Refugees celebrate first Thanksgiving in Chicago

CHICAGO — Many refugees will celebrate their first Thanksgiving in the United States this year. Dozens gathered in Uptown on Saturday to experience the tradition, courtesy of Catholic Charities.

“It really is a way to introduce them to a uniquely American institution,” said volunteer Robert Murphy, who has spent nearly 20 years volunteering to help those from other countries acclimate to the U.S.

This year, refugees from Iraq, Burma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and many other countries gathered to give thanks.

Among them were Fatima Idris, her husband and two sons — all of whom fled their home in Syria to come to the United States.

“When we arrived here,” Idris said, “I put in my head … that we must live here and consider the United States home.”

Fellow Syrian refugee Abdelhamid Omarein said, “The people here are great, unlike Syria.”

Elma Kulovic of Catholic Charities is a former refugee who came to the United States from Yugoslavia 22 years ago. She now helps other immigrants.

“It’s nice to introduce people to their first Thanksgiving, an American tradition," she said. "It would be their first American holiday.”

Of the refugees he’s met over the years, Murphy said, “They’re just as delightful as they can be. … They’re inspirational, and they’re very grateful. And what I’ve seen over the years is the wonderful contribution they make to society.”