How did you get here? Live

Every family has a story, and every story starts somewhere. For many families in the United States, those origins begin in other countries. Immigration has brought many families to the U.S. throughout the country's history.

If your family immigrated to the U.S. at any time in the past, tell MPR the story that brought you here.


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  • Ben Maegi's family came from war-torn Europe

    Where his family came from: Mother from Germany and father from Estonia
    Why they left: They were displaced persons due to World War II in Europe
    Where they went: Zumbrota, MN
    Why they went where they did: Sponsored to work on a farm according to the revised Displaced Persons Act of 1948
    "They were doubly isolated, not only far from fellow refugees or their respective ethnic communities, but from mainstream, urban American society, too. They spoke very little English, and what they did speak, they spoke badly. I don't know if my mom had any company besides her husband and son. The work was hard and paid very little. Their living conditions may have seemed primitive, even when compared to a Germany still rebuilding from the war. At least in Germany they had the support of vibrant refugee communities and could speak the local language."
    “Having experienced the horrors of the Soviet invasion, I think she wanted to get as far away from Soviet soldiers as she possibly could. I’m sure that was one of the reasons why she said to my dad ‘we’re not going to Belgium. That’s not far enough away.’ And it might have also been one of the reasons why they held out for the U.S. Because I think they also would have felt the safest and the most protected there.”
    Maegi's parents in the mid 1950s, about 5 years after arriving in the U.S.
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  • Geneviéve Marie's family knowledge and family lore

    Where her family's from: A great-grandfather arrived in 1904 from Slovenia
    Why they left: It's not clear why they left
    Where they went: Ely, MN
    Why they went where they did: Mining opportunities and an existing Slovenian community
    “I wish I felt more of a connection to Slovenia, but my father's family never really talked about it, not even to show us where it was on a map. And they didn't teach the language to the second and third generations here. Sadly, that was common for the time – the idea that you had to leave your culture and ethnicity behind to become an American.”
    According to family lore, “In Ely, my Slovenian great-grandfather was ‘blackballed’ from the mines for having associations with communism.” He became a “moonshiner” instead.
    Marie's grandfather, the son of the man who arrived in 1905, married the girl standing, Marie's grandmother; they were also an Ely family of Slovenian descent.
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  • Jody Scott Olson's grandmother became a U.S. immigrant at age 6 and a U.S. citizen at 106

    Where her family's from: The Volga region of Russia
    Why they left: Ethnic Germans in Russia fled in the face of civil unrest around 1905-1906
    Where they went: Arrived in Texas, then to Colorado, Kansas, and finally Wisconsin
    Why they went were they did: Migrant farmers following work
    "They lost everything they owned. Everything they spent hundreds of years building They had to start over as migrant farm workers. . . . They eventually bought their own farm, land still owned by the family today, on a dirt road named after the family, Reichel Road."
    "I feel deeply connected to refugees. People facing terror in the face of war or at the hand of government, with nowhere to go."
    Olson's grandparents and mother.

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  • Vicenta Valero, from Spain to "the winter tundra"

    Where she's from: Originally from Spain but immigrated to El Salvador with family while young
    Why she left: Fled El Salvador around 1980 due to the outbreak of Civil War
    Where she went: Los Angeles
    Why she went there: Drawn to and received help from family
    "Minnesota is where I've lived the most in my entire life."
    "I came to this country because I had no choice. . . . I was lucky and was able to get out before enduring what many of my fellow Salvadorans had to live through."
    Valero in blue and white blouse, surrounded by cousins in Los Angeles
    by emckinley edited by Michael Olson, MPR News 1/31/2017 9:28:32 PM
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