His family escaped Albanian Civil War to N.J., and now Giants’ Kristjan Sokoli is living true American Dream.
Working as a bank teller in Albania, Gjon Sokoli could not afford to buy his 5-year-old son a bicycle like the one belonging to the neighbor.
So the wise father hatched a plan to buy the bicycle and give it to his son with an ultimatum: Kristjan had 24 hours to teach himself to ride or else it went back to the store.
Totally foolproof. Except …
“I go to work 7 a.m. and come back 6 p.m.,” Gjon said. “My wife tells me, ‘You want to see your son on the bike?’ He comes riding from the front to backyard. Kristjan said, ‘I don’t want the bike to go back.’ I can’t believe it. I said, ‘You keep it.'”
Thus began Giants defensive end Kristjan Sokoli’s journey into the family business of beating odds and maximizing opportunities, much like his parents did in fleeing the only home they had known when the Albanian Civil War ravaged the coastal southern European country.
“Kids 10-17 years old, everybody had guns,” Gjon said. “They shot people like they shot the birds. I was scared. My decision to bring my family to United States saved my life. It was The American Dream. Everything I find better and better and better.”
Gjon first arrived by plane in New Jersey in 1997, sleeping in a different basement every night and scraping together savings from roofing and construction jobs to bring over his wife in 1999. Their two sons joined in 2000, and the eldest boy learned English after six months in school.