As a child, I remember when the Taliban tortured my father because he worked with the Afghan government. We’ve always lived a life of fear, but we loved our country and wanted to fight for it, protect it. I come from a family who sacrifices their lives for others. We care about our brothers and sisters, no matter where they are from or what they believe in.
When the Americans arrived, I was a young school student, but I was always wondering why there is so much war and misery. When I finished high school at the age of 17, I decided to work as an interpreter.
The Americans put a lot of trust in me. It was my job to make sure they made it out alive. I knew I was doing the right thing, but when the troops left, my life was out of my hands.
The dangers I faced were countless. I’ve dreamed of becoming a doctor since I was a child, but the classes I wanted to take were in a town with insurgents who were after me. I received threatening letters at my home almost every night.
I applied for the special immigrant visa to move to the United States, but after four years, I didn’t hear back. I woke up every morning hoping to hear from the embassy so that I can be released from all this stress, frustration and fear. How can you have a proper life when people are after you? I had to leave, but I wanted to follow the rules. So I applied for a nursing scholarship in Turkey.
I stayed in Turkey for four months, but my visa was about to expire and I couldn’t return to Afghanistan where the Taliban fighters were still looking for me. I had no choice. Like thousands before me, I climbed into a boat to go to Greece. The whole journey has become a blur. It was the winter of 2015, cold and intolerable. No one risks their life like this, walks across countries for safety. I was desperate.
When I arrived in Austria, I thought to myself, “You have to stay here. You have no money, you’re exhausted, you can’t continue.” But I had faith. I was determined to make something of myself, prove to people that someone like me can conquer all obstacles. I truly believe hope is the main ingredient for survival. Hope keeps you alive.
After nine years, my visa was approved. After medical screenings, I had no money left so one of my former American colleagues paid for my plane ticket. When I landed in Baltimore, I had tears in my eyes. I was finally free. After years of hardship and threats to my life, I was given an opportunity to live a normal life as a human being. It had been such a long time since I felt like that.
I no longer need to worry about being killed because I tried to do something good. I have the freedom to become a doctor here, to go back to school, to do so many things I never imagined I could do.