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U.S. Peace Corps aborts mission in Albania

March 18, 1997 GMT

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Two hours after Peace Corps volunteer Phil Beavers married his Albanian girlfriend, the turmoil gripping the Balkan country forced the couple to evacuate.

Now in Romania, they’re planning a honeymoon.

Beavers, of Siler City, N.C., and Ben Hruska of Omak, Wash., both arrived in Albania 21 months ago, and both left the country last week married to Albanian women. The wives were among the group of 80 Peace Corps volunteers and staff evacuated from Albania amid shooting last Friday.

All 80 are now in a hotel in Romania’s capital, Bucharest. Some volunteers will stay in Romania and work with the local Peace Corps, which has a sizable contingent. Others plan to volunteer in other countries. Many say they want to return to Albania when it is safe.

Not the newlyweds. Beavers and Hruska plan to show their new wives the United States. And all need a rest after the turbulence of the last few days.

``On Wednesday night, we were spending one of the first nights of our honeymoon sleeping on the floor with all the others inside the Peace Corps compound in Tirana,″ Beavers said Monday.

Beavers and his wife, Ella Bellovoda, who have known each other since April, were married in a hasty ceremony witnessed by a passerby in the northeastern Albanian town of Korca a week ago.

Hruska and his wife, Vojsava, were married earlier this month in the southern port of Vlora, one of the first cities where rioting broke out as unrest grew after Albanians lost money in high-risk investment schemes.

``At that time, people around us had rifles but weren’t yet shooting at each other. But they were shooting in the air as we were getting married,″ Hruska said.

Hruska recalled tense moments the day of the evacuation.

``On the day we left, groups of armed people stopped our car and pointed rifles at us. We saw two people killed, people were yelling, it was terrible,″ he said.

Other evacuees also have stories to tell. They speak of gunfire and screaming and of the relief of boarding the helicopters that took them to the U.S. aircraft carrier off the Albanian coast.

Reggie Wojtewicz, from Auburn Hills, Mich., said she gave away her sneakers to an Albanian guard because she could only take essentials with her.

``The next morning, he was wearing my Converse and was waving good-bye,″ she said.