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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Albanian family thanks Bill Clinton for helping bring them to America

Elhame Shala, left, and husband Raif greet former President Bill Clinton after his speech on Oct. 11 in Safety Harbor.

Courtesy of the Shala family

Elhame Shala, left, and husband Raif greet former President Bill Clinton after his speech on Oct. 11 in Safety Harbor.

25

October

It was 1999 when the Shala family first met Bill Clinton.

He was still president when he visited the refugee camp in Macedonia, where the Albanian family of 30 fled after war pushed them out of Kosovo, their southeast European home near Serbia.

The camp had little shelter, no food and no showers. Disease was spreading fast. When Clinton arrived promising to help the hundreds of thousands of people there relocate to safer parts of the world, the Shalas told him they wanted to go to America.

Less than a month later, U.S. officials brought them to Safety Harbor, where they still live today — and where earlier this month, they finally got to thank the man who they say helped bring them to this country.

To family patriarch Raif Shala and his wife, matriarch Elhame, the 42nd president of the United States saved their entire family.

When they got word that the former president would be campaigning for his wife, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, just a few miles from their home, they rushed to wait in line for him.

If they could just catch a glimpse, maybe shake his hand. Or, if they were really lucky, give him the photo clenched tightly in Raif Shala's hand showing the Clintons talking with refugees in Macedonia.

"When he walked in to give his speech, all I wanted to do was hug him," Raif said, using his son Bekim Shala, 45, as an interpreter. "I wanted to tell him I am happy to be in this country."

More here.

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 25, 2016 9:03am]

    

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