As the plane carried us away from Afghanistan last August, the feelings washed over me: Relief, dread, deja vu.
My family was safe. My country was not.
And once again, 23 years after the first time they forced me from my home, I had narrowly escaped the Taliban.
For nearly five months, I would wait at Fort McCoy, the military base about 110 miles northwest of Madison in Monroe County that’s being used as a refugee camp for Afghan evacuees. Then my name appeared on a list of those to be resettled in Virginia. It felt similar to getting out of jail, even though everyone treated us well at Fort McCoy.
We had enough food and clothes and warm barracks to live in, but it is only human nature to also want freedom.
On Dec. 28, I was moved to a hotel room in Richmond, Virginia, together with my spouse and three children. My parents and my siblings are still in the refugee camp in Wisconsin, expecting to get out sometime in mid-February.
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We were very warmly welcomed by friends and family in Richmond. They invited us to their homes, one after another. A few weeks ago, we moved to a townhouse in Glen Allen, Virginia, that I’m renting with the assistance of a friend and a generous landlord who chose a refugee over many other applicants with good credit and history in the country.
Khushnood Nabizada, right, works on a computer as his 8-year-old daughter Atrisa colors Jan. 27 in his family’s new home in Richmond, Virginia…
I liked Richmond from the very first glance. The city is beautiful, calm, green and most of the time sunny. The climate in Virginia — four seasons with not a very cold and long winter — is similar to Kabul.
I’m relaxed and happy to be here, with a commitment to love this place no less than my homeland, as anywhere can become your home country where you can live in peace.
But I have so much to do to stand on my own feet. And as nice as it feels to be safe, I never wanted to be here. I can’t stop thinking of all my friends, colleagues and countrymen who aren’t here. Who aren’t safe.
Emigration has never been my fantasy, but a compulsion to escape death. I suffer when I look back.
Aug. 15 was a sunny Sunday morning, but Kabul was silent when I reached my office at 9 a.m. and learned on social media that the Taliban were moving in on the capital. I called my boss, the state minister for peace, who was negotiating in Qatar at the time. He reassured me that the Taliban would not enter Kabul until the end of August.
But even as the call ended, my colleagues rushed to inform me that Kabul had collapsed. It was unbelievable but true. Soon after, we heard gunfire in the city.
I was a senior government official and a media agency owner who …….