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Editorial

The Two Sides of the Migration Issue

‘Minari’ is the name of a movie that was recently nominated for six Academy Awards, including for Best Picture and Best Actor.

It was not the only film nominated for so many awards.

What sets it apart is that it is a film about immigration. The costs associated with immigration, as well as its benefits.

These are the two sides of the same coin, which many of us well know.

The first time this movie came to my attention was through an extensive article in the New York Times Magazine. There, the author uses the film as the basis for a sociological, in-depth analysis of the consequences of migration.

The film, of course, in a simpler and more human form than a sociological study, gives a vivid, dramatic perspective on the effects of immigration.

It is about a young couple from South Korea who, after getting married, decide to immigrate to America for a better life. The situation in their country was unbearable.

After moving to America, the husband/father (the couple now had two children – the younger of the two with a health problem) decides that his family should move again. This time from California to Arkansas, "in the middle of nowhere," despite the strong and persistent expressions of disagreement by his wife.

His dream was to acquire a farm, not five acres, but 50. “Five is a garden. Fifty is a farm,” he explained.

There, in Arkansas, the land was endless. As far as the eye could see. The family ended up buying a farm that had few, but very friendly neighbors nearby.

Their house was a motorhome. Clearing the land of grass was difficult and the mosquitoes were countless. The difficulties of growing vegetables were innumerable. One production failure followed another.

The man resorted to loans, which he could not pay. The family’s water supply was cut off.

The quarrels with his wife began intensifying. Eventually, the couple decided to bring the man’s mother-in-law from South Korea to take care of the children so that the wife could also work.

But that did not help.

"It's not what you promised me when we got married," his wife told him in a moment of despair.

The children did not get along with their grandmother.

"Grandma smells like Korea," the boy said at one point, and as a cruel joke he gave her a glass in which he put urine instead of Mountain Dew.

And yet, the grandmother accepted the bad joke with love and forgiveness. But the gap between the American-born grandchildren and the grandparent was evident.

Eventually the wife decided to return to California with the children. The husband chose the farm over the family. "I want to finish something that I start in my life," he told her.

As the film progresses, he meets a Korean compatriot in the vegetable trade, and because the seeds of his plants are from Korea, he decides to buy his crop.

Meanwhile, the mother-in-law has had a stroke. Later in the movie, she accidentally starts a fire that burns down the storage area for the family's produce. 

But this misfortune brings the couple close to each other again.

At that point, the film ends, leaving the impression that after the agreement that the man had made with his compatriot, the family finances would be much better.

Not all immigrant stories end positively, however.

The story of those immigrants has a lot in common with the history of all of us who immigrated with the ambition for a 'better life' – which may have different definitions for all of us. 

We, Greeks, have a lot in common with the actors/actresses in the film: their determination to continue the fight, despite the great difficulties they face, including the inevitable problems that uninterrupted work and financial problems create in the family. And, of course, with the distancing of our American-born children from their country of origin. Even alienation from their parents and grandparents.

No, immigration is not for the weak.

It is for the others: the strong, the determined. It is a very big change in one’s life. It is a constant struggle to validate one’s abilities and capabilities.

Above all, and before all, it is an ongoing but hopefully valid sacrifice for the future of our children.

 

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