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Irida Kakhtiranova: Woman in sanctuary describes her American dream

  • Mike Watson Images


Monday, June 11, 2018
Woman in sanctuary describes her dream

Three months ago, I would have never imagined I could be strong enough to make my home in a church basement in order that I could be safe while fighting my deportation case (“Safe in sanctuary, but no end in sight,” May 19-20).

I could not imagine leaving my family and staying somewhere else by myself, without them near me. I spun every scenario in my mind, and I finally realized that, ironically, the only way my family could remain together would be for me to leave them to enter sanctuary.

When I met the people from the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence — three members and their minister, Rev. Janet Bush, came to my home in April — my hope was rekindled. We discussed whether I could move into their beautiful building on Main Street in Northampton. They told me they wanted me to be safe and they wanted to help me keep my family united.

Their encouragement helped make my decision easier. Within days, they had prepared a room for me and I moved in. My children spent the night with me that first night, which helped because they saw me in my new home and they knew they could come back. That, alone, put my mind at ease.

It’s been more than nine weeks now, nine weeks of never leaving the building and relying on others to bring me food, ferry my children, spend time with me and do my laundry. It was a hard journey to go from being fully independent and relying on nobody else but my family to get by in life, to needing help from others with everything. I am so thankful to everyone who believes in me enough to work hard to keep me safe. The generosity of the members of this congregation, the many other faith groups that are helping, and others in the community who have donated time, money, and food, makes a hard situation easier.

My opinion is that it was vital that the congregation was supportive and patient in waiting for me to adjust to life in the church. They gave me space to cope with my new surroundings.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep a positive outlook. I miss my family, my job, my home, my life. But living in this basement actually is giving me hope.

It has restored my dreams because I, too, have an American dream. It’s a simple one really, and one many people have: I want to raise my children, earn a living and be respected for who I am.

Irida Kakhtiranova

Northampton