Segullah Interview with Melissa Dalton-Bradford
Written by Megan Carson
Our very own Melissa Dalton-Bradford, one of the founders of Their Story is Our Story, was recently interviewed by Segullah. She shares the experiences that initially inspired the creation of TSOS, gives her unique vision of the work we've done so far, and offers her compassionate plea for the world to embrace those among us who are seeking refuge. As she so carefully illustrates throughout this interview, we've seen and will likely continue to see, the stories of these refugees frequently remind us that their story is our story. Whatever our response to this crisis will determine how this story goes.
For the uninitiated, what is TSOS and how did it originate?
The greatest humanitarian crisis of modern history pushed against the floodgates of Europe early in the summer of 2015. Escalation of the Syrian war (and tangential events throughout the Middle East, including extremist groups and the Taliban) drove unprecedented numbers of desperate people westward, seeking refuge. The media was aflame with the images, European politicians were scrambling, and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel took the bold lead in announcing that her country would open its doors, hoping that the rest of the surrounding countries would follow suit.
Our family had just settled in Frankfurt. I was ready to finally write my series of historical novels, a project I’d been researching for over two decades on the global road. Then the world tipped on its axis. Into our cozy German town skidded trainloads and busloads of refugees. Instinctively, and probably because I am a woman who knows what it takes to move countries, languages and cultures and to experience major loss in the middle of that all, I dove in to serve with my close friend (also US native) Trisha Leimer. Her daughter’s high school gym (right down the road from my home) had been converted overnight into an emergency reception center for 170 Syrian and Afghan refugees fresh off the trail. The hour I stepped into that gym to teach bleachers crowded with these humbled, hungry and distressed people German, I was consumed with a spirit I had never before felt. My heart swelled with love and compassion. How could I go home and write historical fiction in the face of such current reality? My life—our lives—were profoundly redirected.
Over the last year we have developed close relationships built on mutual trust with many of the families we help. We know their names, their personal stories, and individual needs. We are fully aware that our donations are only a temporary band aid for a larger problem. A bag of groceries only goes so far, and they will be back the following Saturday for more. Sometimes, though, we can make a bigger impact in someone’s life.
Selfies with friends. Shurooq and Sasha enjoy shopping together.
Suzanne Kaufman’s colorful illustrations are a delightful pair to Alaxandra Penfold’s narrative stating “all are welcome here,” no matter one's appearance or background.