Excerpts from an interview with a former ASHN client.
To protect his identity, all names and references to birth country have been removed.
"I was more than afraid. I was scared. I had to leave because I did not have a choice. If I was still there, I would probably be dead."
You guys in US have never been in a dictatorship So you don’t know how dictatorships rule. It’s silent killing, it’s silent pressure. It’s silent, it’s constant, and it’s life threatening. And nobody talks. Because you don’t know if your colleague is a spy or not. You don’t know...
I had an objective: I wanted to have my family back. Once I came to the US my first step was to find a way to get my family out of the hell they were in. I worked and was able to find a spot [with ASHN]. And they were very welcoming and very warm. So I was able to find the support and keep focus on the objective of starting my new life. ASHN was really wonderful in that. Because I had a place to live, I had people to talk to – that’s important, I had people to hang out with, and I had people who cared about me just by asking every morning, how are you doing? That’s important! So I felt human. That was a help to focus on what I had to do.
It was difficult. You go from a highly skilled job to a regular, civil job. It’s not to be despicable. But it was quite different. I used to work with students, now I was working with bags and customers. I used to work inside in a classroom. Now I was working outside. I used to teach. Now I was a ticket agent. Yeah, it was difficult but I’m still glad I found a job because that job got my family with me. And I will be eternally grateful for that.
Q: How were you able to communicate with your family?
Q: What did your family do to stay safe?
A: Let’s put it this way. They vanished and nobody knew were they went. They moved from place to place. It’s been very difficult to talk about that time. I don’t want to talk about it.
Q: Were there things about the US that surprised you or you thought was strange?
A: First thing, in the US, the language is different. The culture is different – everything is big. My English was not really good so I had to learn English. I had to learn the measurement also. Had to learn to drive an automatic. Had to learn to adapt to the US. Learning to adhere to western sense of time and appointments. If I have to start a new life here, I have to adapt to that culture. If I have to be on time, I will learn to be on time. I wasn’t here to adapt the culture to me.
Q: How was the Reunion with your family at the airport?
A: My son didn’t know who I was. My wife couldn’t relax. She spent like one month before she realized she was really out. Maybe two. She couldn’t relax. Some of the details of her life back home, I just learned this morning. It was painful. Sometimes she felt like she would go crazy. No house, no husband. She thought she would lose her mind.
I felt guilty of leaving my family behind. Sought the help of a psychologist to help me understand that I must not feel guilty because it wasn’t my fault, my willing to leave them.