A Whole New World
By NEEVA SHAFIIAN
In 1978, an admirable Iranian woman stepped foot on America’s shores with her two children and a great deal of determination. It would be days later when she would learn that a revolution had broken out in her homeland and that she was stuck in the United States. This woman, Sherry Deblinger, is my grandmother, and her story of escaping oppression is truly inspiring.
The year 1970 was a traumatic one for my grandmother–she learned that her loving husband had been killed in a devastating plane crash. A few years later, she found herself trapped in a second and unhappy marriage. She was prevented from seeing her own children, who missed her dearly, and was also unable to get a divorce and free herself from her abusive husband. Telling him that it was only a vacation, she planned a trip to America with her children and finally obtained a divorce.
The three boarded a plane with great hopes for the country that supposedly had streets paved with gold. My mother, Golareh Sina, recalled, “I wasn’t too sure about why we were going to America, but that didn’t really matter to me. I remember feeling so excited about going to this amazing country that I had heard so much about.” However, those feelings were short-lived when my mother learned that she couldn’t return to her home in Iran due to the revolt that had broken out against the westernized Shah. Holding onto a child with each hand, my grandmother picked herself up, dusted herself off, and refused to let her lack of knowledge about America and the English language dissuade her.
My grandmother said, “We immediately contacted family I had in America to stay with them. We had absolutely nothing with us, we left everything we knew and loved at home, and we were terrified. I tried to learn the ‘American way’ of doing things and speaking, but it was not an easy transition for me or my kids. However, I did manage to bounce back. I was one of the only girls accepted into medical school, but I soon learned that doing that while raising two kids by myself was impossible.”
My grandmother is often overwhelmed with emotion when she thinks about this time in her life. “Not being able to see your own children, I think, was the worst part about it. That’s the worst kind of suffering a mother can go through. I knew I needed to escape and provide a better life for my family, ” she said.
My mother recalled the difficulties of this time in her young life. “We had to live with my aunt, and I remember that after the two hours we were allowed to see her every day, my brother and I would try to hide her keys so she couldn’t leave us. We missed her desperately,” she said.
Transitioning meant having to fit in at school with the rest of the kids. My mother said, “It was seriously a challenge. I mean, we would be made fun of because we looked and acted so differently. And Americans looked down on us Iranians at that time because of the revolution, so that was especially hard.”
Now, my grandmother is comfortably retired and lives with her third husband, my grandfather, Jay Deblinger. My mother works as a physician’s assistant at Winthrop Hospital, and my uncle is a scientist living in Washington D.C. Although they’ve adapted to American society, they still hold a part of the Iranian culture in their hearts and wish to return for a visit one day. My mother said, “I hope everyone learns to see how beautiful of a country it is behind all the chaos occurring. It was my home for so long, and I do hope to go back one day to see my family.”