America is Still a Country of Refuge

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentarySome of the customers who go to my wife’s resale shop are a married couple. The man and lady go to buy books, DVDs, and sometimes audio tapes. They have no television, and listen to radio while at home. On occasion they might go to watch a movie, or visit friends. They definitely love to visit museums and any historic places when they have the time. The man and wife in question are ethnic Russians. They were born and raised in the former Soviet Union, and because of this their lives were more or less good. I say more or less because their parents were exiled to a remote part of the Soviet Union under then dictator Joseph Stalin (ruled 1929-1953). Like their parents, they were not allowed to return to where their family had originally come from. With the break-up of the Soviet Union, this Russian couple found themselves in a serious predicament. The place they were living in became the independent country of Uzbekistan. The Uzbeks did not like the Russian couple staying in their country, and so they ordered them to leave. Even though the wife was a doctor and the man a business entrepreneur, the Uzbeks did not want them.

Where could this couple go? They had two choices. First, they could go back to Russia. However, they might not have been allowed to move exactly where they wanted to. They still had the stigma of being “enemies of the state” on them from the time of Stalin. The other possibility was the United States. They chose the United States. Now they are happy and feel free. They have the freedom to choose where they want to live, the freedom to do whatever profession they wish, the freedom to live their lives the way they wish, and the freedom to be left alone and not threatened. These fundamentals are something that Americans born and raised here take for granted, but for people who have had to feel they were always unwanted for their ethnic origins, their race or their religion this is no small gift. This couple were victims of a political system that had exiled their parents, and were victims of ethnic discrimination. They did not ask for the fate they were given in life. But America has given them a new and better lease on life. Even with U.S. President Donald Trump’s limitation of those seeking refuge in this country, thankfully not everyone is turned away. Many people whose lives would have been condemned to repression and conflict have found a home in America where they have a second chance at life. That America is still a land of refuge is still something we should celebrate.

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