SAN ANTONIO — Samiullah Atal is 19 years old. After winning the visa lottery, the teenager decided to leave Afghanistan.
“I was randomly selected by the United State department,” Atal said. “And then I came to the U.S.”
He left everything he knew behind to come to America.
“It was my first time to go outside from the country and to be without my family,” Atal said.
He spent six months in a refugee camp on the East Coast before moving to Texas to live with friends from his home village.
“They said they would be very happy to have you and live together here,” Atal said.
But it wasn’t an easy decision for him or others.
“A hard decision for all the Afghans,” Atal said. “They are here, but some of their families, they’re with them, but not all. So, all of them have some family in Afghanistan.”
Nadia Mavrakis, the CEO of Culturingua in San Antonio, empowers migrants and refugees from the Middle East. For the second year, Culturingua hosted its welcome walk to symbolize the journey to America.
“We have seen over 4,000 refugees resettle from Afghanistan in the last year,” Mavrakis said.
Ten-thousand-plus Afghan refugees have resettled across Texas. Mavrakis said many Afghans choose Texas because the weather is similar to home. The thriving Afghan community is an attractive factor as well.
“With so many conflicts around the world, people needing to flee their home,” Mavrakis said. “And they knew that San Antonio was a welcoming city that would embrace them.”
Atal has been in the U.S. almost a year. He’s already working and pursuing other opportunities.
“I’m focused on my education,” Atal said. “I want to complete my bachelor’s degree here. Bright and good future for myself.”