By Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr.
President Trump is right when he says, “If you hate our country, you can leave.” America is a free country, which means whether you hate it or love it, whether you were born here or not – you are free to leave.
The president said this after months of far-left Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota bashing America – saying Americans treat dogs better than we do immigrants, and calling the president and all those who voted for him vicious racists.
Which begs the question, if she hates America this much, why is she still here?
The fact is that Rep. Omar came here as a refugee after being forced to flee her home of Somalia. She became a U.S. citizen, went to college, got elected to state office in Minnesota, and was then elected to the U.S. House of Representatives last year. It seems she has a lot to be grateful for, yet it seems like she despises America.
This is not how most immigrants feel, especially those who came here fleeing violence, persecution, or starvation – like my father and grandparents.
My father, when he was just a toddler, was forced to flee his home with my grandparents during WWII – leaving everything behind. They were sure they would die if they stayed. Haunted by the memories of the Holodomor wheat famine and starvation, my grandmother would never waste food.
They eventually made it to Germany, where my grandfather was forced to fight for the German Army – and went AWOL, then to Brazil, where many Ukrainian refugees were headed. For 20 years, my father and grandparents worked blue collar jobs, saving up enough money to go to the one place they always dreamed of calling home – America.
Both my grandparents went to work at Mercy Hospital, my grandmother as a janitor and my grandfather the maintenance man. My father worked for a small business in Cheektowaga, repairing typewriters.
Although they made it to America, life was still very hard. Yet, they knew how lucky they were to have made it because so many others – including their friends and family – never made it out of Soviet-era Ukraine. They also knew how lucky their children and grandchildren would be growing up as Americans.
The proudest moment of my life was when I joined my father and grandmother in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as they were sworn in as American citizens. Shortly after, my grandmother died and her dream was fulfilled. She died as an American.
I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth, nor do I have a rich family who can buy me my next job. What I have is a love for the promise of America, and a loathing for those who seek to destroy it.
Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr. is the Erie County comptroller.