“Eat pizza, hang out at Falls Park, text with friends, and take pictures of snow and ice-covered artwork at Downtown’s Sculpture Walk”. His answer (and the speedy production of accompanying photos of the sculptures on his phone) was so normal for a young adult living in Sioux Falls. When I asked Dillovan (name changed for safety reasons), “What do you do for fun in Sioux Falls?” I didn’t expect such a regular answer. After all, Dillovan’s path to Sioux Falls was anything but ordinary.
Dillovan was born in Mosul, Iraq, twenty-four years ago. Part of a large family, Dillovan was in the middle of nine children. He attended school and enjoyed both Arabic and English classes. But then his quiet life changed with the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and subsequent upheaval and war in Iraq. See, Dillovan was not part of the majority Muslim population, and due to his religious convictions, he soon found himself in danger in Iraq.
Following a stay in Turkey, Dillovan finally reached safety in the United States in 2012, arriving in Sioux Falls with refugee status. He started studying English at Lutheran Social Services, and found a job earlier this year. He will be joining Job Corps within days, and studying mechanics.
Who would guess that this friendly, kind, motivated young man would have endured so much at such a young age? He is separated from everyone in his family, now charging ahead on his own, with the hope of becoming a U.S. citizen someday and applying to join the U.S. military. His new life in America is tough sometimes, but Dillovan is a survivor. His is the voice of a refugee. His is the voice of one of our Sioux Falls neighbors. His is a voice of a pizza-loving twenty-four-year-old.
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