“The dream of one man”
Gyros Kabob would never have opened its doors for business had it not been for the dream of one man to come to America. It’s a story told over and over in this country, for as they say… we are a nation of immigrants. Josef’s parents were refugees too, but it was a different world 60+ years ago. Fleeing from Russia, Josef’s parents settled in Iran which was a far more friendly and relatively freer society back then. Although bias against Christians was still prevalent, Iranian society was much more tolerant of outsiders in those pre-revolutionary times. Josef came of age during the reign of the Shah when life was more “normal”… more like our own way of life. People could listen to music, dance, enjoy a drink now and then and be seen in public with the opposite sex without fear of retribution or persecution. After the 1979 Revolution during which our President Jimmy Carter helped de-throne the Shah and usher in the era of the Ayatollahs and Mullahs, Josef found life in Iran increasingly intolerable. We in the United States cannot imagine what it is like to have government and religion one and the same…run by the same group of select people eager to dominate and to trample on the freedoms of its people…freedoms that we in the US take for granted. The militant clergy in Iran do not acknowledge what we see as self-evident “God given rights… of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Concepts and expressions like “power to the people”, “the right to choose”, freedom of speech, of assembly and the right to bear arms are unknown in Iranian society. Fear, intimidation, terror and suppression are concepts embraced and used by the Iranian government against its people. This is why Josef came to America. So it was ironic that Josef would be given the green light to come here at a time when our own freedom and way of life was under attack on that horrific day in September, 2001. After smuggling his family out of Iran five years earlier, he fled to Germany which has a fair number of Iranian citizens already residing there. As refugees they could not be turned away and the German government let them stay while they waited to find sponsors and make the necessary arrangements to come to the U.S. When they arrived in New York in mid-September of 2001 the Twin Towers site was still smoldering. Although his family was sponsored by a family and a church based around the Oshkosh/Ripon area Josef still had to make his own way to find work. As an engineer in Iran he was able to provide quite well for his family. But those skills did not translate into the U.S. with all its requirements for licensing, certification, professional association and the like. Feeling he was too old to start over again trying to fit his knowledge of engineering into our way of doing things, he decided to start over with something entirely new. After being introduced to other Iranian people in the area and using the little bit of capital he still had left, he and a friend found an opportunity in Appleton on Soldiers Square. It was a tiny little shop that had been many things… a shoe repair shop, a sandwich shop, and a computer store. After a considerable investment in equipment and a desire to offer gyro sandwiches and kabobs as he had known them in Europe and the Middle East, Josef went to work with hope that he could succeed in his new homeland. Four months into it, his friend left him for more steady and “reliable” work elsewhere. Never one to fear uncertainty, and despite his self-proclaimed “language problem”, Josef ran the restaurant alone and started building clientele from those first days in April 2003.
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