"We take visas!" were the first words of broken English from the mouth of Genta Hysaj, an Albanian translator who will accompany 12-year-old Merita Ulaj on Ulaj's five-month trip to Spokane for surgery and therapy at the Shriners Children's Hospital.
U.S. Embassy officials in Albania had, a few weeks ago, turned down the temporary visa applications for Merita and Genta (reported in the July 5 Inlander), claiming Merita hadn't proved she needed to come to the states for treatment of a bony growth on her elbow and that Genta hadn't proved she had a reason to go back to Albania after Merita's therapy was over.
But intervention from two staff members in U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell's office helped to forge a stronger communication link between Spokane and Tirana (the Albanian capital). Nichol and her husband provided the financial information embassy officials wanted; Genta, Merita, her parents and doctor collected more documents in Boga, their little mountain village. On Monday morning, they presented their package of paperwork to embassy officials and were rewarded with two visas, ending a 10-month bureaucratic quest. "Oh my God, THEY ARE COMING!!" wrote an excited Nichol, just a few hours after receiving the news.
Nichol's son in Germany is making travel arrangements. Genta and Merita are due to arrive in Spokane sometime in the next several days. Merita is scheduled for surgery on Aug. 1.