On a windy evening in the summer of 1992, Zuhra, along with her mother, six sisters, and brother, fled their home in Kabul City, Afghanistan. The civil war had caused them to leave abruptly and find safety in a province north of Afghanistan. What she and her family thought would be a couple of months of refuge, turned into decades of living as refugees and immigrants in different cities across the globe.
Zuhra reminisces about her home, “I have memories of my neighborhood, friends, classmates and our green lawn where we would play with our cousins. I remember a huge house, a happy family, a cohesive community, our local market, a family doctor who knew how to pronounce my name and my mother’s delicious meals.”
Her father had left the family earlier and found asylum in the Netherlands. They would be apart from their father for nearly a decade.
In 2001, Zuhra and her mother and siblings moved to the U.S. The family found it hard to acclimate to the way of life in the U.S. It was difficult to find a community to belong to, especially after September 11th. And the only jobs available were minimum wage opportunities. Zuhra’s parents were professionals in Afghanistan, her mother an elementary school teacher and her father, an engineer.
In 2003, a few years after the family arrived in the U.S., they were able to sponsor their father to come to the U.S.
When Zuhra’s father arrived in Seattle, he couldn’t find work in his field. He was proud of his degree and couldn’t see himself working for a minimum wage. This caused him severe anguish, his mental well-being was deteriorating. His family was worried about him and suggested he get help. Zuhra was in high school and her siblings were all working full-time to pay for the family’s rent and keep afloat.
One morning, Zuhra and her siblings awoke to screaming. They found their mother being stabbed by their father.
Zuhra remembers, “With all the other losses that we had faced, my mother’s death was a sorrow that touched our lives tremendously. My mother was the cornerstone of our home.”
The siblings went through their father’s trial and have had no contact with their father since he was sentenced.
Zuhra’s older brother took the events harshly, and a year later, passed away after suffering a brain aneurysm at the age of 29. At this time, Zuhra had just begun to take classes at the University of Washington. She had to leave school and take two jobs to help support her family.
Zuhra went back to Afghanistan in 2005 to marry a childhood friend through an arranged marriage. The couple returned to the U.S. and welcomed twin boys in 2008. They were born prematurely and Zuhra and her husband spent many hours in the NICU during the first few weeks of their sons’ lives. Her experience with the nurses in the NICU inspired Zuhra to go back to college and become a nurse.
Zuhra views becoming a nurse as, “The best decision of my life. To go back to school and gain the education allows my boys reach their potential, too. Now I can be an advocate for my patients in the field of medicine.”
After enrolling in pre-requisite nursing classes at North Seattle College, she contacted Seattle Milk Fund inquiring about assistance with child care for her twins. Seattle Milk Fund provided child care and family support grants for three years of schooling. Her twins recently started kindergarten and are thriving in their new school. Their ability to go to preschool, helped prepare them for their own educational journey.
This past spring, Zuhra graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor in Science of Nursing degree, and now works as a Registered Nurse at Providence Mount St. Vincent, a long-term care facility in West Seattle.
Zuhra’s journey of strength and perseverance is remarkable to many. She believes her background has taught her, “Empathy, acceptance, and appreciation for life. We were able to see the world from a survivor’s point of view and appreciate the simple things in life. The negative forces around us, helped us to form positive and stronger bonds among our family.”
Zuhra looked up to her mother as a wise, kind, compassionate, and intelligent role model. It’s very clear that her mother’s traits were passed down and have inspired Zuhra to graduate and become a nurse.