“From sleeping in the car, to becoming the owner of not one but two restaurants, Sam Zherka and his mom and dad gave me hope.”
By: Melissa Williams
After a falling out with his aunt and uncle, Emilio Delija found himself living in an old car on the street in the Bronx, New York. Delija who is an immigrant from Yugoslavia, was only 20 years old at the time and had little to no prospects in what was a foreign country to him. It was 1987, and Delija felt like a complete stranger, in a stranger place. He had only been here for about three or four days before running into Sam Zherka. “I was acquainted with him as a fellow Albanian,” he recalled. “But I never really knew him, and he did not really know me either. He asked me what had happened to me and why I was living out of a car. Before I could even answer him, he told me to grab my things and to come with him.” Zherka told Delija that a car was no place to live. He took Delija to his home in Yonkers, New York, where he lived with his parents, siblings, and grandmother. Zherka gave Delija his room and told him he could stay there until he was able to get his own place. “The Zherka’s gave me a roof over my head and fed me as if I was part of the family,” said Delija. “I barley spoke any English back then, but I found a friend in Sam and his family. I was barely out of my teens at the time, with no place to go, no place to live, and no family to help me. Sam and his mom and dad gave me hope. They protected me and helped me get back on my feet. After several months of working I was able to save enough money to get my own place to live,” said Delija. After years of working in restaurants Delija was able to finally own his own restaurant, and now is the owner of two restaurants, one in Ardsley and another in Irvington. “I never forgot Sam and what his family did for me,” he concluded.