Partial Transcript: I'm Jack Wilson, uh, entering--interviewing Tite Niyonizigiye uh who is born the nation of Burundi for the Africans in the Bluegrass Oral History Project...
Segment Synopsis: Tite Niyonizigiye started school in Burundi but left when he was 10 and in second grade because of war which started on April 29, 1972. They saw buildings burning and they slept in the bush. He never saw his uncle again. They traveled, walking during the night, and hiding during the day. They crossed Lake Tanganyika to Congo. Many children died, including his two younger brothers. There was no food so they moved to Rwanda in November 1972. It was hard for the parents because they didn't speak the same language, but they went to a camp. He stayed in Rwanda from 1972 to 1993.
Keywords: Burundi; Democratic Republic of Congo; Kinyarwanda; Kirundi; Lake Tanganyika; Refugees; Rwanda
Subjects: Refugee camps; Wars
Partial Transcript: And how was the school system?
Segment Synopsis: UNHCR created a primary school, but it was hard to get to secondary school. He had to pass the national exam at sixth grade and then he went to Congo to continue schooling for his high school diploma. He passed the exam in 1985. Then he was admitted to university in Rwanda; only four refugees were admitted. Only five Burundians were in the whole university. UNHCR helped with school and university fees. Refugees could move about in Rwanda and were not restricted to camps as in Tanzania. He studied social sciences for three years at university in Rwanda and then taught for a year. In 1989 he went to Lubumbashi University in Congo to do two years in sociology and teaching. All schooling was in French.
Keywords: Congo; French; High schools; Kinyarwanda; Rwanda; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); University Rwanda; University of Lubumbashi
Subjects: Congo (Democratic Republic); Education; Education, Higher; Higher education; Rwanda.
Partial Transcript: And then did you teach after you completed that degree and certification?
Segment Synopsis: Niyonizigiye graduated from university in Congo in 1993 at the same time war started in Rwanda, so he stayed on the border of Rwanda. Then the Rwandan government fell in 1994 and he went back to Congo. Then war came to Congo and he fled to Tanzania in 1996. In 1995 he got married and when they left the Congo they had their first child. He then taught in the camp in Tanzania. They stayed there until they got resettlement in the U.S. in 2007. Before war came to Rwanda his parents were doing fairly well with farming and business.
Keywords: Congo; Fleeing; Marriage; Rwanda; Tanzania
Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Immigrants; Refugees; Wars.
Partial Transcript: And, uh, tell me how that happened?
Segment Synopsis: They could not leave the camp but agencies came to help, to provide medication, to help build schools. In the last three years before he came to the US he was principal of a 1700 student high school. Burundi gave land of refugees to others so they were afraid of their return. The U.S. made a selection through UNHCR to take 8,000 to 10,000 refugees who had left Burundi in 1972. He was one. There were three interviews, then interview with U.S. immigration, then he could be admitted. One day they posted the names. He didn't know where he could go in the U.S. "They gave you no choice." In November 2007 they went to the Transit Center and December 17, 2007 they took the airplane to come to the U.S. His sister-in-law preceded him in Lexington and two sisters came earlier to North Carolina.
Keywords: Burundi; French; Land issues in Burundi; Non-governmental organization (NGO); Principals; Resettlement process; Tanzania; Teachers; U.S. immigration; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants; Refugee camps; Refugees
Partial Transcript: And so when you came, uh, wa--at the beginning of that time, do, do you remember what ways the, the United States was like you thought it would be and what ways it wasn't?
Segment Synopsis: "Outside you know that United States great country, powerful country, economy, we were thinking about small paradise on this earth." His brother-in-law wanted him to come to Australia but he came to US. There he saw homelessness. "What I was thinking was completely different. When I was thinking that life was easy it was not true." He learned there was not medical insurance for everyone. And then they told refugees that after three months they must be able to work. During the holidays they did not have enough food. "How is that possible?" On March 31 he got a job working at Amazon and April 1 he had to start paying his rent. They got an hour and 30 minutes a week learning English the first few months. "Life was not easy, not like I was thinking before." It was also during the Great Recession in the U.S. He is still working at Amazon. He transferred to BCTC to learn English, then got a scholarship to take English classes at University of Kentucky. By 2013 he was ready to go to university.
Keywords: "Small paradise"; Adjustment; Amazon, Inc.; Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC); English as a second language (ESL); Expectations; Great Recession
Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Employment--Kentucky; Immigrants--Kentucky
Partial Transcript: The other problem also that, uh...
Segment Synopsis: Niyonizigiye explains he, like other refugees, had to pay back airfare to the U.S. for him and his family -- $6000. He got a scholarship for his master's at Asbury -- $8000 scholarship and paid for books, etc. by himself. He is working on certification and will be looking for a job in social work.
Keywords: Amazon, Inc.; Asbury University; Graduate education
Subjects: Education, Higher--Kentucky; Education--Kentucky; Higher education
Map Coordinates: 37.8636, -84.6649
Partial Transcript: Um, describe for me if you would, uh, a, uh, a really good experience that you had after coming to the United States and then maybe an experience that was not good.
Segment Synopsis: Niyonizigiye says that one good experience is being able to express himself in English. He already spoke four languages (French, Swahili, Kirunda, and Kinyarwanda) "Now I feel comfortable to speak with someone in English." He believes he can now integrate into the Lexington culture, learn about people there. He has learned about the importance of respecting time. He is trying to find something in between his previous culture and the American culture. He has learned to drive, and gone to other cities. But there are differences in culture: children here have to be under adult supervision all the time; children of immigrant families here may not respect their parents because the children have learned quickly and parents don't know how to manage their children.
Keywords: Acculturation; English language; Time management
Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Immigrants--Kentucky; Language and languages.
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
Partial Transcript: So tell me more about your family.
Segment Synopsis: Niyonizigiye is a Pentecostal pastor who has a church. "We try to preserve our faith." His wife went to school for medical assistant certification and got a job in a clinic. His children are 21, 17, 14, 12, 10, 9, 6, and 3. The oldest one got a scholarship to Berea College. The others are doing well in school.
Keywords: Berea College; Family; Pastors
Subjects: Churches--Kentucky; Education; Families.; Religion
Map Coordinates: 37.573, -84.292
Partial Transcript: Do you, do you still have family on the African continent and where are they and how do you keep up with them?
Segment Synopsis: Niyonizigiye has two sisters in South Africa, one in Australia, and two sisters in the U.S. He also has other family in Africa in Zimbabwe and Burundi. They can keep in touch by phone and WhatsApp.
Keywords: Australia; Burundi; Communication; Siblings; South Africa; Zimbabwe
Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Immigrants
Partial Transcript: When I came I was at school trying to have a, a place where my, my, my family can be.
Segment Synopsis: Niyonizigiye talks about the problems and expense related to housing, and talks about getting a Habitat for Humanity house in 2011.
Keywords: Habitat for Humanity; Houses
Partial Transcript: What kinds of questions do people here in, in Kentucky ask you?
Segment Synopsis: Some people are not informed about Africa, do not know country names, think it is bush. "How did you learn all those languages?" When someone asks "Where are you from?" he answers "Burundi." He is an American citizen but he knows he does not have an American accent so he says "I am from Burundi but I live here."
Keywords: Burundi; Questions
Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Identity (Psychology); Immigrants
Map Coordinates: -3.5, 30
Partial Transcript: Uh, do you, do you feel you have, uh, experienced discrimination of any kind since you have been here?
Segment Synopsis: Niyonizigiye tells about going to get re-certification for food stamps. The caseworker lowered his amount for food stamps, but he could read and write and understand and appealed to Frankfort. The caseworker's decision was overturned and she was taken off his case. He says he got "justice."
Keywords: Case workers; Food stamps; Justice; Possible discrimination
Subjects: Discrimination.; Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants; Race discrimination
Map Coordinates: 38.2, -84.866667