Every refugee comes with a personal history, a story of not only the problems faced by his or her people but also a story of what he or she is leaving behind. I have already provided a brief history of the Meskhetian Turks as a group. Coming from a more modern country, they also represent a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences.
Some of these stories include:
-An accomplished painter and art teacher whose talent allowed him the freedom to travel to Turkey but who knew his family would never be allowed to have a future in Russia;
-A farmer who regularly saw his crops trampled by hired renegades enforcing demands for taxes and bribes by local government leaders;
-A mother who tears up as she remembers how she lived in fear every time her sons stepped outside their home knowing they faced harassment and possible imprisonment;
-A trained livestock farmer who was a top sportsman in his technical college starting over in Atlanta as a landscaper in order to help support a family of seven;
-A single mother who went against community tradition by leaving an abusive and alcoholic husband and now is starting life over on her own;
-A surgeon’s assistant and paramedic committed to restarting his medical career in Atlanta however long it takes;
-A successful businessman forced to sell the home and possessions that were his life’s work at a severe loss in order to leave to seek more security in a new land
It has been quite interesting and enriching to sit with families and hear the stories of their struggles and triumphs. It is also wonderful to be there to see them creating new stories for their lives in Atlanta as I am with them for births, marriages, graduations, and other milestones. I am enjoying continuing to learn about their history and traditions as they make a new home here.