Click photo to enlarge

A young worshiper drops in some money for the donation box… (Christian Abraham/Staff photographer)


Look down the street. They are here.

And they are among us, making contributions to the community the way immigrants always have — by paying their dues — often starting at the bottom and working their way up. They are bakers, barbers, waiters, soft-drink distributors, merchants, mechanics, teachers, engineers, lawyers and doctors. Many of them own small businesses, from mom-and-pop grocery stores to gas stations to restaurants.

They are Muslims.

Muslims like Ruzhdi Vogli, a mason who spent five days avoiding soldiers ordered to shoot to kill, climbing mountains and living off the sweat he could wring from his shirt as he escaped from communistic Albania only to land in a Yugoslavian prison for 31 days.


Muslims in Bridgeport

was like a movie,” recalls Vogli, who still bears the physique of the Greco-Roman wrestler he used to be. “You had to hide during the day and run during the night. If the shepherds saw you, they would tell the soldiers, who would kill you.” 

When he crossed into Yugoslavia and surrendered to authorities, they threw him in jail.

“It was very bad,” Vogli said. “I would pray every night: ‘God — Please save my mind.’ ”

After 41 days in jail and then a refugee camp, Vogli came to Bridgeport with the help of the International Institute of Connecticut.

They are people like Tarcisico Campos, a Brazilian who last June graduated from Central High School and hopes to save enough money from his job at a fitness club to enter

continue reading at