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Elene Ejigu




Elene Ejigu was born in Dessie, Ethiopia in 1997. Her father died unexpectedly in 2003, and the following year, her mother won the Diversity Visa Lottery and moved to the United States. Elene and her sister lived with their grandparents in Ethiopia until they were able to reunite with their mother in the United States when Elene was 11.




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"My Mother’s Sacrifice"

I was born in small city in Ethiopia called Dessie on October 9th, 1997. When my parents had me and my sister, they decided to stay and raise us in our grandparents’ house. I grew up surrounded by a big family and this made me feel protected and secured. When my father passed away unexpectedly in 2003, I became very attached to my mom. The fear of losing both my parents made me paranoid and I started to follow my mom everywhere she went. In 2004, when I was 7 years old, one of the most heartbreaking and life-changing things happened. My mom won the visa lottery to come to the United States. I was too little to remember, but my family told me that I used to beg my mom not to go. This wasn't an easy decision for her. She didn't know anyone in the United States, and her whole family lived in Ethiopia. But she was determined to give me and my sister the best life possible. So she left everything she had behind and came to America in search for the "American Dream".

At the time, I didn’t understand why she would leave us behind and I became angry and confused. My grandparents raised my sister and I when my mom left. They always reminded us of our mom’s sacrifice and the things we could accomplish when we went to America. During those times, I sometimes felt alone, and I was scared that I would not reunite with my mom. I was also anxious that something would happen to her, and I became depressed. When the 35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis in 2007, I couldn't stop crying until my mom called us to tell us that she was ok. I used to assume some how my mom was hurt whenever I heard about tragic event that happened outside of Ethiopia. When I saw my cousins and my friends with their parents, it added to my depression. Not having my mom when I graduated from middle school or when I accomplished something important in my life was very difficult.

Through all these hard time and as I start to grow up I started to understand why my mom left us. I understood that it wasn't easy for her to leave us and that it was the hardest decision that she ever had to make in her life. When she came to the US she stayed at a family friend's house for a year until she could afford her own place. She had to work two jobs, day and night to get her own place and most importantly to save up enough money for our visa process and to send money back to us in Ethiopia. She came to America hoping to achieve the “American dream” and that became a reality when my sister and I came to the US and started our first day of school. This influenced me so that when I came to America when I was 11 years old, I was determined to work hard in school and take advantage of every opportunity I could get. I wanted to prove to my mom that I will never forget the sacrifices she made to get me to where I am today.