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Immigration: One Thing

From Afghanistan to Amarillo

Ann Heppermann

Kara Oehler

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Mariya Sher Ali works behind the counter
(Ann Heppermann and Kara Oehler)
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Leena Ali: Hi my name is Leena Ali, I'm from Afghanistan and I come with my family like my mom.

Shafiqa Ali: I'm Shafiqa Ali, I have nine children.

Leena Ali: And my sisters and my brothers.

Mariya Sheer Ali: Hi, my name is Mariya Sheer Ali Sher Ali. I am the oldest of my family, sisters and brothers.

Leena Ali: We all come together as refugee. We not worried about money in Afghanistan. Because in Afghanistan, my dad was a doctor.

Mariya Sher Ali: We have a very big house in Kabul.

Leena Ali: I don't even remember how many rooms on it...

Mariya Sher Ali: The only reason we move from our country is because of the Taliban.

Leena Ali: We were sitting outside and we heard the bombing and the shooting stuff and my dad was like just let's leave.

Mariya Sher Ali: And we worry because my dad he was a doctor for the military. We heard the Taliban kill a lot of people who work with the Afghanistan government.

Shafiqa Ali: My husband say, "Just keep your children and you go. Because I go with you, the Taliban kill you and the children and me."

Mariya Sher Ali: We leave in the early morning but we don't get anything with us, only the dress that we wore.

Leena Ali: We were on the mountains for thirteen...

Shafiqa Ali: Thirteen days...

Leena Ali: ...and twelve nights we were traveling.

Shafiqa Ali: Sometimes coming walking, sometimes coming with the truck.

Mariya Sher Ali: 20, 30 trucks follow each other. It's all full of children and womans. They all take them to different place.

Shafiqa Ali: We come to Pakistan and my husband not with us.

Mariya Sher Ali: I make a dress for people and we make a little money. We start life from zero, we begin again.

Leena Ali: There was a picture of my dad in my brother's wallet. It is a black and white picture, when he was young. It makes me so sad and I start crying because I missed him so much. I wished he was with us.

Mariya Sher Ali: Somebody told my mom there is an embassy if you go there they gonna help us with the food or something. And they decide to send us to the United States like a refugee.

Shafiqa Ali: I can't believe you. I say, "what?" They say I'm serious, you go to America. With my children? They say yes. I just think like this, "Oh God you help me because that's too hard to go to different country."

Leena Ali: When my mom came and told us that we were going to America, we were not happy to come in here.

Mariya Sher Ali: Some people told us when you get to America, that the men's hug you kiss you if you want if you don't want it. We were really afraid of this stuff.

Leena Ali: When we came here,

Mariya Sher Ali: The most thing that is important for us is Daddy's picture.

Leena Ali: We make those pictures bigger, so we still have it.

Mariya Sher Ali: When we come to the United States a few months they say that we should work and support our families and then I find a job at the restaurant like a Waffle House, I waitress there. I was working hard but the money is not enough but I think why I shouldn't not open a little store for myself because I know a lot of refugee peoples here, they all need the stuff in our country but couldn't find.

Shafiqa Ali: This shelf is for African food, this part is for Bosnian people, that one for Iranian people, you see?

Mariya Sher Ali: And after that the Russian people come here, Croatian and African, everybody come and ask about their stuff.

Shafiqa Ali: We get a lot of refugee people heres.

Mariya Sher Ali: My relatives back home ask me, "Is it hard for a woman run a grocery foods?" I told them no, not at all. I feel more American when I do this business.

Leena Ali: Baymont in, front desk.

Leena Ali: Now in Amarillo, I working at the hotel, I'm the front desk manager over here.

Leena Ali: Yes sir, can I help you?

Leena Ali: The other day I was checking somebody into the hotel and he was asking me what my accent from and I said, "I'm from Afghanistan," and he goes, "You're not one of those Taliban people are you." And I go, "Woah! Thanks sir, but that's really rude." Some people do say that stuff but who cares.

Leena Ali: We wasn't sure if my Dad was alive or not.

Leena Ali: My little sister was so young when we brought her, the only way to remind her of my dad to show his picture but she knows him seeing his picture. We all sisters have one copy in our purse and always when I looked at that picture it remind me like he's looking at me.

Shafiqa Ali: One day just somebody call me and said, "I want you to talk to somebody."
And he said, "Hello. How are you?"
"Oh my gosh are you alive?"
And he say, "Yes, I am alive. Are you alive?" "Yes, I alive."
We are together cry. We talk on the phone for 30 minutes. So, after that we apply for his coming here after coming here.

Leena Ali: When my dad come from Afghanistan we...

Mariya Sher Ali: ... wait for him until he come out of the airplane ...

Leena Ali: ... and when he walked in, we just scream and yell and cry and hug him.

Mariya Sher Ali: Oh I thought, I'm dreaming, I touch him and I say, am I dreaming daddy or it's for real that my dad is here.

Shafiqa Ali: You know it's right your husband is with you. (laughs)

Leena Ali: Even though I have my dad with me, it still I love this picture because it always reminding me of him. It always keeping to remind of him. We all happy to have him back.

Leena Ali: I keep taking picture with him and I feel like we a complete family now.

More stories from our Immigration: One Thing series


  • Comment | Refresh

  • By ali zandi

    From iran, 05/24/2014

    i was in pakistan with sherali in 2002.
    i want to speak with him and i realy missed him.
    please send email to me.
    thanks a lot

    By Hosay Sharifi

    From lynn, MA, 09/02/2008

    I'm glad that they went away from the taliban...and got together as a complete family at the end!

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