This month begins a new series of stories called "Tell Us About..." where refugees are asked a set of questions about their experiences in Missoula.
Our first story is about Sahar, an Iraqi refugee who was resettled by the IRC in Missoula almost three years ago. When she arrived she spoke only a handful of words in English, but she now speaks English well enough to be interviewed for this story without any interpretation.
Sahar's responses have been condensed for clarity.
Tell us about the day you found out you were coming to the United States.
"My husband got the call and I was so happy to get the chance to come and then nervous because I don't know where Montana is and had never heard of it." From the day they got the call to boarding her first flight ever on an airplane was a span of nine days. Sahar and her family used that time to buy things they would need and sell things they couldn’t take. She brought seven hijabs with her because she didn’t know if there were any Muslim people in Missoula and wasn't sure if she would able to find any clothes for herself. The hardest part was saying good-bye to her family.
Tell us about the first few days.
Jesse, IRC Caseworker, and Husam, a fellow Iraqi refugee, went to the airport to pick up Sahar and her family. It was very cold and very hard days followed. "I was so sad to leave after living all 28 years with my family and leaving all those memories. I spoke no English. I am just lost. I have no words and feel like a mute. How will I make it here? I am very grateful to IRC when they come and visit us at home but since I speak no English I can’t say anything and feel bad. We are grateful for the money IRC spends on us and worry how we will do this on our own."
Tell us the most surprising thing for you in America.
"I thought it would be easier." Sahar knew that America was safe and her country was not, but wasn’t prepared for how hard everything was, having to do everything she did in her country but now in a new language and without her family.
Tell us about what you miss.
"My family. I miss my country, I love my country. All my memories are there."
Tell us what you like the best.
"The people! The people are so friendly here, not so sure about any other states but in Montana everyone smiles and is so friendly. I love the people of Missoula!"
What have you learned about yourself?
"I am tough. I do things I never thought I could do." Sahar passed her written test for her driver's license in English on her first try. She came with an interpreter but was told she couldn’t use one and decided to try on her own. And passed.
Sahar now works at the YMCA as a childcare provider and her husband Mohammed is a mechanic who is working on his CDL certification. Their two boys love snow and their friends at school.