Afghan refugees celebrate Thanksgiving in Texas

They served chicken rather than turkey – as many of these refugees have never heard of the larger bird. Turkey is native to America.

PLANO, Texas – In a cool patio under two tents this afternoon, a few hundred people gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving for the first time this afternoon.

“First time,” said a refugee from Afghanistan named Gulajan, 34. The WFAA does not disclose his last name as his family remains in that country.

Gulajan is one of more than 200 refugees here participating in this new American tradition. A non-profit called Gateway of Grace hosted it in Plano at the Church of the Holy Nativity on 18th Street. The Gateway of Grace helps refugees restart their lives in North Texas.

On this day, the servers served chicken rather than turkey – as many here have never heard of the larger bird. Turkey is native to America. And for the first time, the Thanksgiving menu also includes some traditional Persian dishes that refugees are already familiar with.

“The United States is a very large and beautiful country,” Gulajan added, “very hospitable people.”

On this day, he said he is grateful to finally be safe.

Gulajan said he used to work for a wireless company in Afghanistan and said he fled in August, just 11 days before the last US troops left.

But he is also trying to get his family out.

“Yes, my wife, my children are in Afghanistan right now,” he added. “I talk to them every day.”

“It’s not like going to a neighboring country. America is on the other side of the world and we have a completely different culture. So when Americans embrace them, it makes their integration into the culture so much easier, ”said Dennis Page, Gateway of Grace, chief operating officer.

Refugees here are not only from Afghanistan but Pakistan, Iraq, Kosovo and many other countries. A Dallas woman named Samira Page, who founded the Gateway of Grace, hosts this every year. She is originally from Iran and was once a refugee herself.

“Yes, I know what it feels like to be isolated, to be a refugee,” she said. “They feel guilty that they have survived and they came here and they have left family. And that guilt is really hard for them to deal with. So we really want them to experience a little bit of the joy of this season. “

It’s eleven years since Mrs Page organized a Thanksgiving for refugees. Each time, she hopes they will come to appreciate a new tradition by simply giving a sense of belonging.

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