For the past 30 plus years, except for a brief gig as a cab driver, Romanian immigrant Ovidiu Colea has been manufacturing miniature replicas of the Statue of Liberty that fill souvenir shops all over New York.
The outside his Colbar Art, Inc. isn’t much to look at — a non-descript building in the shadow of the Long Island Expressway on the edge of industrial Queens. But the inside of Colea’s factory is like Santa’s workshop meets the Smithsonian. A half dozen workers cast mold after mold of miniature green ladies.
Looming over New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty has been the symbol of a new life in a new world for millions of immigrants, including Ovidiu Colea. He dreamed of seeing the statue as a boy in communist Romania. Now, he owns a factory making souvenir replicas of Lady Liberty.
Romanian immigrant Ovidiu Colea claims to be the last New Yorker to manufacture Statue of Liberty replicas in the city. He makes a point to hire immigrants in his Queens factory.
Winemaking was “immigrants’ business, because America drank beer.
19 year old Fouad Faris carries a Free Syrian Army flag at a protest in Washington, D.C. against the Syrian military’s use of chemical weapons.
Faris fled his hometown of Aleppo, Syria, a year ago and moved in with his aunt and uncle in Shrewsbury, MA. He left behind bombs and tear gas, but also education, friends and family. For the past seven months, he’s been waiting for asylum and a chance to restart his life.
Over the past year, I’ve gotten to know my hair stylist Laila Karachi, from Morocco. Every time I get my hair cut, she shares stories about her life, her children, and recipes for authentic Moroccan tea! Last week, I asked Laila to tell me her #FirstDays story for @pritheworld and photographed her in action.
"I never thought I would come to America until I met my husband," she said.
She left her town of Ben Slimane, near Casablanca, in 1999 after marrying her husband. He lived in Boston, but was from a nearby town in Morocco. The two met when he was visiting family back home. When Laila arrived in the U.S., her husband drove from Boston to JFK airport in New York to pick her up. She didn’t speak any English then, so she didn’t think she could take a connecting flight alone. Those first days here were lonely, since she missed her family in Morocco. One of 11 siblings (she’s the middle child), Laila is the only one in her family to move to the U.S. She later enrolled in English classes and, three years ago, became a hair stylist. Just in the past year, she says she’s become more and more confident speaking in English. Whenever she cuts my hair, we can’t stop talking!
"What was the saddest moment of your life?"
"Probably when my grandmother died."
"What was your favorite thing about her?"
"Honestly, she was back in Bangladesh, and I really don’t remember much about her. But it was the only time I’ve seen my dad cry."