Pazir* was ripped from the life he knew when the Taliban bombed the Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan on August 26, 2021.
Pazir had spent two years working at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The day of the bombing, everything changed. Pazir lost a close friend and was himself hospitalized for 25 days.
Pazir grew up in Kabul surrounded by a strong support system of family and friends. At 24 years old, he had already started a small business—a bakery—that had turned into a restaurant. “We used to make homemade, delicious food,” he reminisced. Pazir studied public law and had plans in place to grow and expand his business.
When the Taliban attacked the airport, Pazir fought back. “We fought for the country, we fought for the people. We fought for the commitment that we had to the United States government.” While the rest of this team left the country, Pazir was chosen to as part of a trusted team to stay and help the U.S. Marine Corps as an interpreter. After the Taliban took over, an injured Pazir fled to the States, leaving behind the life he knew and loved. He arrived in Fort Dix in New Jersey and spent time in refugee camps before ending up in Buffalo, NY. He found housing and employment within a few days of arriving in Buffalo, working as a cashier in a grocery store.
But the physical and mental trauma of the attack and his sudden relocation weighed on Pazir. “It’s really hard to leave your home where you grew up; where you made yourself; where you made your career; where you established a good life—like, a really good life.” Torn from his life and career, Pazir struggled with mental health issues as well as physical ones. Despite growing up in a culture where speaking to a psychologist is laden with stigma, Pazir recognized that he needed to seek help. He sought out a counselor at Jewish Family Services of Western New York (JFS), who helped him unpack the trauma that had been plaguing him since the explosion. Together, they worked through his disturbing memories and Pazir rediscovered his goals, vision, and direction in life.
“I was totally lost before engaging in this program. Having a good person—a good counselor—like [in] the program is life-saving, honestly.”
More than a year later, Pazir started working at JFS as an intensive case manager and refugee specialist. He hopes to help other refugees like himself work through trauma and settle into a healthy life in New York.
*Name changed to protect privacy
JFS provides complex medical, psychological, immigration, and legal services to immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers. Under an NYHealth grant, it provided access to mental health services that often fall outside the boundaries of resettlement services. It worked to deliver and connect refugees to emergency mental health services and nonclinical support groups, as well as help them recognize the signs of mental health issues.