Part Three of Three
We Don't Talk About It (Part III of III)
I entered the camp with my parents thinking we are going to be here for a week, then it became months, then years. Letters from home were like a golden egg, you got to hear from your family and seeing photos of family members was like walking on the clouds. However, overtime I remember my friends’ parents became empty shells as they gave up hope of going home. A few weeks later, they left the camp, getting on buses that supposedly dropped them off on the Iraqi border. But we never knew what came of them, we never heard from them again. Rumors floated around that they were buried alive or torture. Paranoia grew at the camp. Then I started shutting people out at a young age.
After almost 4 years, our name was finally chosen by a lottery to start the interview/vetting process. I recall my parents rejoicing that we got accepted to come to the USA. But that joy was short-lived. My father was in serious gambling debt, and my mother had to sell her earrings and gold bangles to pay off is debt before we could leave.
We re-located to the Lincoln, Nebraska in mid-1994. It was summer and I recall watching a lot of Star Trek on an old RCA tube television with a record player on top. We got a two-bedroom apartment donated to us for the first few months by Catholic Social Services. The furniture was from the 70’s and 80’s, we did not care a bit. We had a home, and everything was new to us. Our apartment was located next to train tracks, a plastic factory and a freeway. The smell of burning plastic and the train kept us up all the time, but we did not care. No more refugee camps and we have a new start.
It’s a difficult pain to see my parents to go through the refugee camp when they had no say or agency. As we settled into life in Lincoln, I saw my parents drift apart overtime. My mother was left to raise 7 kids on her own. My dad had his own experiences and couldn’t stay.
I asked my mother about our life in Iraq and the camp for the first time in two decades while I was visiting her in Lincoln, Nebraska. She was stunned that I remember so much, and she replied, “We don’t talk about it, it was the past and I did my best to protect you and your siblings.” I told her, “You’re not at fault, none of us are.”