Mark Kelly, Safety Marking’s Founder and President, proudly shared the story of immigrant brothers and dedicated long-term employees: Mooyad and Moffaq Balu
“We are fortunate to have amazing employees and be in business long enough to be a part of our employees’ life stories. We commend Mooyad and Moffaq Balu for making the difficult journey to Bridgeport headquarters and for their continued dedication and hard work,” said Mark Kelly, Safety Marking Inc. Founder and President.
Twenty years ago, two brothers traveled together to the United States from Kurdistan, Northern Iraq, near the border with Turkey. Both men fatefully found themselves working for Safety Marking Inc. The journey overseas was not easy for Mooyad Balu and Moffaq Balu. They had to leave their family behind, including their mother, six sisters, four brothers, grandparents, uncles, and aunts, and their culture, too.
“When you leave a place and go to different countries, different cultures, different languages, you leave everything behind, then you have to start from zero to learn the (new) language and the culture. The system of how we live over here – it’s a lot different. It’s hard to say one thing was the hardest: it’s a combination of things. My whole life became very different than what we were used to,” said Mooyad.
When the United States Armed Forces left the region after the first Persian Gulf War, many Kurds were extended a pathway to US Citizenship after working with the US Army; a change in policy after the Vietnam War made this possible. The brothers’ left their home in 1996 beginning a very long journey that finally saw them settle in Bridgeport, CT three years later.
Initially, the Balu’s, with many others including some relatives, flew from Turkey to Thailand (for food and fuel), then to the US base on Guam Island. They lived on Guam for two months. Unsure of where they would eventually reside, the group dispersed across North America, including Canada, where many reside to this day. The brothers then flew to San Francisco, and then to Roanoke, Virginia where they slowly settled in and worked to carve out a new life like so many generations before them. Virginia was home for the next two years. In 1999, the men were able to finally relocate to Bridgeport, Connecticut where a third, elder brother had settled earlier among friends who also had emigrated.
“Everything was so different, even the houses. We had never been in wood houses; in Iraq, they are all concrete. It was the first time I had been in a house that was 200 years old. The weather is the same in Connecticut as it is in Northern Iraq. I am thankful for the job and the people I work with at Safety Marking, Inc. I hear about a lot of other companies, and it is not like here. Everyone here has helped me grow in my role at Safety Marking, from Mark Kelly to the Foreman: Brian, Tom, Abe, along with David, PJ, and (Ray) Ryan,” said Mooyad.
Recently, Mooyad was able to visit his family, and see his mother for the first time in more than seven years. While sharing the experience, he explained “It was very good, but when it was time to leave, it was very difficult. Today I continue to work hard every day, I keep trying, I keep doing and never give up.”