But despite the horrific journey, there was a shared sense of hope among the evacuees: hope for a brighter future, hope for the country they left behind, and hope for the lives they will begin in their new homes. During my discussions with a number of the evacuees, I was repeatedly astounded by the group’s resiliency. Rather than holding on to anger and fear, they looked toward the possibility of a brighter future. On March 22, the long wait for resettlement was finally over: Our Europe Regional Director, Colleen Denny, and members of Representative Slotkin’s team eagerly welcomed the group of evacuees to their new home in America.
In October I had the opportunity to travel to Albania and visit with the group of 121 Afghan evacuees that Spirit of America was supporting. As I entered the hotel compound in Shëngjin where the evacuees are staying – an area that had essentially become an impromptu Little Kabul – I was greeted by a rush of smiling children. The youthful optimism and playful demeanor of the 38 minors in the group made it easy to forget that only two months prior they had been forced to flee their homes under unimaginable conditions, leaving everything behind as they headed into an unsure future.
The adults were understandably more solemn as they discussed the dangers they encountered leaving Kabul and the many uncertainties that they still faced. Fathers recalled trying to shield their families from Taliban gunfire during their many attempts to enter the US-held Kabul airport. Women in brightly colored headscarves spoke of the horrible conditions inside the airport where they sat among piles of trash and human waste, with no food or shelter, waiting to board a plane to an unknown destination.
While I was not able to speak with all 121 evacuees, the conversations I did have were extremely moving. I am sharing these stories with you so that their voices will be heard and their sacrifices will not be forgotten. These are the faces of the Afghans we supported in Albania, and here are their stories.
Rachael Mohr joined Spirit of America in August 2017 as a Program Assistant, working in support of the regionally aligned field team. Currently, she serves as the Digital Content Manager. Prior to working at Spirit of America, Rachael studied at Villanova University where she graduated cum laude with a double major in political science and history. Recently, Rachael completed a certification course in digital media marketing through Cornell University and earned a Digital Marketing Professional Certification through the Digital Marketing Institute.