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My Immigration from Tajikistan

ilya aylyarov's story posted on August 30, 2012 at 8:21 pm. ilya emigrated from Dushanbe, Tajikistan to Cleveland, United States in 1994

I immigrated to the United States at a young age.  My memories are sparse and much of what I understand has been recollected by my parents.  It is difficult to consider a life other than my own, but when my parents discuss their upbringings, I am introduced to a world vastly different from mine.  We shared in common happy childhoods, filled with love and the support of family and friends.  There was always something left to be desired, however.  Anti-Semitism was rampant, and it affected all parts of their lives, from school, to employment, to military service.  There was discrimination in university admissions as well as hiring.  After the fall of the Soviet Union, the borders were opened for emigration.  There was hope for a freer and more tolerant society.  Quickly, though, the newly independent republic of Tajikistan fell into civil war.  My parents were forced to give up everything they had and everything that they knew and to flee the country with two children in hand. 

The trip was not easy.  A three day train trip with a sick child was made all the more difficult by corrupt armed guards, looking to prey on helpless families.  A sense of relief overcame my mother and father as they boarded the plane headed overseas. 

The Jewish community in Cleveland helped immensely.  Their support and guidance were immeasurable, and they helped make the transition easier.  Lacking English proficiency, my father began working multiple minimum wage jobs as my mother went back to school.  It is this discipline and hard work that makes up the first of my memories. 

The difference between these two nations is vast.  Jewish history and language were forbidden, as was attendance to synagogue.  Our Judaism was passed on through tradition, rather than celebration and communal practice.  My own uncle wasn’t circumcised until he was three years old, because the ceremony was prohibited and secrecy was imperative.  The ability to practice Judaism openly is something that I do not take for granted, and it truly is bothersome to consider that there are still many worldwide who suffer from persecution, religious or otherwise.