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Lowell High School, Lowell, Massachusetts

When I was nine years old, I was in my room one afternoon when we got a phone call. My brother’s car had been bombed. Terrorists of- ten planted bombs in people’s cars to kill them if they knew something about the terrorists. But as a nine year old, I only remember seeing my mom crying and my dad’s worried face. No one told me why she was crying or why he was so worried.

I was born in 2001 in Samarra, Iraq. It’s a beautiful small city in the west of Iraq. My parents were born and raised in Baghdad, but in 1983 they moved to Samarra and had all of their six kids there. My grandpa is a carpenter, he taught his sons how to do carpentry and they passed it to their sons. My parents always taught us how to be open-minded and to always be close to each other and support each other in everything.

Luckily my brother survived the car bombing. He came back home miraculously with only cuts. He told my parents why terrorists were trying to kill him. My brother was cooperating with the United States Special Forces. He was an Iraqi soldier who had been trained by the U.S., but he had kept that secret from everyone except my father.

After the bomb, our life changed. Though I didn’t know it at the time, we started getting threatening phone calls and threatening mail. My parents were always worried about us. My brothers were always surrounded by friends and cousins. My brother could no longer hang out late at night be- cause my parents wouldn’t go to sleep until everyone was home.

Two years later, in 2013, my parents decided to send my brother out of the country to save his life. He moved to Turkey with my cousin. After a month my whole family followed him. I was 11 when I left my country.

As an eleven year old, I didn’t ask a lot of questions. I remember my parents saying we were moving for a better life and I think that answer was enough for me. I was happy that we were traveling. But if I had been older, and knew that I could not go back home, I would have felt very differently.

Life in Turkey wasn’t easy for refugee families. We were unable to work or go to school because we didn’t know the language. It took me a year to learn Turkish.

We lived in Turkey for two years before we were able to move to the United States. But not all of us were let in. My youngest brother now lives in Germany and my two sisters are still in Turkey. Here I live with two of my brothers and our parents. We moved from being a big family in a big beautiful house to being a little family in a little rented house.

It was only when we moved to the United States that my family started sharing these stories. I learned about how scared they had been, how they had worried all the time, and how sick they had become of all the fear that they had lived with back home.

I realize now how much my parents sacrificed for us. I understand why my parents left our beautiful little city, our beautiful big house, and all our ex- tended family, our friends, our neighbors, and our culture. I understand why they left that all behind.

They came here to save our lives, and to give us a better future. Our story is similar to the stories of so many immigrants to this country, families from all around the world who faced different kinds of struggles, who did what- ever they could to protect their kids and to provide them with a brighter life.

© Safiya. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.


  • Family
  • Migration
  • Loneliness, Doubt or Loss