IT is now 20 years since the first 100 refugees from a war-ravaged European country arrived in Ulverston.

The Mail, on Thursday, May 20 in 1999, noted: “The Kosovar refugees finally arrived in Furness today – ending weeks of frantic preparation.

“They are bewildered and tired but they are finally safe from the horrors which have ripped their homeland apart.”

They arrived in four coaches at 1.30am at the former Ulverston Victoria Lower School, in Hart Street.

The refugees had flown from Macedonia to Manchester airport.

Ulverston’s new arrivals included members of 16 families – the oldest person was 75 and the youngest was just four days old.

Robert Possnett, of the Refugee Council, said: “We choose the most vulnerable people to come on these flights.

“They are unhappy to leave their family and friends, but they are relieved to come somewhere safe.”

There had been a major official and community operation to get the school ready as a new temporary home.

Classrooms and science labs had been changed into bedrooms.

Up to 320 refugees were expected to pass through the school in the next few months.

The county council’s Phil Holden said: “This kind of job would normally take around nine months but we’ve been able to do it in less than two weeks.”

A total of 17 bedrooms were created, plus toilets, showers, teaching areas, lounges and a doctor’s surgery.

The transformation cost £200,000.

County council officials also set up special teams to help with the welfare, social and communication needs of the refugees.

There was a wave of public support for the new arrivals, with people holding events, providing their time and services and donating toys and clothes.

Members of the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service and the Friends of Kosovo organised collections of all the things families would need after leaving their homeland with almost nothing.

This included phone cards to let the new arrivals get in touch with friends and family scattered around Europe.

Help even came with translation services from Albanian speaker Kleanth Labo, 25, from School Street, Barrow.

Some families moved to Barrow and by June 200 was backed up by a support team which won the national 2003 Philip Lawrence Award for its success in promoting the work of young people in the community.

The Kosovars in Barrow project, supported by the Prince’s Trust, was based at the Multi Cultural Centre.