A Refugee’s Story: ‘No One’s Family is usually Perfect yet Mine is usually Perfect for Me’

Wesaam Al-Badry’s first along with fondest memory of his father, Sattar, was visiting him in an Iraqi prison. Sattar had been imprisoned along with tortured for being a pacifist who refused to fight inside Iran-Iraq war. There were at least 20 additional prisoners inside same cell, Wesaam recalled where his father hugged him along with held him in his lap.

in which was an unlikely setting for a tender encounter, yet Wesaam along with his family had learned to find comfort where they could. His mother raised all 5 children in crushing poverty in Nasriyah, which they fled when the gulf war’s fighting approached in 1991. After years in refugee camps where food was scarce the family was granted refugee status inside United States along with settled in a rundown apartment building next to railroad tracks along which has a plastics factory in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The family was deeply grateful.

Twenty-three years later, Wesaam, currently a photographer in graduate school, has documented his family’s refugee experience in Nebraska. He portrays them — in images along with text — as he sees them, as beautiful along with elegant. “Nobody’s family is usually perfect, yet mine is usually perfect for me,” he explained.

“My family are not one dimensional characters in a refugee story” he added. “They have multiple layers, they have their own personalities, their own agency along with ways of maneuvering through life.”

In Lincoln, the family, currently including seven children, struggled to adjust. Within a week of their arrival, Wesaam, who was 11 along with did not speak English, was so overwhelmed by the alterations in which he hyperventilated along with was rushed to a hospital by neighbors. He returned home — after four hours — with an inhaler along with his first McDonald’s meal in a bag.

His father found work as a truck driver for a printing company, yet separated coming from Aeda four years after they arrived. He was rarely in his family’s life afterward, Wesaam said. Aeda held the family together. They lived in subsidized housing along with relied on food banks, while Wesaam, the eldest, worked summers starting at 14 in a pizza parlor.

Wesaam felt like an outsider, so he hung out with additional refugees coming from Bosnia, Serbia, Sudan along with Somalia. Most could barely speak any English, yet they enjoyed a quiet camaraderie. Still, he was bullied for being different, along with started out acting out, skipping school along with getting into fights. He currently sees in which behavior as a result of post-traumatic stress coming from war along with living in refugee camps. Most of his family members were also suffering — yet they never talked about what had happened to them.

“There was a cloud of war along with PTSD in which was always in in which living room,” he recalled, “yet we never definitely addressed in which. in which contributed to my mother along with my father splitting up. My mother sought help yet my father didn’t.”

Each of his siblings was affected by their family’s experiences differently, he said. His sisters, Shams, 27, Zeinab, 26, along with Shanon, 23, the three youngest, have gone to college, are living successful lives along with are active in their communities, Wesaam said.

yet he along with two of his brothers have had a rougher time. inside eight years after high school, Wesaam worked in a meat packing plant, a slaughterhouse, a metal stamping factory along with in asbestos removal. He went to bars after work along with for a while drank too much, too often, he said.

His brother Hussam, 34, who works in a metal plating factory along with has two young daughters, rarely talks about his experiences, Wesaam said, though he was deeply affected by them. Abbas, 29, spent his time partying, was imprisoned for selling cocaine along with is usually currently in drug rehab, which is usually part of a prison work-Discharge program, Wesaam said.

In 2008, Wesaam followed his longtime interest in photography by buying a digital camera along with setting out to make a photo essay about his mother along with her Iraqi women friends. in which was published on several websites, including the Kansas City Star, along with one photo was used in a United Nations refugee campaign. Wesaam’s wife, Maliha Zuberi, encouraged him to go to college at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he received a BFA in fine arts, along with then to attend journalism school at Berkeley.

Wesaam wants to show the resilience of people who have been marginalized. While his own family didn’t talk about their “pain or struggles,” he said, they persevered, along with in which project gave them another chance to open up.

“I see the healing starting because I’m actually asking my family what happened to them, something I would certainly never do inside past,” he said. “in which’s a slow process yet in which is usually healing for me too.”