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Kosovo Refugees Torn Over Decision

June 16, 1999

FORT DIX, N.J. (AP) _ In the safety and comfort of the resettlement village here, not all the refugees from Kosovo are eager to return to their battle-scarred homeland.

Ragip Bucaliu, 30, does not know if his house is still standing. The iron worker fled with his wife and three young children in April. He said he will make up his mind whether to take the family to an uncle in New York or back to Kosovo once he can get through on the telephone.

``If everything is OK, we will go back,″ he said Tuesday. ``If the house is kaput, I’ll stay and work.″

As peacekeeping troops move in and Serbs leave their homeland, refugee families now have to face their own mixed feelings about the future.

The refugees are free to stay if they want. After a year they would become permanent aliens and could eventually apply for citizenship. If they want to return, the U.S. government will pay transportation costs.

Some, especially parents with young children and those who know their homes were destroyed, say they would rather work in America for a while and save some money so they can afford to rebuild when they return.

``I think I’ll stay here three or five years and later go back,″ said Sabit Trupi, 33, an economics student who came here with his wife and three young children.

Other families are divided, with teen-age children who want to stay in America and parents more eager to return.

``I love my country ... but I’d like very much to stay in the U.S.A.,″ said Bekim Shala, 17. ``I want to stay here forever.″

The high school sophomore, here with his parents, two older brothers and the wife and young daughter of one brother, said he’s dreamed since childhood of living in America.

His parents want to return and hope to find several relatives they haven’t heard from in weeks.

Don Mosely, director of the Jubilee Partners refugee center in Comer, Ga., said he asked refugees staying there if they planned on returning to their home in Pristina.

He said the Hoxha family told him: ``How can we know? We don’t have any idea. We will simply do whatever we think is best for our children’s future.″

``It seems pretty clear to me that they are in no hurry to get back,″ he said.

Peter Herbert at International Rescue Committee said the half-dozen refugee families in Georgia are not planning on returning to Kosovo.

``None of them are even considering it,″ he said. ``I just don’t think anybody’s in a real rush to go back. They’re not really sure how peaceful it’s going to be. Many of them are thinking about the future and their kids.″

A refugee in Lansing, Mich., Nuhi Hasanraka, is considering keeping his family in the United States permanently.

``If it appears I have a good future here for me and my children, I won’t go back,″ he said. In Kosovo, ``everything that we had was burned and destroyed.

But his sister, Arzije Hasanraka, and her family _ husband Faik, 61, son Faruk, 18, daughter Ilire, 11, and mother Sabile, 71 _ can’t wait to go home.

``As soon as I know that I can sleep in peace in Kosovo,″ she said, ``I will go back.″

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