Lessons from Grandma
One of my favorite memories of my grandma was eating her apple povitica right out of the oven. Cold the next morning was good too. Povitica is a delicious apple dessert made with paper thin pastry and thinly sliced apples rolled up like a log and then sliced after baking. The recipe was passed down through generations in my family and was brought with them when they immigrated to the United States from Croatia in the late 1800s.
She made the dish with love and wanted my cousins, brother and myself to know about our heritage. She always made traditional Croatian dishes, spoke the language and taught us about life and culture. When I was about ten my grandma taught me how to make the dish. It was one of those recipes that was measured in handfuls and pinches not cups and teaspoons. It also required a lot of practice. My dough was never as thin or as tender as hers.
I think back to those days in the kitchen with the smell of cinnamon and apples baking in the oven and realize the important lessons I learned. Lessons about what it means to be so desperate to immigrate to a country where you don’t know anyone or anything about the people, the culture or the language. The willingness to travel thousands of miles from your home in hopes that the place you arrive will offer safety and a way to care for your family.
Every time I have the opportunity to meet one of the asylum seekers in Phoenix or to learn about their struggles to find safety for their family, I think of my great-grandparents traveling to America looking for a better life.
Unless you are a Native American, we all came to America to escape persecution, find safety, more jobs, better health care, and many other legitimate reasons. We are a country of immigrants and it is a part of our DNA as a nation to welcome the stranger because at some point or another our families were the stranger.
I don’t claim to know the answer to our immigration challenges. They are complicated. But what I do know is that each person who crosses the border seeking asylum is doing it for the same reasons my great-grandparents did. I know that they deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and love. I say that because that is how I hope my family was treated when they stepped onto American soil. I hope that whatever trauma they suffered could be set aside because individuals welcomed them to their new home with open arms.
My grandma loved America. The 4th of July was her favorite holiday (after Christmas and Easter of course) because it reminds us how important it is to remember where you came from and how lucky we are to be in this country where our families are safe, have shelter and food to eat.
I think it is time I pulled out my grandma’s recipe for apple povitica and gather in community to tell our family stories of how we got to this place. I would love to hear your family’s story. Maybe that will help us better understand the plight of these individuals seeking asylum.
Please pray for them. Just because we don’t see any news cycles about them doesn’t mean their situation has gone away, thousands of people wait on the border looking for a place of safety. I promise you they wouldn’t be living in this difficult situation if they weren’t desperate. As I mentioned earlier, immigration is complicated but humanity is not. Welcome in the stranger and you might see your ancestor looking back at your smiling face, grateful for a place to call home.