COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus City Council recently approved spending $100 thousand to help Ukrainians resettle in our area and the Russian invasion led NBC4 to a conversation about what life is like for refugees who now call central Ohio home.
NBC4 anchor Kerry Charles has been working on a special project, another installment of our digital series, “Community Conversation.” This time we teamed up with Community Refugee and Immigration Services — or CRIS — for a panel discussion. Our six panelists left their home countries for different reasons, under different circumstances.
Deborah Jane Balirane is from Uganda. In 2014, she experienced the unthinkable. Once a businesswoman in her home country, Balirane — who now lives in Columbus — shared how an attack left her in the hospital for a year.
“I look at the war in Ukraine, I just compare it to my own situation I was attacked in my home,” said Balirane. “It was something I had not planned or thought about at all. So, they threw sulfuric acid on my body. So, I think you can imagine what takes place, put that into your mind and imagine what happened to me at that moment.”
As a result of the attack, Balirane has had at least 18 surgeries and even left her children behind to come to the United States. Now, they are together again.
Also on the panel is Murtadha Al Shaikhli, who shared why he left his home county, the challenges he faced and what goes through his mind when thinking about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I just deeply feel sad when I see the news when I see the cities,” said Al Shaikhli. “I lived in Kyiv, I lived in Kyiv.”
Asha’s parents are from Somalia. She shares about having an identity crisis because she grew up in the U.S. and didn’t experience the hardships they faced.
“There’s that generational anxiety, there could be depression, there could be a lot of PTSD, a lot of the time it’s not talked about because a lot of people had it worse,” said Asha.
Asha, who is now a therapist, went on to talk about always feeling separated from her culture.
“I honestly felt for the longest time I was having such an identity crisis because I don’t have the accent of my parents,” said Asha. “I can understand the language better than I can speak it, I can understand the different dialects, but when I would try to speak it, I would use the wrong tense.”
You can hear more from these and the other panelists by watching “Community Conversation: Refugees, Relocating, Rebuilding And Calling Columbus Home,” in the player above.