My refugee parents fled Europe for peace


Some Americans are rather oblivious about the mindset of refugees.

My parents were born in Bosnia / Herzegovina, a small country in the Balkans.

They were both 17 when they came to the United States with their families due to a war.

Whenever my parents bring up a current issue in Bosnia, it feels as if they’re talking about another world to me.

I was born in the United States and I only really focus on what’s going on around me.

This is something that I feel many of us can relate to.

Unfortunately, some of us use this as an excuse to hold uninformed views of other people.

In my personal experience, it hasn’t been uncommon to hear someone ask why people like my parents “wanted” to come to the United States.

I believe that many people who come to seek asylum in the United States aren’t doing it because they necessarily “want” to come to the United States.

My parents didn’t decide to live in another country because they wanted a change of scenery.

Their home was being ravaged by war and their only two options were to seek asylum or, more than likely, die.

I feel my parent's decision was less “I want to live in another country” and more “I want to go somewhere safer than here because I don’t want to die.”

People who flee usually dislike what’s going on in their country, not the country itself.

Warsan Shire, 31, wrote a great poem called “home” a few years ago that I feel captures the mindset that people like my parents had when leaving their country.

In the poem, Shire notes that no one would put their child in a boat unless the water was safer than the land.

I strongly suggest reading that poem. It’s short and gives the reader a good idea of what refugees go through.

Some Americans seem to think that these desperate attempts by individuals to find asylum are no more than incompetence that could have been avoided.

That is far from the truth.

Whether you think that the United States of America is the greatest country in the world or not, people like my parents came here because they didn’t have much of a choice.

I imagine that if every person were to live a life as peaceful as mine so far, there wouldn’t be nearly as many people wanting to leave their homes to come and live here.

Shire’s poem captures how I feel.

In particular, this line resonates with my family: “No one leaves home until home is a damp voice in your ear saying leave, run now, I don’t know what I’ve become.”