Two years ago the United States agreed to resettle 110,000 refugees from parts of the world in crisis. Now, the Trump Administration wants to cut that number to 30,000 prompting protests from agencies around the country.
Sandy Hausman spoke with the International Rescue Committee’s Director, who has helped more than 4,000 people make new lives in Central Virginia.
Anyone who’s spent time in Charlottesville knows about Marco and Luca’s – a small chain of dumpling shops offering a fast, cheap and delicious fill-up. As proof of its value to this community, there is almost always a line. Hard at work behind the scenes is Dragana Katalina-Sun, who founded the place with her husband after the two came here in 1998– she from Bosnia-Herzogovina and he from China.
“We were supposed to be in Tucson, Arizona,” she recalls. “I kind of panicked, because I’m not a fan of hot weather, and at the last minute this decision was changed to Charlottesville, Virginia, and thank God!”
The two got help finding a home and adapting to life in America from the International Rescue Committee and its director Harriet Kuhr who says Richmond and Charlottesville are welcoming places for newcomers.
“Our unemployment rate here is extremely low, so there are job opportunities,” Kuhr explains. “The only challenge is housing.”
In exchange for the hospitality they received, Katalina-Sun hopes she has brought value to this community – good food, jobs for those who prepare it and taxes paid to the city and state. Knowing the nation may soon cut way back on the number of refugees it accepts, she argues that people fleeing terrible situations around the world are grateful and bring positive qualities to any community.
“A little zest of life,” she offers. “They tend to be more resilient, and it’s good to mix!”
That’s true, she says, for food, music – even biology, and she hopes others will have the same chance that she did.
“To rebuild their lives and learn how to be happy and free – that’s priceless,” Katalania-Sun concludes.