The iconic melodies of The Nutcracker sounded through an unusual venue: a U.S. military base hosting Afghan refugees.
The Madison Ballet presented four performances of the holiday classic last weekend at Fort McCoy before a crowd of enthralled Afghans at a warehouse on base, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
The refugees have been staying at the military installation in Sparta since their country fell to the Taliban following a withdrawal of the U.S. military after 20 years in the country. The base once housed 13,000 refugees, but that number has fallen to around 7,000 as Afghans have been resettled across the U.S., said Eva Rupp, a deputy federal coordinator with the Department of Homeland Security.
The performance on Friday had all the trappings of any other, with refugees presenting their tickets at the door, applauding the top moments and recording much of it on their cellphones.
Jonathan Solari, CEO of the Madison Ballet, said the excitement was “palpable” in the warehouse on the base that hosted the performance.
“I’m overwhelmed, my heart is full,” Solari said. “I cannot articulate how much joy it brought me to see them overjoyed.
“There were kids who had their chins on the side of the stage just in awe of our dancers,” he said.
Solari’s mission to bring The Nutcracker to Fort McCoy started after reading about the thousands of refugees at the base, half of whom are children. He and his spouse had previously worked with refugees in Greece in 2015 and 2016 in the early years of Europe’s refugee crisis.
“What was best for the kids was a craft, a distraction, something to do,” Solari recalled.
After messaging a friend last month who worked with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Maryland, Solari was put in touch with officials at the lead agencies overseeing the resettlement of the Afghan refugees.
“This might be a way to be able to show people that we care about them and that they’re welcome here,” he said. “We can give a little piece of ourselves and our culture and we can, in turn, learn a great deal about them.”
Mozhgan Karimi, a 30-year-old Afghan woman who attended Friday’s performance, said she was not expecting the high-caliber performance brought by The Nutcracker cast.
“It was amazing, and I had a very good experience seeing that,” Karimi said through a translator.
Holiday cheer aside, Karimi’s experience as a refugee has not been easy.
She came to the United States alone, the rest of her family still in Afghanistan. During the chaotic evacuation at the Kabul airport, her cellphone was broken and she still does not have one, putting her out of touch with loved ones for months.
Though thousands of Afghans have been resettled, Karimi does not know when she will leave Fort McCoy. Once resettled, she wants to continue her career as a makeup artist.
“Sometimes I’m thinking about it, I wish I never came,” Karimi said through a translator.
The afternoon’s performance had close-to-the-heart importance for Lela Zasari, a 12-year-old who danced with the ballet. Her father came to the U.S. from Afghanistan in the 1980s, and Zasari called the performance “very inspirational.”
“I feel very privileged to get to perform in front of the Afghans,” she said. “I’m just grateful that they liked it. It’s almost like I’m telling them not to give up on their dreams.”
The above comes from a Dec. 10 story in the Military Times.
This is a great example of welcoming refugees. It’s what Christians do. And, it’s what Americans do. We have a culture (thanks to the influence of Christianity) that is worth sharing with others. Though imperfect, our nation has what most people want, including the respect of rights of persons, freedoms, generosity/charity, friendliness and opportunity. I have two former colleagues who are immigrants from nations dominated by oppression and poverty. They are thrilled to have been able to become Americans and have successful careers as public servants. (One of them noted that, sadly, it seems to her that only those raised under Communism or other dictatorships seem to value our liberties and are working to pass them along to our children and future generations.) And, kudos to the armed forces and the ballet for doing this.
To any of those “thumbs down,” would you care to share what I stated that you object to? I’m sincerely open to hearing your perspectives. Is there something in Catholic teaching that I missed? Thank you.
Deacon, you might wonder if “good catholics” believe that it is wrong to provide entertainment to refugees, or if refugees should not be treated well, or if Christ taught us to be nasty to others. Those are the only excuses I could come up with for the thumbs-down. We need to be less nice to people, we need to treat foreigners as lower class and undeserving of any cultural heritage. Don’t you think that is what they meant?
Maybe it was the “One of them noted that…” part. I like what you have written but some may find that part concerning.
The thumbs down are unfortunately a predictable reaction to a post like yours at this otherwise very valuable website. There are “conservative” equivalents to progressive ideologues that regularly post here that share that kind of reflexive irrationality.
First thing that came to mind on this story was how the Christian embrace of the True, Good and Beautiful (as on display in the Nut Cracker) is a potent tool of evangelization to these folks that are fleeing the stone age.
I was wondering the same thing. I was a thumbs up myself.
I gave you a thumbs up, Deacon, but some might not like the type of entertainment that was performed. Perhaps they would have preferred some other type of entertainment, or maybe they objected to the idea that only those raised under Communism valued our freedoms. I have avoided clicking on many posts because I agreed with some of the things said on that post but not others. That to me is the best thing to do, unless one wants to take the time to comment. Just my thoughts.
Deacon Anderson– I never pay any attention to this “thumbs voting” system– and ignore it on my own posted comments. Perhaps some of the “thumbs up voting” is helpful– but overall, I think the “thumbs voting” is unnecessary– and provides an unfortunate way for anti-Catholic “troll voters” to anonymously “bash” our Catholic Faith, and “bash” devout Catholic commenters, in a cowardly way. They all need to just write their own comments, and take their own chances on getting their posts printed here. I “vote thumbs up” to abolish this “thumbs voting” system!
Love the “Nutcracker!” A tremendous gift for those Afghan refugees! Beautiful! I think Ft. McCoy is located in Wisconsin.