The sad, funny, sweet, troubling, wonderful stories
of immigrants experiencing Montgomery County for the first time
THEY COME FOR LOVE and money, education and freedom and opportunity.
They’ve built lives and started businesses and raised families here. And as Temur
Basilia from the Republic of Georgia puts it, when he passes the highway sign
announcing, “Welcome to Maryland,” he feels like he’s home.
But all immigrants are suspended between two worlds. They never adjust completely to their new land. They miss the smells and the food of the old country, the
trees and the flowers, the cafés and the gossip and the language. They don’t quite get
the joke in English, or know the right word for something at the hardware store. And
they suffer pangs of embarrassment when their parents don’t understand American
mores and buy jeans for their son that were designed for a girl.
Yet they cannot go back, either. They’ve become Americanized—by their school
friends, their customers, even their own children. As Kristi Dobrovolski, who has lived
here 24 years, says, “I feel a little like a tourist when I go to Greece.”
Immigrants now make up about 30 percent of Montgomery County’s 1 million resi-
dents. They work hard, create jobs and pay taxes. Their children represent 157 coun-
tries and speak 138 different languages in the Montgomery County public school
system. And every day they make our lives richer and more rewarding. >>
BethesdaMagazine.com | January/February 2014 163
Photography by Erick Gibson