Owensboro woman recalls journey from refugee to becoming U.S. citizen

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OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) As refugees from Afghanistan start arriving in the Tri-State, one western Kentucky woman who was a refugee is sharing her experience. She went from a child fleeing a civil war to resident of Daviess County.

“I left the country because of the civil war and I lived in refugee camps for seven years,” said Annie Phan. Her journey to America started in Myanmar, when her family fled the ongoing civil war.

“My mom told me it was the Burmese military now in our village. Then, we had to pick up everything and we had to flee. I remembered my mom telling me my dad got shot, and the Burmese military came into our house, and destroyed our house, and took everything our parents had,” Phan recalled.

Her family fled to Thailand, where she lived in refugee camps for seven years. She then came to America, first to New York state, where she had family. But those first years in this new country weren’t easy.

“Sometimes, I came across a lot of obstacles. Like a transportation issues, language barrier and culture shock,” said Phan. “When we first get here, we didn’t have our own cars, so we had to depend on our family car, and sometimes, they were busy too.”

But Phan didn’t let the obstacles get in the way.

“I always wanted to get higher education, and I wanted to get into college and have some type of degree,” she said.

Phan says her life in American is getting better. After meeting her husband, who worked in Owensboro, she moved to the Tri-State several years ago, earned degrees from OCTC and WKU, became a U.S. citizen, and got a job at Tamarack Elementary school. The Owensboro area is expecting about 100 Afghan refugees in the coming weeks with 200 more headed to Bowling Green Phan says those coming to America should not feel hopeless.

“When you arrive in this country, you will face a lot of challenges, such as transportation issues, language barrier, culture barrier. But don’t give up,” Phan says.

(This story was originally published on October 20, 2021)

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