Utica has always been a town of immigrants. In the 1800s and early 1900s Italians, Lebanese, Germans and Poles helped to establish it as an important hub in America's burgeoning northeast industrial heartland. As demographic and industrial patterns changed, Utica fell on hard times, but in recent decades a new wave of arrivals, refugee groups from all corners of the globe, has begun to re-energize the region. In addition to new faces in the workforce, there are Vietnamese restaurants, Russian neighborhood stores, Bosnian coffee shops, pentecostal churches, mosques and temples.
The town's institutions have responded in kind, helping to establish a vivid mosaic of cultural diversity. Where else, for instance, can one find an estimated 31 languages spoken in the school system?
Central to this story is the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees. Established a quarter century ago, it is not only a veritable life support system for the newcomers, helping them find accommodation, jobs or a doctor, but it also advises hospitals, apartment owners, schools and lawyers how best they, in their turn, can help newly arriving refugees and between them "build bridges between the two groups" and promote a successful future.
View the photos featured in the exhibit
UNHCR's publication Refugee Number 138 has an article about Utica's refugees.