When Sokol Zejnullahu fled his native Kosovo in March, he never expected that his journey would ultimately bring him to Lowell House at Harvard.
Sokol, age 15, his brother Kreshnik, and sisters Aida and Amella, 17, 18 and 20, respectively, have found a new home and family here at Harvard. The four were taken in this summer by Lowell House co-Masters Diana L. Eck and Dorothy A. Austin.
The Zejnullahus saw their father, a prominent doctor in the city of Peja, killed in their home by Serbian paramilitary members last November--just one year after their mother had died of cancer. The day of their father's funeral, they met Instructor of Psychiatry Ruth A. Barron and Assistant Professor of Medicine Jennifer Leaning, who were investigating crimes against doctors and health clinics in Kosovo for Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).
"When we met the children, we expected just to shake their hands, but we ended up staying for three hours," Barron said. "They really wanted to talk to someone."
After returning to the United States, Barron and Leaning kept in touch with the Zejnullahus. When NATO bombing of Serb military installations in Yugoslavia began this year, the two went on a PHR mission to the Balkans to locate the many doctors and children who they had met during their investigations.
Barron and Leaning, who are members of the Lowell House Senior Common Room, located the Zejnullahus in Montenegro. They helped transport the four to Albania, and worked with the First Unitarian Parish of Concord, Mass., to bring the Zejnullahus to the United States in mid-July.
"I thought of Dorothy and Diana--how much space they had, their commitment to young people, and their warmth," Barron said. "We thought it would be a perfect match."
According to Austin, the decision to accept the young men and women into their household was made in a matter of days.
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