It was a ragtag group of four Afghan refugees, a 62-year-old sports administrator and a small Irish group that nearly saved the lives of 86 people in an attempt to escape the Taliban at gunpoint in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Described as “a ragtag group of gentlemen” by one of the immigrants to the United States, the effort landed the long-time employer of Jaroslav Vollaitis, 65, in the United States.
Volkaitis, the Slovakian, is a longtime Afghanistan sports administrator and was in the west African nation trying to build bridges with youths when the Taliban shot him during a two-day raid on the small house he shares with his wife, Janine Prieg.
Volkaitis recently recounted the harrowing tale to the New York Post.
“This group of gentlemen were huge, four men, two women and four children,” the Slovakian sports administrator said. “I thought, ‘This is a Lebanese group, this can’t be bad.'”
He added, “We were unaware we could find help in the United States.”
In October 2001, Germany opened its door for refugees fleeing from the devastation caused by terrorists using a bomb in September 11th to attack the World Trade Center. Only 20 were granted refuge to other countries.
Volkaitis and some of his compatriots — all from the village of Hocke, the same place Stanley Kubrick used in “The Shining” for his famous and chilling scene — left for Europe, and then on to the United States, where they had friends in a big real estate company.
The situation was not always clear with regard to how they were meant to get to the American embassy, but eventually, a group of “wonderful” Americans with contacts in the group were able to guide them to the few remaining bridges in Kabul connecting to the outside world.
They took American Express-issued credit cards. Travel companies offered travel guarantees, friends suggested vehicles, and more than 50 places were offering help with shelter.
Volkaitis was relieved to not be alone, but he had no way to retrieve his bags.
“I had no idea there was a system. How do you try to find something? I was the only one who didn’t know that there was any information,” the sports administrator said.
In the past three weeks, a search for their luggage has proven futile, and the group has been longing for some way to tell someone they’re OK, he said.
Officials at the Slovakian Consulate in New York on Friday confirmed that some of the names are the same as ones listed with the embassy in Brussels, Belgium.
They could contact Volkaitis if the Slovakian government looked into him and recommended it, but a spokesman for the Slovakian government in Bratislava said they have never been in touch with him.
According to the Post, the group will be allowed to stay in the United States for 90 days. They were given the opportunity to make their own way back to Afghanistan as refugees after they get back, and once they have 30 days of residency in the United States, they will be granted a green card.
The group will not be allowed to have work permits, but if the Slovakian government’s policy changes in the future, the Slovakian ambassador to the United States can give them work permits, the Post said.
More coverage can be found at The New York Post.
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