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US Town Charlottesville Embraces Refugees, Auto Shop Business Flourishes

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In 2014, a stranded motorist left a glowing review for Larry’s Auto and Truck Repair, located on the outskirts of Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I am in the midst of hauling my horse cross country from Northern Virginia to Denver Colorado, and as I was heading onto I64W my truck broke down…” wrote Ariel L. from Castle Rock, Colorado, on the Yelp business review website after ending up at Larry’s Auto and Truck Repair.

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“The man was literally waiting for me like a surgeon expecting a seriously ill patient being transported to the hospital. I’m not exaggerating when I say he took the keys from me, said to make myself comfortable…”

The man was Yasha Ismailov, 35, whose family owns Larry’s. He is a passionate fixer of vehicles.

“We can fix any car,” he says, “So it happens a lot of times when nobody can fix it in town, they send it here.”

Refugee Yasha Ismailov, 35, owns two business, including an auto repair shop, in Charlottesville, Virginia. (J. Soh/VOA)
Refugee Yasha Ismailov, 35, owns two business, including an auto repair shop, in Charlottesville, Virginia. (J. Soh/VOA)

It is not just that his name is Yasha instead of Larry, Ismailov is an unlikely businessman in Charlottesville. He came a long way to get here.

Long journey

A Meskhetian Turk, Ismailov was born in Uzbekistan.

Meskthetians are an ethnic subgroup of Turks that were deported in rail cars from their homeland by the leader of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin during World War II. Most of them were left in Uzbekistan.

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Ismailov was not in Uzbekistan long. “My family had to flee to Russia because there was a massacre in Uzbekistan of Turks … in 1989,” he explains. Ismailov was seven.

But Russia was no more hospitable. Meskhetian Turks were barred from citizenship, property ownership and jobs.

When the U.S. began accepting Meskhetian Turks as refugees in 2004, the family came to Charlottesville. By then, Ismailov was 22. All he, his parents and his brother brought with them were suitcases of clothes.

‘We felt safe’

Charlottesville, a small city about 190 kilometers south of Washington DC, is known to welcome refugees. More than 3,000 refugees, including Ismailov, have re-started their lives here since the late 1990s with the help of the resettlement agency, the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

“[The IRC] told me it was a nice place, good and ‘You will like it, so go there,’” says Ismailov. “We felt free. We felt better than over there. We felt safe.”

Now married to a fellow refugee, Yasha Ismailov has two children and owns his own home. (J. Soh/VOA)
Now married to a fellow refugee, Yasha Ismailov has two children and owns his own home. (J. Soh/VOA)

What followed was hard work.

“We were working so hard [the] first three years before we started [the] business. We were working four people, sometimes working double jobs,” he says.

Ismailov worked as a painter, an air conditioner installer and something he learned in Russia.

“My third job was electric,” he says. “I love electric stuff.”

And then the family bought the auto repair shop from original owner, Larry.

Harriet Kuhr, director of IRC’s Charlottesville Office says Charlottesville has jobs and opportunity to offer refugees.

“It really adds a lot of diversity, but it also adds economic impact,” says Kuhr. “So the refugees are not takers. They’re giving back by helping the community grow economically.”

Proud to contribute

Ismailov’s shop now has seven employees and repairs about 150 cars a month. He has opened another family business called Downtown Auto Sales, a used car dealership.

Ismailov is a U.S. citizen now and owns his house. He’s married to another refugee and has two children. His life in Charlottesville looks very good to him.

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“I have nice neighbors. I have a job. Nobody bothers me,” he says. “I am proud to be able to contribute to the community in Charlottesville.”

Now he is looking beyond the hard work to the future. His eight-year-old daughter is an accomplished swimmer and he hopes “one day she wins an Olympic medal for the United States.”

He also looks beyond Charlottesville to the large number of refugees around the world who have not been as fortunate as he has.

“I am lucky I am here, but they are not,” he says sadly. “I feel sorry about them. I’d like to help them with something if I can.” (VOA)

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Microsoft to Implement California’s Digital Privacy Law Throughout the US

The European Union last year rolled out new privacy regulations for its citizens called the GDPR, but the US doesn't have a similar law

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FILE - A sign for Microsoft is seen on a building in Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 18, 2017. VOA

Microsoft has announced to implement California’s digital privacy law, that comes into effect from January 1, 2020, throughout the US.

In a blog post, the tech giant said the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) marks an important step towards providing people with more robust control over their data in the US.

“It also shows that we can make progress to strengthen privacy protections in this country at the state level even when Congress can’t or won’t act,” Julie Brill, Microsoft’s chief privacy officer, said on Monday.

The CCPA allows people to request that data be deleted and gives them the opportunity to opt out of having their information sold to a third party.

In 2018, Microsoft voluntarily extended the core data privacy rights included in the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to customers around the world, not just to those in the EU who are covered by the regulation.

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FILE – Microsoft Corp. signage is seen outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Washington, July 3, 2014. VOA

“Similarly, we will extend CCPA’s core rights for people to control their data to all our customers in the US,” it said.

More than 25 million people around the world, including over 10 million people in the US, have used Microsoft’s privacy dashboard to understand and control their personal data.

Also Read: Apple Mulling to Release its First AR Headset by the Year 2022

Under CCPA, companies must be transparent about data collection and use, and provide people with the option to prevent their personal information from being sold.

“Microsoft will continue to monitor those changes, and make the adjustments needed to provide effective transparency and control under CCPA to all people in the US,” Brill said.

The European Union last year rolled out new privacy regulations for its citizens called the GDPR, but the US doesn’t have a similar law. (IANS)