Refugees and Immigrants



People leave their homelands for different reasons. Tragic are the refugees who flee for their lives with only the clothes on their backs. A refugee from the Hungarian uprising of 1956, aborted by Russian tanks whose guns mowed down people in the Budapest streets, once asked me, “Why do Americans object to being taxed for defense? Can you understand what it is like to cower in hiding while you watch your children, your parents, your neighbors, gunned down in the street before your eyes? Why your defense tax costs you no more than one of your car payments.”

My Danish father, Hans Pederson, came  to Seattle in 1884. He became a successful contractor partly because Scandinavians found acceptance in the Northwest. My mother’s family emigrated from Ukraine to Canada in 1898. They survived daunting challenges as pioneering homesteaders on icy windswept Alberta plains. They faced generations of prejudice because of their origins before they established their places in a society that passed from intolerance to acceptance. Without immigration none of us would be in North America.

Nations faces challenges from refugees and immigrants desperate for a better life. The world’s crazy quilt of treatment for others spirals increasingly out of control. The solution depends on the country. But we need better solutions.


2 responses

  1. Very interesting subject you start on here Paula. Just now I am reading a good biography on the famous Danish immigrant Jacob Riis. What is so good about reading this book is that the author has gone to the archives and studied very much about how it was in Riis’s hometown, why he immigrated and how the conditions were in the 1870 when he came to N.Y. How he nearly died from hunger and cold and slowly gained his position as the reformer of social conditions by showing ” How the other halves lived”

    • I don’t know about Jacob Riis and must add him to my reading list. Hans Pederson immigrated in 1886. Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum has an exhibit on the difficult conditions in NY for immigrants.

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