Sister Bernadette Ebenhoch is a traffic stopper. Literally.
When ethnic Albanian refugees poured by the thousands through this border crossing, fleeing Serb oppression in neighboring Yugoslavia, one of the first things many saw was Sister Bernadette, standing in a covered truck, handing out food.
Surrounded by tractor-loads of refugees, sometimes she was easy to miss. When cars drove by without stopping, she would desperately holler and wave.
They swerved. They braked. They jammed the gears into reverse.
To get the refugees to notice her and what she was giving away, Sister Bernadette resorted to reaching over the back gate of a truck and shoving boxes of goodies into waiting hands. Sometimes she would fling packages of Bisquick toward passing refugees or lunge toward them with jars of baby food.
Many people arrived in Albania traumatized and in shock, and some seemed perplexed at the sudden, unexpected act of kindness. Hunger, surprise and gratitude showed on their faces.
"We don't know who she is, but we are very thankful," said Sabrja Haliti, 49, pulling away in a car crammed with family and friends.
Unlike most aid organizations here, there were no banners, no flags, no brightly colored logos emblazoned on the truck. The name of her organization was not stamped on any item she handed out. This was not a fund-raising gimmick with T-shirts and baseball caps. There was no hoopla. Just Sister Bernadette and a few helpers.
"It's very difficult for me to see all these people suffering," said Sister Bernadette, 43. A Franciscan nun from Bavary, Germany, she came to Albania four years ago and is posted at St. Joseph's Church in Fushe-Arrez, a village about four hours north of Tirana, the capital.
She and another nun, Sister Gratias Ruf, have cared for as many as 800 refugees in the church's small complex of buildings and in nearby apartments. Money for their operations comes from church donations in Italy and Germany, Sister Bernadette said.
The food distribution was carried out over two days, three times a week during the three months preceding the peace agreement between NATO and the Yugoslav government. Sister Bernadette left her church at 5:30 a.m., drove to the coastal port of Durres to pick up a shipment, then returned to the church about 10 p.m. The next day, she left about 8:30 a.m. for the border three hours away, distributed the food to arriving refugees and returned home about 9:30 p.m.
"I was watching television, and I looked at them, and some hadn't eaten for five days," she explained. "I thought: We're close to the border. We have to help these people, especially the children. That is what moved me the most."
CAPTION: At the gate: A Kosovo refugee waits outside the church in Fushe-Arrez, where she has come for eyeglasses. Sister Bernadette doles out medicine and glasses from the church, which has helped care for 800 refugees in town.
CAPTION: Feeding a crowd: Sister Bernadette distributes food from in Kukes, Albania. She decided to drive to a refugee camp there because no refugees were coming that day through the Morina border crossing.
CAPTION: Moved by suffering: Sister Bernadette Ebenhoch, a German nun assigned to St. Joseph's Church in Fushe-Arrez, Albania, for four years, has been traveling to the Kosovo-Albania border to help refugees.
CAPTION: All God's creatures: Above, Sister Bernadette begins each day by feeding the many animals-- including dogs, chickens and donkeys--at St. Joseph's Church. A three-story, old-style European house doubles as the church and as a home for Sister Bernadette and another nun, Sister Gratias Ruf. At left, Sister Bernadette hands out food to refugees after they cross the border at Morina.