Family resettled in Wausau shares how they are finding refuge

Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 9:31 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - It has been nearly a month since the first two families from Afghanistan to be resettled in Wausau arrived at the Central Wisconsin Airport. Those few weeks have been busy as they reestablish a new life in a new community and country.

“Salaam! Welcome! Welcome! Welcome,” exclaimed Matiullah Matie, the father and husband of the family of eight said as he invited the Lor family into his home.

The Lors was their first “stranger family,” as he calls them -- a family who has not been part of the resettlement effort -- to visit their home. The Lors understand living in a refugee situation and being resettled in Wausau, as they were part of the Hmong refugee movement decades ago. They wanted the Maties to feel welcomed and share some food and culture, which they expressed had a lot of similarities to Afghan culture.

While they may have been the first “stranger family,” people have been coming to their home constantly to help them with their immediate needs and to get them connected with community resources. Each encounter greeted with Afghan hospitality, either some milk tea, food, or both.

”A person to coming here should eat and drink something with us,” Matie urged.

While it is for a different reason now, the Matie family is very used to having people coming to their home in Lashkar Gah, known as “Little America” in Afghanistan. As a businessman, political analyst, and tribal leader, Matie said the community would share stories and work out their problems in his home.

”This is the new culture, new life, but I’m feeling that I just moved from small America to the large America,” he smiled.

He worked alongside numerous U.S. agencies in Afghanistan including the Marines, Army, USAID, and Spirit of America. He also spoke publicly against the Taliban. It all put a target on his back.

He said he does not remember the exact date, but he remembers the exact night, the night of the Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha when the Taliban attacked his home while he was away.

“They killed my older brother, older daughter. They shoot my home by RPGs and heavy weapons. So they thought, Matiullah Matie is here.”

That was in July, 2021. Sometime between July and August, he said the Taliban set fire to his office.

“When my office got burnt, the fire spread to another shop, to another shop, to another shop, million dollars damage towards the people there.”

His family tried to flee the country along with the tens of thousands of others heading to the airport in Kabul. He said his family could have died in the crowd, but some of the Marines he had worked with helped him get through the airport. His family left Afghanistan on Aug. 27, 2021 flying into Qatar for a layover and then landing in Germany. They remained at the German-U.S. refugee camp until Oct. 13. Then, they were flown to Philadelphia and were driven to Ft. Pickett in Virginia where they stayed until Dec. 29. That day, they flew into CWA, just days before his 40th birthday.

”I like these people,” he smiled. It is very nice and beautiful city. I cannot imagine the night when I arrived first to the Wausau and the mayor, Ms. Katie, and all of the church... ladies and gentlemen came for my welcoming. I told to my wife that I’m feeling like this was me and yours wedding night. So, I was very pleased at that.”

It was a needed welcome after a difficult journey.

”Homeland is the mom of the people in the nation. Of course, we got hurt when we left our country. This will be challenge for them to start the new life in the new culture, learning,” he said about his children and wife. First problem that they’re having right now is English. I’m sure when they learn English and they knew about the law of the Wausau and the people of America, they will not get bored and they will not be regret for their coming here.”

After months of living as a refugee, Matie is very eager to begin work to be able to provide for his family and to support their new community.

He encourages people to come visit with them so they may learn about each other and build fellowship.

”So, now I’m feeling good. I’m thinking that I’m in Afghanistan; my tribe is coming. Yes, now this is my tribe, I should be their tribe leader here too!”

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