Nardos Matusala has been coming to CRC for a long time. She works for a nonprofit, Quality Living, that provides services for people with special needs. I’d always wondered about Nardos’ accent, but until this week I didn’t know the dramatic story that has been her life.
Nardos was born in Eritrea, a country in the Horn of Africa. She was born in the midst of a war between Ethiopia, which had taken over her country, and Eritrean freedom fighters. She remembers her family running from her home to a hole in the yard for shelter whenever they heard planes overhead. To this day, she shutters when she hears the sound of an airplane.
When she was eight, Nardos’ family fled Eritrea. Her mother put two sets of clothes on Nardos and her four sisters and they literally walked for a month to a refugee camp in Somalia where they spent the next three years.
The family arrived in the United States in 1982. They were placed in an apartment in Philadelphia where they knew no one. They were afraid to go outside. On their first Fourth of July in America they cowered when fireworks went off, thinking for a second that they were being bombed.
In college, Nardos was asked to write a paper on her childhood. She wrote a paragraph. When the teacher read it, he asked her to write more. Six pages of fear, repression and anxiety emerged.
Today, Nardos is anxious to return to Eritrea for a visit. Her brother, not yet born when the family came to America, doesn’t understand the struggle the family endured. She wants him to understand how precious freedom is.
America has many faces and stories. Sometimes, sitting at the dock door waiting to load bleach and detergent into a van, I get to hear one of them.