StoryCorps: Sisters Find Home In Utah After Somali Civil War Made Them Refugees Annie and Randall Johnson have two teenage daughters who came to the U.S. as refugees from the Somali civil war. Since meeting, they've learned about both cultures, all while becoming a family.
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Sisters Find Home In Utah After Somali Civil War Made Them Refugees

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Sisters Find Home In Utah After Somali Civil War Made Them Refugees

Sisters Find Home In Utah After Somali Civil War Made Them Refugees

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's Friday, so it's time for StoryCorps. Today, we will meet two sisters from Somalia. Fatuma Abdullahi and Maryan Osman were little girls when their parents died in Somalia's civil war. They're teenagers now living in Utah. Annie and Randall Johnson took the girls in. Recently, Annie sat down with Fatuma and Maryan to talk about what it was like to become a family.

ANNIE JOHNSON: Not a lot of people become a mom at 28 to teenage daughters, so the learning curve has been steep.

MARYAN OSMAN: (Laughter) Yeah. What do you remember most about meeting me?

JOHNSON: You just walked up to me with all of the confidence in the world, stuck your hand out there and said hi, I'm Maryan. How old are you? Are you old enough to be a mom? You kind of, like, looked me up and down and sized me up a little bit. And, Fatuma, you were just so shy and quiet, which was OK because we were so nervous.

FATUMA ABDULLAHI: Yeah.

JOHNSON: What's it like to live in a family that has such a different culture?

MARYAN: Here, the neighbors, so quiet. You feel like you're living by yourself. Even in the jungle, animals made sounds, but here, the sounds you heard is only the cars.

JOHNSON: The funniest thing is teaching you guys weird American sayings. Like beating a dead horse...

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON: ...Was a good, fun one.

MARYAN: Why will you beat a dead horse?

JOHNSON: Exactly.

MARYAN: It's already dead.

JOHNSON: That's the whole point.

MARYAN: Also it's funny when you're learning Somali.

JOHNSON: I can say I love you, which is (speaking Somali).

MARYAN: I love when you say, what's your name? (Speaking Somali).

JOHNSON: (Speaking Somali).

MARYAN: It reminds me of when I was learning English, how I will speak in funny way (laughter).

JOHNSON: Yeah.

MARYAN: Hey, Mom, have you ever got scared for me?

JOHNSON: Yeah. Last year, around your birthday when you had some panic attacks, I went to the school and there were firemen there and all the teachers were surrounding you. I was scared for you because you were really struggling at that time.

MARYAN: I got overwhelmed about my past. And I remember that you told me that I'm always there to talk to you. And you hugged me a lot. That was awesome.

JOHNSON: Yeah. You like to be hugged.

MARYAN: Yeah. The best thing I love about you guys it's no matter what I do, you still forgive me and give me chance to move on.

JOHNSON: It's hard being a mom. You doubt yourself a lot. You don't know if you're doing things right. I've learned a lot about patience. And I've learned a lot about love. You guys have just given so much joy and meaning to my life.

FATUMA: Thank you.

JOHNSON: I love you so much, so happy that you are my daughters.

(SOUNDBITE OF KETSA'S "HEART LEFT ON THE NIGHT TRAIN")

MARTIN: That's Annie Johnson with her daughters, Maryan Osman and Fatuma Abdullahi in West Valley City, Utah. Their interview will be archived at the Library of Congress.

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