It’s a hot, muggy, humid day in central Wisconsin and as I sit in Starbucks working on the rest of my projects, I can’t help to think about immigration. The reason I say this is that every day, there is a congregation of Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Russian, Polish and other eastern European men and women that moved here years ago and have made lives for themselves here in this small Wisconsin city. They make it a point to sit and spend time together here at Starbucks every day to what I can only guess, is to get a small sense of home. I met a few of them when they first arrived and began working in our city. They have become citizens and many now have children themselves. I know a few that are actually grandparents now and can’t help to think what this really means when we get into the immigration debate. When we think about immigration, we often look directly at our southern border which is really it’s own issue, but we don’t think about the European, Asian or African immigrants that are still coming into the country to make better lives for themselves. In the formula of Wisconsin Dells and Lake Delton, WI, I don’t see any other way of it being.
Growing up in this area, I haven’t known it not to have a plethora of different cultures. We had Hmong students in elementary school, Mexican employees in our restaurants, Polish students with parents who came directly from Poland and my best friend is Serbian where when you are in her parent’s home, everything is Serbian. At her birthday this last week, we had a barbeque out are her and her husband’s house and with the entire family there, I had to dig back into the back of my brain to remember the Serbian words of my adolescence.
Sitting here though, watching this unique group of travelers that knew nothing of each other before they arrived to our tourist filled city, it makes me smile. Them sitting there and laughing reminds me that despite the news headlines and the politics that go along with our borders, social security, and tax benefits of immigration, we are still that melting pot that was started when the Germans and Norwegians came to our part of the country.
Since I have been home, I have seen many of my friends that I met years ago when they first arrived here and I love to hear them talk about how they are getting exactly what they were looking for. My friend Yullia is a prime example. She is married to a wonderful man, has the most gorgeous baby girl, has the education she was not able to get in Russia, and is in complete bliss. Of course, she hates that she hasn’t seen her mother in six years, and her mother complains that she can’t understand Yullia’s Russian over the phone because it has evolved, but those are sacrifices that Yullia has made to accomplish what she really wanted.
The key word in this is sacrifice. When obtaining what you want in life, sacrifices come along. I guess then, as you are reading this, I would like you to think about what is important to you and your well being and what you would sacrifice for that. At this moment, from my vantage point, without any association of the borders of our country, it isn’t about immigration, it is about sacrifice.