In Old North Dayton, Turkish refugees find home, new way of life

This weekend’s Solidarity Days festival is a show of good life, happiness.

DAYTON — The fleeing has stopped for Islom Shakhbandarov.

That’s also the case for 200 other Turkish refugees settling in the working-class neighborhood of Old North Dayton, after a lifetime of persecution and forced migration in Russia and other regions of the former Soviet Union.

“We came to Dayton because it’s a good city for a refugee family. It’s affordable and also we can build a good (life) for our kids,” Shakhbandarov said Friday, June 18, three years after moving to Dayton and one day before the start of this weekend’s First Annual Solidarity Days.

It’s two days of cultural, recreational and educational activities, sponsored by the Ahiska Turkish American Community Center on Stanley Avenue.

The free, public events include soccer games at Thomas Cloud Park in Huber Heights today, June 19, and a visit at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Engineers Club of Dayton by Turkey’s ambassador to the U. S., Namik Tan. That’s followed by a picnic at 4:30 p.m. in Triangle Park in Dayton.

The goal, Shakhbandarov said, is to raise local awareness of the Ahiska Turks and their desire to renovate Old North Dayton and be good citizens in general.

“We want to keep our roots, our culture, while at the same time integrate into the American community,” said Shakhbandarov, 26, a personal banker for Chase Bank and married father of one.

The Ahiska Turks are an ethnic minority mostly from a region of Russia known as Krasnodar who began arriving in the U.S. in 2005 after the U.S. government granted the population refugee status.

In Old North Dayton, the families are transforming once worn-down properties and pleasing city leaders and neighbors in the process.

“They’re buying houses, they’re fixing up their houses and they want to be an integral part of our community,” said City Manager Tim Riordan. “They started as a small community and it’s growing because they’ve liked what they’ve found in Dayton, Ohio.”

Barry Hall, president of the Greater Old North Dayton Business Association, said he appreciates the change he’s seeing.

“It’s that many fewer vacant houses, or run-down houses,” said Hall, owner of Champion Auto Service, 1524 Milburn Ave. “It’s making the area look nicer and we can all use that.”

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