Refugee Perspectives: Traumatic Waters
Written by Melissa Dalton-Bradford
There’s nothing terrifying about a beach walk at sunset.
If you are very lucky.
Maybe you grew up near a beach, or visiting beaches, large bodies of water, lakes, reservoirs. Family trips, you know? Chances are, you swim. Swimming lessons every summer? You might even waterski, scuba-dive, go boating, kayaking, canoeing, white-water rafting? If nothing else, you’ve at least been to an inland water park, ridden a water slide, inner-tubed the Lazy River. Water might be your happy place.
Not to my refugee friends. Not a one.
Which has to be why they have recounted to our team their escape from war, terror, bombings, persecution, bloodshed, they have been able to tell about the deadly trudge over deserts and mountains, past armed vigilantes and border guards, through forests and under barbed wire—most without breaking down.
But their tone shifts the instant they get to the part about crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece. The part about WATER. Many of our refugee friends grew up in landlocked regions. Water activities are nowhere part of their culture. No one we have interviewed knew how to swim.
“I was sure we would die,” person after person told us.
“We held our children to our hearts then, when the water started spilling in, above our heads.”
“The smugglers took 600 Euros per person.”
“The boat was for 20. They packed in 50.”
“We crossed at night. Everything was black.”
“They threw my backpack overboard. It had everything.”
“I raised my prayers to Allah. Allah kept us afloat.”
“We knew the boat before ours had sunk.”
“Who would I save? My wife? Or our little daughter?”
“We paid for our death.”
You understand now why for me a family stroll on the beach (like the one we took last night) is no longer just ... a family stroll on a beach.
The moon patrols with her indifferent glint. The high tide slaps its insouciant metronome. Wet sand seeps between my toes and I tighten my grip on my husband’s arm, and we turn toward higher ground, backs to unfathomable water.
USAHello.org and Welcome.US: Two Helpful Online Tools for our Refugee Friends and U.S. Locals who are Welcoming them
Resettling into a new country can be more challenging when you don't know where to turn for help. USAHello.org makes information and resources available to those who have newly arrived in the United States. Welcome.US matches resettlement agencies' in-kind needs with businesses and community leaders who want to help.
As of 31 December 2021, more than 52,000 Afghan evacuees have been resettled in communities across the country. These resettlement efforts are led by the Department of State in close coordination with more than 290 local resettlement affiliates. The remaining approximately 22,500 vulnerable Afghans await resettlement at 5 military bases in the U.S.
TUNE IN JAN 6 & JAN 19 FOR INFO ON HOW YOU CAN HELP IN YOUR AREA.