Coming to America

Coming to America

The sad, funny, sweet, troubling, wonderful stories of immigrants experiencing Montgomery County for the first time

| Published:

They come for love and money, education and freedom and opportunity. They’ve built lives and started businesses and raised families here. And as Temur Basilia from the Republic of Georgia puts it, when he passes the highway sign announcing, “Welcome to Maryland,” he feels like he’s home.

But all immigrants are suspended between two worlds. They never adjust completely to their new land. They miss the smells and the food of the old country, the trees and the flowers, the cafés and the gossip and the language. They don’t quite get the joke in English, or know the right word for something at the hardware store. And they suffer pangs of embarrassment when their parents don’t understand American mores and buy jeans for their son that were designed for a girl.

Yet they cannot go back, either. They’ve become Americanized—by their school friends, their customers, even their own children. As Kristi Dobrovolski, who has lived here 24 years, says, “I feel a little like a tourist when I go to Greece.”

Immigrants now make up about 30 percent of Montgomery County’s 1 million residents. They work hard, create jobs and pay taxes. Their children represent 157 countries and speak 138 different languages in the Montgomery County public school system. And every day they make our lives richer and more rewarding.

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