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Crossing borders, overcoming obstacles, starting life over again in a new country. WYSO's radio series The Bind That Ties brings you the stories of immigrants from around the Miami Valley.

The Bind That Ties: Ales Ficko and Holly McGlothlin

Ales Ficko, who’s originally from Slovenia, with his fiancé, Holly McGlothlin.
Ales Ficko
Ales Ficko, who’s originally from Slovenia, with his fiancé, Holly McGlothlin.

We begin new season of stories about immigrants in the Miami Valley. It’s our way to shine a light on the diversity of our region and introduce you to neighbors you may not have met. We call it The Bind That Ties. We first aired this series in 2020. And now we’re back. Ales Ficko came to Dayton just five years ago from Slovenia, an independent nation that was formed in the early 90s when Yugoslavia broke apart. He talks with his fiancé, Holly McGlothlin.

(Editor's Note: Transcript edited lightly for clarity.)

Ales Ficko: Slovenia is such a small country, there's only 2 million people and not a lot of people actually know where Slovenia is. So for me, the easiest way how to explain that is Melania Trump is from there. I was actually born in '81 when Slovenia was still part of Yugoslavia. And we all know that Yugoslavia was a communist country. In '91 when I was 10-years-old, Sovenia was the first country within all countries in Yugoslavia that decided to declare their independency. And I moved to the United States in June of 2017, so I will be here for years now. It was a very long journey coming to the United States. It took me a couple of years and I would even say a couple of thousands of dollars just to come here legally and just fulfilling my American dream.

Holly McGlothlin: Did you ever think you would actually live here?

Ales Ficko: For a long time no, because American immigration system is very, very, very hard. I actually did a lot, a lot a lot of research before I came here. What would be the easiest and legal way? There are not many unless, I don't know, you are a nuclear physicist or something. It's hard to find a company that is willing to sponsor you. I know there are different ways.

Holly McGlothlin: It's hard to have a valuable skill.

Ales Ficko: Yes, you have to have like very, very, very high skills.

Holly McGlothlin If you're coming from a country with less opportunity, how do you have that?

Ales Ficko: And it's also like financial burden. But yeah, the problem that I see with working visas are working with a so-called H-1B visa. So with a working visa, only the company that sponsors you. The work can last four years. You imagine how trapped you are because you know that you can only work for that company and you will have to stay and you're going to find another company. Even if it's in the same field, same position, you're not allowed to. So that's something that I really feel sorry for these people because and that was one of my things - I really didn't want to come here on working visa because then you're stuck with that company.

I used to work in the car industry, in car sales and marketing, for 16 years for BMW Group as a corporate and diplomatic sales manager. And I came here on business investment visa, that so-called E-2 visa. In order to get that, I purchased an existing company here in the United States, and that was actually my ticket. Besides the investment, immigration expected me to invest between $100,000 and $200,000 and I knew people at that time. That helped me tremendously to come here because managing all these things and applying for a visa, going to the attorney back and forth, that's something that is very hard to do if you're living on the other side of the world. So my friends, they took over all that. I will definitely be forever grateful for that.

Being legal is definitely a good thing to do. So you don't watch your back all the time. You know, when you get pulled over by the police, you're not like, 'Oh my God, what if they want to deport me now?' There are a lot of people here illegally and I feel for them because they wanted to come here to get a better life, but they didn't have the opportunity to come here legally because I know that the majority of these people, if they had the opportunity to come here legally, they would come legally. Nobody wants to be illegal on purpose. So for me, I hope that the government, at one point they're going to like say, okay, we have, I know 10 million illegals here. Let's give them the opportunity to become legal. Let's give them like a pathway to citizenship.

Holly McGlothlin: With realistic expectations.

Ales Ficko: And realistic expectations.

Holly McGlothlin: I don't think Americans realize how much our society thrives on immigrants, illegal and legal. They literally keep the communities running.

Ales Ficko: Yes.

Holly McGlothlin: And I think they don't realize that we need immigrants to survive in this country. We really do.

Ales Ficko: I agree with you. Yeah. America is such a huge nation. It definitely needs immigrants.

The Bind That Ties is produced by Mojgan Samardar for the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Mojgan started her full-time work after completing a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence. After a very successful 28 year career as a technical geek, she retired in 2017. While working she attended community voices weekend classes in 2014 and graduated as a Community Voice producer for WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. After retirement, Mojgan’s turned to the arts and volunteering activities. She proposed creating community voices stories to highlight immigrants’ voices and contributions in the Miami valley. Her first season production of “The Bind that Ties” in 2020 won first prize in the Radio Documentary of the Associated Press. Season two of the series was broadcast in 2022.