Tahir Vitija and Adil Mohammed
DescriptionTahir Vitija (51) tells his friend Adil Mohammed (58) about his experience as a refugee both in his home country of Kosovo, in Macedonia, and in the United States. He expresses gratitude for the kindness that he was shown in the United States and talks about what it means to be free.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Tahir Vitija
- Adil Mohammed
Recording LocationFlint Institute of Arts
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00:05 My name is Tahir Vidya.
00:08 Age of 51
00:11 Monday August 19th, 2019, Flint, Michigan
00:21 And I'm here just my friend audio.
00:24 He's my friend.
00:27 This is the other Muhammad. I'm 58 years old in today's August 19th, 2019. We're in Flint, Michigan.
00:38 And I'm here talking to my friend. Here. We teach you.
00:44 So tell her we've known each other.
00:49 For some time at the front is lamech Center.
00:57 I only got to know you really I guess better I would say in the last year and a half or two years.
01:05 And you have a pretty unique story. I got to hear it from you first and when
01:15 Again, I just I just asked a very generic question and then
01:21 You kept me informed for the next 2 hours, I would say and
01:31 It was a difficult conversations at times. But but but you you went through it with me. I'm going to try to capture some of that because I thought I thought it's ya.
01:46 A lot of people have gone through a lot of people not lot of refugees have gone through what you're going through but
01:54 I can only talk to you at this time. So I want to capture some of that experience. So can you tell us about video from and how you got to the United States and
02:08 We'll go from there.
02:10 Yeah, I'm coming from small country called Kosovo 1999 was war between albanians.
02:25 Things going
02:28 Wrong ways like a nobody know what's going to happen. Then I decide to just stick my kids. It's time. I have a 3 kids my wife.
02:39 And leave the country.
02:42 And I was before I'll even left my country was a refugee in my country for quite a bit sometimes and finally I got to go to Macedonia and over there was
02:54 Macedonia government pretty much set up tents for refugee.
03:00 And we are probably a hundred and fifty people sleeping in one small tent.
03:09 BNR Effigy was difficult because we didn't even have enough food or water or life supplies and
03:22 But some nonprofit organization did so much for us least to keep us.
03:30 Feet up and been this for quite a bit sometimes tell.
03:36 United States government wants to take some Refugee to bring them over.
03:44 And I got lucky I apply and finally I did something so much paperwork so much.
03:53 Doctor visits and stuff like that. All the process was almost 4 days.
04:00 Then I got to come over.
04:03 May 17th
04:07 2019 99
04:12 Be in here with no relationship with nobody. I was pretty much new to this country. I didn't even speak English at the time. Even I was speaking five different languages. What languages do you speak speaking Croatian Italian little bit German and
04:38 And not just a viking which is mix5 is my Albanian language difficulty.
04:48 Because we cannot even.
04:51 Have a conversation with nobody.
04:54 I remember when I
04:59 Got to Detroit that at 4. I have a
05:05 Different money which is its time was Deutschland Mark and I was going to buy some food for my kids and nobody takes money from other countries and the lady said bang bang bang. Go to change. I said, I don't know. I don't know what I can go and tell somebody comes to pick up Alice from Detroit airport and brought to
05:35 Holly, Michigan
05:37 And that was
05:40 Where do you need for us? Because we brought straight to the American Family. What's give us whole home to live.
05:51 And a Holly, Michigan
05:54 Soon as we got off from Van.
05:58 Chris deal, she said
06:01 Everybody and name which is she memorize 10 people names right away and was weird because we never see.
06:12 This lady before and to call us names was wow, you know how you how you know, it was two people to families with five people in each family. Yes my brother and his wife and three kids and my wife and tickets next time anyone home. So then you came so you said the conflict was in 1999. How long do you think you were in a refugee status before you came here a few months like a warrior, but you can hear shooting here dying people there and stuff like that and go so it was pretty much almost to control by 120000 serves which was crazy at the time. We lost jobs. We lost work I was
07:11 Business owner back home to you're doing well, I mean
07:21 I have a money every day, but when the war comes we lost pretty much everything. I lost the house. I lost the business. Everything was stolen and biggest thing. I I got lost because my missing brother is
07:42 Military pilot, so
07:45 Old Yugoslavia, you should say and he was in Skopje Airport.
07:53 28th of November 1993 and we still don't know till today what's going on with his body or whatever. We don't even know. He's still alive or that till today.
08:10 What the
08:12 What do you remember a particular instant or event that happened at told you I better get out of here?
08:21 It was interesting because you can not feeling safe inside them in a country and you moving from Village to Village. Then we spent like you asked how much longer been there if a g totally was 4 months.
08:43 2 months
08:46 Almost in a my country inside and almost 2 months in the camp.
08:52 And when I got to this country was kind of feel right away freedom of what's is to be in this country. Some people does not recognize freedom is very important for everybody.
09:11 There's when you told me your story remember van at the food pantry you were building the shelving and that's when you kind of told me how it came to be that you were in Flint Michigan. And that's the first I actually knew about the extent of your experience in Kosovo.
09:40 I want to try to capture a little bit of what you told me because I ate it was it was hard for me to listen to it. And I'm you know, obviously it was a very difficult experience even through if you don't want to talk about that, that's fine. But if you are okay talking about it tell me a little bit about
10:03 Give us give me a sense of what that was like one more time because I'd like to capture that you feel comfortable talking about it.
10:14 I'm not sure exactly what cuz I have some so much story to tell and it's going to be not enough time to tell everything, but I'm just going to start from when I got to this country is some more important people to know cuz back home. It is people.
10:39 I've been difficult for artists and stuff like that, but
10:45 Tumi refugee
10:50 On country was difficult then when I got to cross the border, I just feel like little bit Freedom when I got to the United States was 100%. And like I said, I start a new life start working hard and to be to this day. I need to thanks a lot of people who involved time and money to help me especially.
11:23 Diehl's family and I remember.
11:26 Like I said, I don't even speak English. I have a couple friends coming over.
11:32 And drop brand brand new car in my yard, and he said this is donation from Flint Islamic Center at the time. I didn't even know it is Flint Islamic Center exist or what's going on here and after 20 years. I see those people again and just got kind of
11:57 Remember, I'm going back 20 years back and was nice to have somebody who can care and try to help refugees. Cuz those days we need to help now is 20 years after I work hard and I'm trying to even help somebody else like same position I was
12:25 Back in the days. So the deal family is Ed from Holly. Yes DH. How do you spell the name? I h l t i h l. Okay, so they are working with an a nonprofit and that's how they got involved out how retarded that connection happened. I believe what I heard it's time. I didn't even speak English, but when I seen those words to today, I kind of know exactly what what she told us and at the time she said I just saw.
13:07 TV and government asking Whoever has
13:14 House or something to her she can call this number or whatever and
13:20 What's up, some even church was involved. It's time and when was
13:28 Unique when I got here and I start working after 3 weeks. We cannot even drive and she called all friends from church and asking can you drive any days a week or pick up?
13:44 People from work and we have a pretty much every day different driver and the car pretty much yeah was amazing are we speak but love was there and when you have a love doesn't eat too much rewards
14:07 You so now you owe you have a business of your own and can you talk about how that came to be? You know, what what got you back into the business mode and maybe you can you can talk about your how your family is and I know since you came your family has grown, so maybe let's talk about the current status.
14:33 Like I said, the first job was a restaurant job busboy dishwasher. Then I start learning cook was amazing somebody to learn to do cooking in the kitchen last week in language and at 4 months. Was very very unique. I cannot know nobody can achieve them quick time to be no to cook and speak language or at least understanding orders.
15:08 Then after that I start working for Lumber Company Iverson lumber company for 11 years, even though that I have a good experience nice people.
15:19 All this years. I've been working hard and owner of company.
15:27 One day show up and he open window.
15:32 Was 90 degrees outside in AC coming from from window. And I said, oh my God, this is nice even from inside the car right there and I just got closer and he shake shake my hand. He said hi. I said hi.
15:54 He said I drove all the way from Florida just to shake your hand while because I heard so much good things about you and I and I said, you know, like I'm looking my stuff I was you know working hard.
16:14 United East Side I was sweating and I said he has a brand new Cadillac. I said who I am now, you know like to shake my hands from 2,000 miles away and was nice to have those people who appreciate the hard work then I tried to get back those.
16:37 Does good creation just good work myself to then? I have a guy.
16:48 Said okay. We might need some help in the house like handyman. Can you do this when you do that then time go by.
17:00 Meet the the Sami Yusuf and Mohammed hammoud, and he said I need some help at school. I said, okay.
17:11 I took my wife and me spend like 3 weeks to connect organized the school and after we finish the work I said.
17:22 Just what I did and
17:26 Thanks, and you keep asking me how much I own you. I said nothing. I was just glad to help somebody with my time. You know I said this is school need some you know.
17:39 And no no. No you keep pushing me back into me. Keep people check. I said, okay, I'm going to do it, but I want at least spend some time to donate.
17:54 I know it's a little while he comes back. He said how about a full-time job. I said, I don't know he is going to be tough because was
18:06 At the time I was having almost two jobs and plus her job was too much for me. I said give me some time to think about it.
18:15 That didn't take long. I took the job and I'm still working for the Islamic Center at the school and I'm very happy to be around people who
18:26 Help before and I'm trying to get them back somehow my time something you said about a month ago. It's it's not a perspective that a lot of people wreck. Appreciate what you what you told me was that.
18:46 Would that person who donated that car to you?
18:50 Fruit, you know that was the connection that made you come to this community work value that had for you at that time.
19:04 It is.
19:06 Interesting because like when you needed something and you don't have it that you're thinking okay is like dream like American dream. I'm going to have this I'm going to let some people are treated. Some people doesn't reach it some people working hard, but still cannot do it. Some people just got lucky and I was kind of Lucky it anyway cuz like I said, I just wake up one day car wash in front of front yard.
19:37 But interesting story behind this is
19:46 I got.
19:48 To go through all this year's maybe 5-6 years to have not knowing who give me car.
19:57 But that's how many years go by somehow God help me to go through all this processes in to be around same people. I knew it long time ago and was interesting like like
20:15 Because at least you can let's let's say somebody in a suite give you fifty bucks. You never see it. You never see it before but you still thinking okay. If I see this guy at least I'm going to say is thanks and you keep saying or thinking.
20:34 Can I see this guy? Can I see this guy but makes After many years exactly to be working with them tune and was amazing to be around people who it's time to give us so much.
20:48 And now I am glad to at least give some back.
20:53 Yeah, it's
20:59 The the the thing that you said kind of stuck with me and my son was there with me and wanted to make sure that he heard that and when I heard that from you because I got teary-eyed too because of the way you put it to me was this car was nothing for the person who gave it nothing in the sense it sits there making a donation they can afford to do it and they donated at 10 probably didn't mean much to them. But for you who received a hazard of Fiji and to you it was a million dollars.
21:41 It was worth two million dollars and that you still trying to pay that back and
21:50 A lot of people probably go through similar experiences without
21:57 The other person knowing what value that had.
22:00 To somebody like you
22:03 Yeah, it is.
22:09 Interesting, like I said to
22:13 Be refugees country and being recognized from lot of people Who We R needs help and the help was so much for us because we we didn't have family around here. We didn't have no relationship with nobody and to become people you never seen before or you never heard before and just drop off keys. And even remember was full of gas does was insured and you just you just need to drive pretty much and
22:57 For me was like I said big help no price list because after that I feel I can drive go work. So I support my family my kids and I am person who
23:14 That time I needed help but in a way.
23:18 I'd like to give it back.
23:22 And to get back into work hard to have something into to give to somebody and I know this people work hard to give some in this time for us and was no no price and and in time was right time to because some people who needs help today might be tomorrow late today tomorrow same amount of money doesn't value that much. Don't hold back when you lose a $1 this morning tomorrow a hundred dollar.
24:05 Talk about your family. You know what they're doing how they're doing. I know you said when you came you had three kids.
24:14 So what are they doing now? Where are they? And I also know you're when I got here 1999 my youngest.
24:25 Daughter she was 2 years my other daughter. She was 5 my son was seven.
24:33 Then we start.
24:35 Pretty much New Life learning language take kids to a school and after 20 years. I'm very proud my family my kids cuz my daughter she's now PA and she's working.
25:00 Family Practice physician and a graduation day
25:15 And President of University have a speech spent almost whole time talking just
25:24 For my daughter was very nice to hear from somebody who understand the value of.
25:36 People be in this country and working hard and she even have a
25:45 Newspaper front page of her picture and a
25:51 Saying I'm going to give back some help from this country because this country was helping us even back home. We got our freedom from NATO which is allied with United States and now my countries free because
26:14 Right signs of support from government to my other daughter. She's applying for physician assistant just now too and like I said 20 years ago we got here. There's nothing now we try to give back something least to have.
26:37 Save life or being
26:42 Support magistrate could people in this country
26:47 What do so in your son is working with you? Yeah, he's good help.
27:01 So going to eat you talked about writing a book. So are you are you have you started not yet? I'm so busy with my work and trying to keep everybody happy is hard takes so much time and effort. Then I'm going to step by step. As soon as I have a little bit of time. I'm going to cuz I need more and more time to focus in and I hope it's going to be soon. Yeah, but it's not the right time I guess right now you got to get started. I know that you had started writing stuff. I know that I got some small memories just to just to write down dates because sometimes days are forgetting. Let me know if he's still there. I just want to kind of keep up.
28:01 Want to come right time? I will I'm going to finish it going to be unique book because I have a unique story. This is almost like nothing compared to how much I have to say. I know 40 minutes doesn't give us enough time to get into all that but slow down a little bit and write that book. Well, like I said, I'm still having good memories. I hope I'm not going to forget anything, but when I went right time comes I hope there's going to be done quick actually.
28:49 We just have a conversation little while ago between me and you you have a story for you from your mom. And I said, okay same thing to happen to me because even my kids doesn't hear all the stories when some people comes to my house visiting and we start having conversation after conversation start, you know, telling some stories and my kids want that what's going on here? I said what we never heard this before I said, it was no good reason or something. I don't know but like I said,
29:27 This this is mostly for Young Generation who needs to know.
29:37 People pooping throw from
29:41 Day one then grow up.
29:45 Then one day just your wake up and start War and the next thing, you know from Livengood you Arlen refugee camp with nothing.
29:56 Then start a new life again.
30:00 From zero and to be
30:04 Today what I am owning business and helping other people much as I could and being longest good people is very important. Sometimes money cannot buy anything.
30:23 And when you have around people who you like and is
30:29 How can you log and you are right there?
30:34 Richest you could because people makes different.
30:41 I'm not I never once told you I was working at the lumber company.
30:48 I know my supervisor said oh my God one person can make a difference. It is true. One person can make a difference.
30:58 Even forgot or even for that one person can change live or can change even country. It's just the way it is.
31:08 Yeah, lots of examples of that. Yeah through history looking today president of the United States can change a lot of things for good provider and even one small person in this world can be value to doesn't need to be president can be anything else. But when change is coming you can feel like you know.
31:44 100% of 4
31:47 Is interesting when I got to this country.
31:53 I barely
31:56 Hear anybody to have conversation about freedom because Freedom was here and when I come from I Didn't Have a freedom for me was very important.
32:10 Cuz when you have a freedom
32:13 You can enjoy nail. You can enjoy your work. You can enjoy your family. You can enjoy school and never ants.
32:25 One Freedom missing you thinking about the only about freedom.
32:30 Because anything else is doesn't matter.
32:34 You can go to work. But freedom is not there. You're not safe. You going to eat something you're trying to buy quick because you are afraid and you drive me somewhere you don't know is going to be end of point B, you know Point are you started? But can you reach it be a question?
32:58 I remember back in the days. I was driving.
33:04 And I got pulled over from police searching hole. My car searched my pockets find some money and took it from me.
33:14 Not just because I didn't care about money. But when I start asking for paper, can you please give me something to cover my new no business expenses or to show this money missing and I got beat from and I like what do you need to pay for the first people here doesn't recognize because this country has no word for almost five hundred years, I guess and is he on this land on the land here right just
33:52 Is it's all around us so we don't recognize it. Right? I mean you here or going to Syria or going over there toward going against and stuff like that only soldiers and family of soldiers having know what's going on. What's going on in Alaska population barely know 1% of situation. They don't appreciate you waking up going the bus going to school you saved to go you safe to come back and
34:25 But is very important when is
34:31 Here makes even.
34:35 Things go smooth. ER just no Freedom, you know, you know you enjoy anything.
34:42 When I got here first thing I enjoy was Freedom not food not war was Freedom. It doesn't feel so much relieved so much.
34:56 Me me me cuz when you are afraid you're not you're not control yourself somebody else controlling yourself because you're thinking about what's going to happen. What's going up? I was going to be can I use survive till tomorrow or can I be lighter tomorrow? All this thing's too much is pressure on you.
35:19 And you are not.
35:24 Doing right things because you are think about straight up your with free time. You're in at least feel like you're in control of your the actions that you take not thinking about right things outside your control right is like I said this country people
35:48 Are blessed with freedom and but you need to recognize sometimes freedom is very important and
35:58 When you have it you need to know.
36:02 But some people kind of
36:05 Doesn't know because you
36:09 You are born here and you don't have those kind of emotionally thinking or
36:21 Being involved in kind of position when you are. Okay. I'm today life and tomorrow who knows sometimes.
36:34 All the good things that we have are too good for her own good.
36:39 Yeah, you just don't use the rich people are.
36:43 Kind of Blazing away doesn't work too much does an education. I think it's more important to and
36:56 Buy been working hard. You can reach anything.
37:02 Young people trying to kind of just wait for things to happen. You need to go over there and get them, you know that could work hard conversation for another day.
37:16 Well, I want to thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule. I know you got lots of work that you want to get back to you. Appreciate your time today, and you're
37:29 Friendship. Thank you. Thank you very much for having me. And like I said, I have so much to say.
37:39 Write a book for sure.
37:42 All right.
37:43 Thank you. Thank you.