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Ansaf Hassan

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Ansaf Hassan was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1945. She came to the United States with her four children in 1980, joining her husband who had come earlier. She worked as a housekeeper, seamstress, and dental technician.

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Ansaf Hassan Transcription

“The Losses in the Land of Opportunity”

My name is Adam Hassan, and I will be telling my grandmother’s immigration story.

Ansaf Hassan was born in Cairo, Egypt on March 30, 1945. At an early age, she was the head of her household when her mom died when she was only 16. She raised her two brothers and two sisters until they were educated and married on her own because after her mother passed away, her father left the home and got remarried. She said because I had to raise them, I didn’t get to accomplish my dream of going to college. Then she started a family and life got even harder. It was hard raising children in Egypt at the time where public education was not so good. So she and her husband worked hard to put them into private schools. She said I would do alterations from my home and my husband was a lawyer, but even then, it was not the life we wanted for our kids.

My grandfather heard about better opportunities in education in the United States from his friends who already immigrated to Minnesota. And my grandmother hoped for a better education for her kids. So her and my grandfather did the immigration paperwork to come to the United States. They did the application process and, at the time it was easy, but it took them a very long time, about a year and a half, to finally get the letter saying they were accepted into the United States. My grandfather immigrated first to study because his law degree didn’t transfer, and to make sure he had a good job to support his family. And a year later, he sent for his family to come.

The trip was exciting and scary for her. She didn’t know what to expect. But on October 1980, her and her kids were finally here. The people at immigration were very nice. She said they were helpful and very welcoming.

She said, I missed my family and my life in Egypt. The language was very hard and I couldn’t talk, so when I wanted to get something from the grocery store, I couldn’t. It was very frustrating, so I went English school at South High School in 1981. She started working one year after she came as a housekeeper for Hyatt hotel and did alterations for Dayton’s downtown. She worked hard for her family, but after three years, she packed her bags and wanted to take her kids and leave because she was so tired of working so hard to make money and live, and at the same time she could see our culture and religion going away from her children. Here she worked so much to support and she didn’t have time to teach her children the Muslim religion. They used to pray with my great-grandfather, but at the time they didn’t have the time to teach them or take them to Friday prayers. The culture here was so different. There was so much freedom that she couldn’t control them, and when they made mistakes her husband couldn’t hit them because it was against the law. When she told me this, I thought it was funny. This picture shows her daughter, dressed in just regular clothes on the basketball team at South High School. But she says in Egypt it would not have been allowed for her to wear clothes that were so revealing.

Her children started following the kids here, playing more and studying less. No matter how hard she worked, her culture kept getting lost more and more. So she was ready to leave for her children. But the Egyptian people here said it was too late. The kids couldn’t go back. They couldn’t adapt to society back home. They barely knew the language now, and they could write very little Arabic. It took 6 years for her to get used to living here and getting used to the people. And after my grandfather died in 1992, she went to school at night and got a technical degree as a dental technician to support her four kids. She said, if I could have lived it over, I would have never came. I thought that was so sad, because when I went to Egypt, all of her family wanted until this day to immigrate here. Their Egyptian friends told them that their kids would have a better life, but there was too much that she gave up, and her kids lost their way in the end. My grandmother’s story shows one of determination. She worked very hard when she came here. But in the end, what she truly wanted was for her kids to be well-educated and to still have our Egyptian culture, and that just never happened.