Majlinda Mulla-Everett was born in Kosovo and came to Maine when she was 26. She learned some hard lessons along the way—and gained perspective on what it takes to start a new life in a new country.
I moved to the United States from Kosovo (southeastern Europe) when I was 26 years old. I became an immigrant because of LOVE, but for many others, immigration is a necessity. Being an immigrant—coming to a new country and starting a new life—is not easy at all. America is not everything we see on TV. It is not that red carpet you walk on with so much pride, pleasure and luxury. Life does not usually turn out as many people outside the U.S. think. For me, jumping on the plane to start my life here was voluntary. I gave up the 26 years of who I became back home. Here I was nothing, just one more soul on the soil—a hard lesson learned when facing a new day.
Coming from a country that has been at war, and being a refugee myself 19 years ago, I forgot the difficulties that people all over the world, being away from their homes, have to face. I was 11 years old when my family fled Kosovo. We were picked up by tractor and driven up the Montenegrin mountains so we could be safe from the ethnic cleansing that was taking place at those difficult times. Neighbors were forced to hate each other, were forced to take sides. I may have been too young to remember all the details, but things like that will always remain with me. By the end of 1999, more than 600,000 Kosovars became refugees—20,000 of whom relocated in U.S. Today, my small country with a big heart is known as the youngest European country that declared independence from Serbia in February 2008.
Now Maine, my new home, is one of the states where immigration is growing more and more. Unfortunately, as a legal immigrant myself, I have seen some tension among the Americans when it comes to certain things. In conversations that I have had, the concern of having immigrants present in the U.S. has often been raised. I understand that most of the citizens think that we are here to harm them or their workforce, but to the contrary, a lot of us come from different backgrounds. Some with high skills and some with low, but still beneficial to the state that now I call home. Doctors, judges, politicians back in their country here work as cashiers, waitresses and housekeepers. Some of them contribute to the economy by working on the farms and in the fields every day, many became professional interpreters who are very valuable to this society, and some started their own businesses because they couldn’t find job anywhere. They (including me) pay taxes every year.
“Excluding Native Americans, we are all immigrants.
Each of us, one by one.”
Remember, we are restarting the life that has been given to us for certain reasons, so we study again to become what we have already been before coming here and are refused for many jobs with the reason of being “overqualified” or “not having studied in the U.S.” People in general don’t complain, they need the food on the table for their families. They are not asking for free, they work for it.
On the other hand, the language and culture here is as shocking to us as ours is for Americans. The diverse cultures are not very well understood and comprehended by Mainers, and that is understandable. I believe that a lack of travel out of the state has isolated the minds of people to not be open enough. Also, for many of us, some American culture is not that easy, and there again we are asked to adapt to this society as we live here. So, we do.
Immigration, and especially illegal immigration, is a strong debate, and it will remain like that in the future. A hot topic forever. Why do we look at immigration as such a problem? Why is everyone fearing the immigrants today? What harm do they bring to this country? It is sad to see that in many other countries people cannot live freely in their own homes, cannot feed their family, cannot work or speak their minds. To go out for a walk and be killed is something no one would wish for. We need to be open-minded, to help each other when we have the chance. Excluding Native Americans, we are all immigrants. Each of us, one by one.
The common arguments lie about illegal immigrants and those who are waiting months and months for their status to be set up. They live in daily fear of not knowing their fate. Their dreams are hanged in hope. They go to bed and wake up with the fear that they may not be able to start the new and possibly better life here. I am always asked, “Where are you from?” (which I don’t mind, neither does my accent) but I am hoping not to be asked if I am “legal” when I have to board on plane or bus (as it had happened in Maine recently). That is not something that the new generations should be fed with.
I am so glad that Maine has the diversity that already is coloring the society, and I hope that Mainers will never be afraid of immigrants “taking over” their place, but one thing is for sure: immigration will remain a never-ending story, and America will have to face it. To pay respect to those who really belong to this land, I will use the wisdom and words of John Hollow Horn, Oglala Lakota: “Some day the earth will weep, she will beg for her life, she will cry with tears of blood. You will make a choice, if you will help her or let her die, and when she dies, you too will die.”
Majlinda Mulla-Everett moved to Maine in May 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science, speaks six languages and works as an interpreter and interpreter scheduler in Portland. She has previously held several positions in NGOs, health care and government and has spent her youth helping communities come together. She hopes to continue doing so in Maine.
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