Land Of Opportunity

March 11, 2010

Author: Dan Benson

Source: Sheboygan Press

Erion Buza has come a long way from 1999 when he ran for his life from his home country of Kosovo to escape Serbian soldiers seeking to eradicate Muslim Albanians, like Buza, living there.

"Their objective was to 'cleanse' the country of Muslims. It was genocide, of biblical proportions," said Buza, 33.

Separated from his wife, Fabiola, because he was in another city on business at the time of the attack, Buza escaped across the border into Macedonia and was one of several hundred refugees from the Kosovo War flown to the U.S.

After a brief stay in San Diego, he came to Sheboygan.

"A friend told me how beautiful the city was and that it looked like my home country," he said.

It was months later before he connected with Fabiola by phone. She had escaped into Albania, where by chance she ran into her parents in a refugee camp.

"For a while, it was very bad," Fabiola said.

It wasn't until February 2002 when she joined her husband in the United States.

Today, he works third shift at Dairy Farmers of America while she works at Sargento Foods, both in Plymouth. In 2007, they built a house in the Town of Sheboygan, where they live with their daughters, Haifa, 6, and Gabriela, 4.

"They are both U.S. citizens," having been born here, Erion said proudly.

And that's important to Erion.

"This is the land of opportunity," Erion said. "I will never forget the generosity of the American people and the American government. I will be thankful all my life."

The Buza family has helped bring other Albanians to the area by providing financial support and opening their home.

"America is the most generous country in the world. I want to be generous too," said Erion, who worked as an immigrant laborer in Italy and Greece before being ousted from his country.

However, there is one thing that has been missing from their lives in Sheboygan: There is no mosque where they can worship.