© Rachel Peet

When the Second Congo War broke out in the late 1990’s, Anthony was forced to flee his home city of Bukavu.

After more than three years of running from the Congo, through Zambia to the camps of Malawi and Mozambique, Anthony settled in South Africa, but felt a sadness, thinking his parents had passed away in the war.

“Trying to survive life was much better, having my own apartment and living a normal life. To be honest though, there was still great emptiness in not knowing where my family was,” Anthony said.

A miracle arose in a single picture that a Congolese friend carried with him. As Anthony glanced over his friend’s shoulder, he recognized a familiar face. The face of his own mother.

It had been nine years since seeing that face, since feeling a surge of heartwarming familiarity fill up the void he had long been burdened with. Anthony had finally found his family.

“I had tears of joy… I mean, it was like a miracle. For both of us, my family and myself.”

Simultaneously, anti-migrant violence was on the rise in South Africa. It was divine timing for Anthony to once again leave and reconnect with his family in the refugee camp in Malawi.

Over the course of eight years in Malawi, Anthony found love with the woman who played a pivotal role in reuniting his family, the woman pictured in the miraculous photo alongside his mother. Their marriage flourished, giving birth to their first two children, both Malawian boys.

In 2018, Anthony arrived by himself to the United States. Community felt scarce at first, especially having arrived in the Minnesota cold and without his wife and two sons by his side. He eagerly anticipated yet another reunion with loved ones. This time around, he only needed to wait two years. In December of 2019, just as the earliest trembles of the global pandemic were being felt, Anthony was reunited with his wife and sons. Better yet, the reunion came together within a community he has grown to increasingly love, in Hartford, Connecticut.

Today, as an IRIS Employment Services Specialist, Anthony finds jobs for newly arrived immigrants, who have escaped war and lost loved ones, similar to his own story. He continues to help refugees move ahead in their careers as they establish themselves.

“I tell people when they come here, dream big, because the bigger your dream, the bigger your achievements. We at IRIS continue to be involved in their lives, advising them, until they become independent.” 

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