“Dear PoPville, I was once a refugee.”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric P.

“Dear PoPville, I was once a refugee.

While there is a nation wide discussion about the refugees of the war in Syria, I wanted to share my own experience.

I still remember the day when I came back home from school; I was surprised to see my mother there at the time when she should have been at work. I asked her something and she said no because we have to leave the country. Then she told me that the night before, 2 of my aunts and her husbands were killed by the military. My dear cousin, the one I used to play with, was also killed. I was around 12. Who knows, we could be next.

The day after that, we landed on a country that now is synonym of “wonderful vacation” for most people, but not for me. Living there was not easy. We had to line up to get food, be constantly harassed by immigration asking us for papers, people there made fun of us because of our accent. But there was also that private school that allowed me and my cousins study in the meantime. The teachers were particularly nice and understanding.

Once the situation of my country went back to normal and safety, we returned. That’s where our friends and family were, our culture, our home. Thanks for reading.”

54 Comment

  • binpetworth

    We need more voices like yours. I have a close friend who was a refugee from Communist Hungary, and her experience is somewhat similar to yours. People would never imagine a blue-eyed white girl could be a refugee, but it is important to tell all of these refugee stories to put a human face on tragedies like the one going on in Syria, and that have gone on all over the world. Thank you for articulating this.

  • We also need to remember a significant number of Americans are in this country because we are fleeing something. War, persecution, famine. The rhetoric is disgusting.

    • justinbc

      Fear typically brings out the worst in people.

      • By the “worst” you mean, I’m guessing, is any opposition to taking in any refugees? That may be your opinion, but it’s my opinion that keeping Americans safe is most important. That means, to take refugees from a population that has had individuals use their refugee status to cause great harm (see Paris last Friday night) without the proper security measures and monitoring needed is reckless. The security agencies have already said we don’t have the security infrastructure to do that. It’s not that we don’t “like” anyone, but the US government is charged with keeping its people safe and if that delays refugee influx, then that’s what should happen until all security measures are in place. Let’s talk about reality and not ideals.

        • The reality is a number of EU nationals committed a terrorist attack in Paris. Do you support the immediate halt of visitors and immigrants from the European Union?

        • Because good ‘ol boy, red-blooded ‘Muricans never, ever go on horrific ideologically driven killing sprees. Funny how we only pay lip service to combating a vastly more dangerous threat.

        • “without the proper security measures and monitoring needed is reckless.”

          Fear mongering. Do you know anything about immigrating to the US? It is not an easy process, nor a quick one. These security measures and monitoring are already in place!! Furthermore, our borders are only as “secure” as the humans working at them. Oh the stories I could tell. So not letting refugees in will help keep ISIS out? If only it was that easy.

        • Yes, I remember when we banned Kansans from leaving the state after Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah Building.

        • It is a long and difficult process to come to the US as a refugee and involves a thorough vetting process. Bringing in refugees to the U.S. poses less risk than allowing foreigners to fly into the U.S. as visitors. So I assume your top priority is to forbid anyone from anywhere else in the world except for maybe Australia to take a trip to the U.S.?

          “Of the almost 750,000 refugees who have been admitted to America since 9/11, only two Iraqis have arrested on terrorist charges; they had not planned an attack in America, but aided al-Qaeda at home.” (The Economist)

          • You’re wrong count pheasant. The Tssrnaev brothers were Chechen refugees that arrived here in 2002. They blew up the Boston Marathon.

          • No, they arrived on tourist visas, and later applied for and received asylum. I don’t think it makes much difference for purposes of this discussion, but at least get your facts straight if you’re going to correct others.
            Even if 10 times as many refugees committed atrocities, it wouldn’t come close to the number of people killed by natural born gun toting americans every year. Anyone claiming they want to keep Americans safe also has to champion gun control and universal health care. To do otherwise is crazy contradictory.

          • wdc – The claim by mount p was no refugee after 9/11/2001 has been a terrorist. The brothers arrived after 9/11 and did receive political asylum. They are post 9/11 refugee terrorists. . These are the facts. You have a right to your narrative and respect that. I don’t respect the way you dismiss the information I provided as it is relevant to the comment thread.

        • justinbc

          Thanks for taking my statement, inferring what you wanted from it, and using it as a platform for grandstanding your agenda.

        • I’d say poverty is more strongly correlated with violence than religion or country of origin.

          70,000 refugees each year admitted to the USA. So, about a million admitted since our extended adventures in the middle east began. How many of those million refugees has committed a terrorist act?

          How many native-born Americans have done so in that same time period?

          I don’t know what the solution is, but remember the refugees from Germany in WWII that America didn’t want. Public opinion polls from the time were overwhelmingly against accepting them into the country, and the St. Louis was turned away once it got to Florida.

          If we cut off Syrian refugees, what about other middle eastern countries? Are they ok? How about Iraqi refugees? Jordanians? Turkish? Egyptian? Where do you draw that line?

          • Syria and Iraq are commonly regarded as conflict zones. Jordan, Turkey, and Egypt are not.

          • Oops, I misinterpreted your argument — I see now you were countering the idea of excluding refugees from Syria but allowing refugees from elsewhere in the Middle East.

        • Dupont Resident, accepting refugees will actually keep America safer. To contribute to the desperation of a displaced people through inaction is to contribute to the extremist groups. ISIS wants them hurting, wants them desperate, and most especially wants them marginalized by the west. That’s how ISIS grows.
          Let’s show the world our generosity, not just our guns. I guarantee you that we’ll be safer in the long run. Even if we inadvertently let in some terrorists and some actually succeed in attacking American targets, it’ll be nothing compared to what the world will be if we continue to do ISIS’s (and al Qaeda, and the Taliban) recruiting for them.

        • IF you want to say, “we should be more critical of the refugees”, that’s fine…but the dialogue isn’t mature in the public arena, it’s full of vitriol and is disgusting. My husband was up for a job as someone doing the checks on Syrian asylum speakers (a transition to another part of DHS). The program is solid.
          The 9/11 hijackers were Saudi; almost every other attack has happened from folks outside of the area we are critical about (EU nationals getting training elsewhere, Americans getting training elsewhere).

        • Stopping refugees from coming here will not keep us safe.

      • I would strongly recommend that you look into the actual process for re-homing refugees in the US. It is a far longer and more stringent process than in Europe, taking as long as two years. That is enough time to ferret out any issues that may arise. There is idea of taking kindertransports of orphans, only taking those who have existing family ties, etc. My point being, there are “safe” ways of excepting refugees. When Justin describes the “worst” in people, I’m sure he’s actually referring to those who would rather tar an entire people with the label of “potential terrorist” and “dangerous” than accept that bad people do bad things sometimes. I mean, thank god we don’t have any examples of born and bred Americans bursting into places and shooting innocent people indiscriminately… oh, wait….

        • Exactly! And two years if you’re lucky!

        • Please make relevant comparisons. Comparing foreign terrorists to American citizen terrorists (I would consider any mass casualty event to be a terrorist event and those who carry out, terrorists, regardless of nationality) is irrelevant. American citizens are here lawfully and rightfully. We are discussing bringing refugees of foreign countries here and whether or not there is a posed threat to do so.
          Just because my point of view is different than yours (@Formerly ParkViewRes) does not mean I’m fear mongering. There are reasonable concerns I have. Continuing to dismiss views differing than yours as “fear mongering” will perpetuate your liberal propaganda. We need to learn to respect others’ views, hear them, and think about them so that we all can progress. Unfortunately, the only response this community can give is “but there are bad Americans!”.
          And yes, I’m all in favor of reducing immigration until we can financially support our own impoverished. Sorry to be concerned about other lawful, Americans.

          • How concerned are you, though? Do you support expanded social programs? Gun control? Universal childcare and family leave? (Because if you do, it would set you apart from the politicians whose views on refugees you share.)
            And what about the fact that extremist groups actually COUNT ON THIS VERY ATTITUDE to make their case for them that the US is selfish and evil?

          • Once you use the phrase “liberal propaganda,” I think you’ve immediately lost all credibility. Despite your concern for “our own impoverished,” I seriously doubt you’ve done a thing in your life to try to help the poor, besides maybe donating some old t-shirts to Goodwill.

    • Exactly! Every one of my ancestors who came to this country came because they were fleeing religious persecution (French Hugenots fleeing a bloodbath, Jews fleeing the pogroms of the Russian Empire), famine and poverty (my Irish and German ancestors), and / or war (my Irish and Scottish relatives who were press-ganged into a war they didn’t want to fight). To deny others the same opportunity would be one of the most shameful things I could do, and it literally pains me to see people who want to slam the door in the faces of others just because they made it into the ark before them.

      • Yep, not many of us are descended from aristocrats choosing to emigrate for the hell of it.
        “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
        With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
        Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
        The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
        Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
        I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
        This is the sentiment that made America great. It’s too bad so many Americans today have forgotten where they came from.

        • justinbc

          Many of them don’t actually know where they came from (in part because they came from impoverished, fleeing populations who didn’t value cataloging the journey quite as much as the wealthy).

          • True, but luckily we’ve had some intrepid researchers in my family who have pieced many parts of the puzzle together!

          • So, so true. And there are plenty who make up wonderfully fantastic stories in order to compensate for the meager familial beginnings too. I had a cousin claim we were descended from kings; of course the real story is that we are descended from indentured servants on that side (which, to me, is pretty cool). I also REALLY pissed off my exFIL by finding the immigration documents for a great-great grandfather was actually English and not Irish, and – shock horror – listed himself as an Anglican as opposed to a Catholic.

          • one argument now is that they dont have papers. correct, they don’t. But neither did my grandparents because Jews were stateless. They didn’t have birth certificates because you weren’t a citizen. No one knew when their birthday was, so Ellis Island assigned them birthdays (everyone has a holiday as a birthday…Thanksgiving was my grandpas, Christmas my grandmas, President’s Day my aunts.)

      • I Dont Get It

        We have French Huguenots in common! Maybe we are related?

        • Maybe! Come to one of the HHs and we can discuss – I’ll even bring my family tree documents from that side of the family!

          • I Dont Get It

            Think you are sly, huh? Mine entered Virginia originally and settled in Henrico Couny in the 1600s.

          • Ha! Hmmm…I don’t have the papers in front of me, so I don’t remember exactly where and when they settled here – we might need to really look into this, so you should come to the next HH and we can figure this out 😉

        • IDGI – mine entered Virginia near Henrico County in 1620!! We probably ARE related…

  • Thank you for this story. It’s important to remember that none of these refugees asked for any of this. Check out this moving photo essay about the children who are caught up in all of this mess: http://www.buzzfeed.com/lynzybilling/where-syrian-children-sleep#.ss33A9V00d

  • houseintherear

    Thanks for sharing this, PoP.

    What’s so interesting about this new debate is that SO MANY of our immigrants (illegal or not) are refugees. I have a student now in 5th grade who came to us in Kindergarten mid-year. He is Salvadorian, and had witnessed a murder by a gang near his home. He was on their hit list, and was put on a bus alone at 5 years old. He his under the seat to cross the border, and an aunt picked him up when he got to the states and brought him to Maryland. I had another student last year, a 10 year old, from Mexico who was pulled by family and fled to the states. He was being groomed for a gang and had been made to kill street dogs with paper clips to the throat and many other unspeakable crazy things. Those kids and many many other people are refugees, whether they come from Spanish-speaking countries or not. I don’t have answers but I sure do wish for a time when we can have a heart for everyone seeking refuge from a dangerous place.

  • Thank you so much for sharing. I’m a first-generation American who’s father, grandparents and several other family members came to the U.S. with little more than the clothes on their backs after years of struggling to survive in a refugee camp in the horrible aftermath of WWII. In the coming decades, they would not only survive but thrive. To the day he died, my grandfather’s fierce loyalty and eternal gratitude towards his adopted country and the opportunities it offered served as one of my greatest inspirations.
    To void that promise and deny the values I hold so dear based on fear and bigotry disgusts me.

  • Quotia Zelda

    Thank you for this. My husband was also a refugee.

  • I’m grateful for this post!

  • “My folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution in Cuba”

    -Ted Cruz

  • Thank you for sharing!

  • saf

    I used to have an employee who was Yugoslavian. She was mixed, so both sides of the civil war wanted her dead. Her brother was in hiding, as he had not been able to get out of the country. Her parents died in the conflict. Yet she had trouble getting the right to stay here. I was horrified by that.

    I wish that people would realize that our common humanity demands that we do what we can to help each other.

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