Jubilee Partners community run by Christian pacifists near the mountain town of Comer, northeast of Athens.
They and their parents are among more than 7,500 Kosovars throughout the United States who are learning new ways.
Ilir Hoxja, a 45-year-old music producer from the Kosovo provincial capital of Pristina, was reunited at the Jubilee Partners compound with his neighbors one month after Serbs forced his family to flee.
Volunteers teach the refugees language and life skills -- how to find homes, employment and forget the violence of the past.
"One of the most important things that happens is a chance to regain some faith in human beings, both those like them and those different from them," said Bob Mosley, who followed this philosophy when he helped found Jubilee Partners 20 years ago on 258 acres in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
Since the center opened, it has hosted 2,200 refugees, most of them traumatized by war and brutality, from 15 countries.
More than half of them have been children. Many have earned scholarships and graduated from college since coming to the United States.
The parents have the most difficulty coping with a new country. They struggle to learn words and numbers all over again, but young people like Teuta Hoxja, 15, picks up English easily.
More challenges await the Kosovars when they go to shop with the $20 allowance each of them receives each week. Gone are the open-air markets and bargaining they are used to. In their place are bright supermarkets that offer special deals, like three pizzas for the price of two.
Since the NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia ended in early June, Kosovo refugees have faced the question of whether to return home. The U.S. government, which offered to take in 20,000 refugees, has offered to let them remain and eventually become citizens.
In the coming weeks, the refugees at Jubilee Partners will resettle in Atlanta, if they decide to stay. The Hoxjas likely will make that choice. Ilir Hoxja does not think the peace in Kosovo will last, and believes his family will have more opportunities in the United States.
"I am happy. My children good in Georgia," he said.
Inspired by the Biblical call of Jesus to make peace in the world, the Jubilee activists have traveled to battle zones in many nations, chased midnight trains with nuclear weapons on board and done prison time for resisting war taxes.
Despite the seriousness of the Jubilee Partners' work, there are lighthearted moments. In the 1996 book "With Our Own Eyes," co-written by Joyce Hollyday, Mosley recalls one Laotian family turning up the forest with shovels in search of fat field mice, considered an edible delicacy. They found quite a few.
One day, the Welcome Center buzzed with excitement when word spread that a really big one had fallen into a trash barrel. It turned out to be an angry, hissing opossum. The forest wildlife was then placed off-limits to the hunters.
Correspondent Carol Lin contributed to this report.
NATO air war officially ends as Yugoslav troops leave Kosovo
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