Afghan refugee family begins new life in Winona with help from community

Winona's hills, rivers remind refugee of home

WINONA, Minn. (WKBT) — One Afghan family is beginning a new life just up Hwy. 14 in Winona. One volunteer offers a familiar face in an unfamiliar place.

The path we take in life’s journey comes with plenty of twists and turns.

“When somebody leave their country and come to another country, everything is different,” said Omid, who came to the U.S. from Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the capital in August.

Omid and his family came to a new place with just the clothes on their backs.

“They had less than a day that they were notified that they should leave,” said Kathy Florin, who volunteers with The Winona Afghan Support Network.

Afghanistan was home, a place where members of his family still live.

“I think every person would miss home. “I miss my mom and dad and sister and brother,” Omid said.

Today, Omid’s home is unrecognizable.

“The Afghanistan he knows is no longer there,” Florin said. “There’s no Afghanistan anymore … no sense of home or a sense of place.”

Several months spent at Fort McCoy gave them a safe haven for a moment.

“They’re good soldiers,” Omid said. “If we have some problem, they’ll solve our problem.”

However, days, weeks and months of uncertainty left an uncomfortable weight on Omid’s shoulders.

“It was just all up in the air,” Omid said.

Waiting. Hoping. Until an opportunity arose with the sun above the horizon.

“I like Winona,” Omid said. “Winona is like Afghanistan.”

Omid and his wife and children found refuge in Winona — a place he says reminds him of home.

“They have a big mountain,” he said. “They have a big river.”

Beauty that’s often missed in a country buried in conflict.

“Afghanistan is beautiful — these mountains and rivers,” Florin said.

Florin volunteers to help Omid and his family resettle.

“I can’t imagine not doing it right now,” Florin said.

Afghan Winona helps refugee families begin their new lives.

“The people of Winona, also so good people,” Omid said.

Florin said Omid taught her what is important. Omid said the U.S. society is so busy.

“Learning to slow down … just to be with each other,” Florin said.

An unfamiliar place where there’s a familiar face makes this town feel like home.

“Every time — night, morning, middle of the night —they’ll help me,” Omid said.

Omid will never forget where he’s been, but now, he can focus on his path forward.

“In the end, everyone just wants to have love in their life and be with people they care about and just find joy every day.

“The very least we can do is just offer them a safe warm place to be,” Florin said.

Florin said their sponsor circle is working to help Omid’s family in Afghanistan. She said they would like to bring more members of his family to the United States.

To learn more about Afghan refugees and information on how to help click here.

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