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Julia Ioffe Opens Up About What It’s Really Like To Be a Refugee

Being a refugee is no abstract idea for Julia Ioffe, the high-wattage political writer who fled the Soviet Union as a 6-year-old back in 1988. As President Trump’s executive order that temporarily and indefinitely bans immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries take effect, she published an essay in the Atlantic Sunday that recalls some of those experiences.

“They don’t know you. They don’t know the days of your life that you have already lived, and the stuff of your mind and the strength in your hands. To them, you are an abstraction, colored by their fear and their hate, or by their heartrending idealism,” she wrote, describing American attitudes toward refugees in a piece titled “This IS What It’s Like to Come to the United States As a Refugee.”

Ioffe’s family left the Soviet Union due anti-Semitism, and like many went through a harrowing journey to secure visas and financing for their trip. She looks at these issues in her essay, as well as the problems she faced in adapting to her new country. She also defends what she sees as the victims of the executive order against “people who think we should’ve been vetted better and harder, who tell me on social media that my family should never have been allowed in, who want to keep out those who are just like us, even if they have different names and faces and ethnicities and stories.”

She was on the receiving end of intense online harassment during the presidential campaign, especially after writing an article some believe was critical of now-First Lady Melania Trump.

Contact Daniel J. Solomon at solomon@forward.com or on Twitter @DanielJSolomon

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