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In Wake Of Colorado Shooting, A Serbian Community Mourns

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As you likely know, 10 people were killed in a shooting last week at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo. Their funerals have begun. Governor Jared Polis and other state leaders attended one of the first ceremonies this weekend. Colorado Public Radio's Dan Boyce was there as well.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing in Serbian).

DAN BOYCE, BYLINE: The service for 23-year-old Neven Stanisic was held Saturday in the same Serbian Orthodox Christian church he'd attended since he was a boy. Mourners packed the small chapel decorated in richly carved wood and medieval-styled paintings of saints. As the coffin was wheeled in, the traditional hymns were drowned out by the desperate grief of Nevin's father Radmilo.

RADMILO STANISIC: (Crying).

BOYCE: Family members reached out, each putting a hand on Radmilo, including Neven's mother Mirjana and daughter Nikolina, their only remaining child. Radmilo and Mirjana are ethnic Serbs who immigrated to Colorado in the late 1990s, coming for a better and a safer life in the U.S. after fleeing the war in Bosnia.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Singing in Serbian).

BOYCE: The ceremony was half in Serbian and half in English. This church, St. John the Baptist, is a focal point for the area's small and tight-knit Serbian community.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Singing) And grant me the desire, Father (ph).

BOYCE: The parishioners held white candles, grasping them below paper discs meant to catch the dripping wax. Neven had a job fixing coffee machines and had just finished working on one at the Starbucks inside the King Soopers on Table Mesa Drive. He'd left the store and had just gotten into his car when he was gunned down, likely the first fatality in the mass shooting that has further traumatized a state already so familiar with such tragedies.

SASHA PETROVIC: Dear brothers and sisters, it is very difficult to say any words of comfort in this incredibly difficult and heartbreaking moment.

BOYCE: Reverend Sasha Petrovic traveled from an Orthodox church in Omaha, Neb., to give the eulogy. He said Neven's mother had been watching the news last Monday on the unfolding situation in Boulder when the camera focused on Neven's car.

PETROVIC: Her first thought was, oh, my God. Did my son do something terrible? So there is something more terrible than to be an innocent victim.

BOYCE: Despite the tragic circumstance around his death, Neven had lived honorably.

PETROVIC: In our holy Orthodox faith, Serbian Orthodox culture, honor is more precious than even this life on this Earth.

BOYCE: As the funeral drew to a close, the family approached to kiss the golden cross inlaid at the head of Neven's dark mahogany coffin. As they said these last goodbyes, Radmilo Stanisic threw his arms over the coffin, his head on that cross - wife, daughter, family holding him still, all keening...

STANISIC: (Non-English language spoken, crying).

BOYCE: ...For their 23-year-old son and brother, one of the 10 lives taken by bullets less than a week ago. For NPR News, I'm Dan Boyce in Lakewood, Colo.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOOSETAF, KYLE MCEVOY AND BLUE WEDNESDAY'S "MAPLE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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