For a rapidly deteriorating city, welcoming these refugees proved to be a great move.

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Imagine what it would be like to leave your whole world behind.

You’re 4 years old, and your world is turned upside down. You leave your friends, your school, and most of your family behind as you flee to a place you’ve never been, where people have different customs and speak another language.

You start a new school, but you can’t afford new clothes. Everything you and your family have has been donated. You live in a one-room apartment with your entire extended family, and you want nothing more than for things to be normal again.

This imaginary scenario wasn’t imaginary for many refugees who fled the conflict in Bosnia in the 1990 s, hoping to induce America home.

Melina Delkic was 4 when her family was necessary to flee Bosnia.

One of many hearts painted onto a bombed sidewalk in Bosnia. Image by Elia Scudiero/ Flickr.

Now a student at Georgetown University, Melina shared her recollections of that time and about her family’s travel since then with The Washington Post.

Her family resettled in St. Louis, Missouri, where they crammed into a small apartment. Seven people. One bedroom. One bathroom. It wasn’t easy, but they were grateful to their new country for opening its entrances.

Only 4 years old, Melina dreamed of becoming an “archaeologist princess.” She videotapeed posters of Aaron Carter and Britney Spears on the walls. She really craved a puppy. And a house with stairs. Simple dreamings.

The transition wasn’t easy, but Melina’s family didn’t give up on America, and they didn’t give up on themselves.

They espoused different cultures and the traditions, even celebrating Christmas for the first time. They constructed it home.

Melina’s household was one of tens of thousands of Bosnian refugees that settled in St. Louis. The community greeted them, and they prospered .

The St. Louis Gateway Arch. Image by Philip Leara/ Flickr.

It turns out they needed them as much as the refugees necessity a home. It was a mutually beneficial relationship.

The economy in St. Louis had stagnated due to continuing decline. Crime was bad. Those which is able render to leave were fleeing to the suburbs. City services were failing. Neighborhoods were deteriorating, speedily.

South City, an area hit hard by the economic downswing, suddenly determined itself flooded with new occupants. Abandoned buildings fitted with households. A new neighborhood was endure. The region speedily became known as “Little Bosnia.”

The results were incredible. A stagnating economy was rejuvenated. An abandoned part of the city suddenly flourished.

A 2012 Saint Louis University newspaper says, regarding the influx of Bosnian refugees:

“They revitalized parts of South St. Louis City and South St. Louis County by moving into older neighborhoods, opening businesses and rehabbing dwelling. Bosnians opened many thriving small businesses including bakeries, butcher shops, coffee shops, construction and heating and cooling companies, insurance companies and a truck-driving institute, and continue to be a key source of high skilled production work.”

Refugees resettling in St. Louis was a win-win. It did ponders for economics and gave the many households who were forced to abandon their lives and livelihoods a chance to start over.

The Bevo Mill, a St. Louis landmark in Little Bosnia. Image by Philip Leara/ Flickr.

It’s 2016 and we’re again faced with this challenge: accept refugees or close our own borders?

A lot has happened to cause fear. There’s an undercurrent of fear that is like it’s running through the whole world. America has been reminded that “weve been”, in fact, vulnerable and there are radicals out there who dislike us.

But how we respond to that is up to us. Do we bow in dread and leave little girls like Melina and her family to fend for themselves? Or do we open our hearts and heads and, together , thrive?

What would St. Louis be like today if we had closed our own borders in anxiety? Where would those households be?

Today, Melina is a Georgetown University student. America is her home. She told The Washington Post:

“My parents and I have a house now, in St. Louis, with hardwood floorings and stairs and a little puppy who’s getting chubby. We have household dinners in a real dining room with real furniture that we chose since we are would prefer it , not because someone was devoting it away.”

And her family is proud to call America home.

“We are American because we cheer for the Cardinals and stimulate buffalo chicken dip on Super Bowl Sunday … I will not stop believes in the kind of tolerance, warmth and enjoy that brought my family to America … My America is one where we open our nerves wider than we ever envisioned possible, and we don’t ask why. It’s where we give the starry-eyed little refugee her education, her puppy and her stairs, too.”

St. Louis is ready and willing to open its entrances again. Undeterred by panic and extremism, they’re do wish to once again be a haven for the millions of Syrians feeling terror within their countries.

America is stronger than anxiety and hate and destruction.

America is strong enough to open its heart and mind. America is strong enough to open its borders, making new and age-old American lives a chance to thrive.

Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. Image by Trocaire/ Flickr.

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