It’s difficult, and sometimes impossible to understand something until we’ve done it. As much as we try to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, they don’t always fit. We can sense how uncomfortable they are or see that someone can use a replacement pair, but it’s tough to get someone else until we’ve worn the same pair as them.

Diana Borisova has worn the shoes of the refugees she works with every day at World Relief Spokane. It’s part of the reason she’s a great case manager.

Diana’s family fled a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, entering Russia as refugees. She met her husband while in the country, and discovered just days after their wedding that her husband’s family had applied to be resettled in America.

As Christians in Russia and (formerly) the Soviet Union, her husband’s family had been persecuted for years and feared for their lives and well-being. Members of the family had lost jobs and been refused services by members of the Soviet and Russian governments. Diana’s mother-in-law had nearly been removed from her parents because they were Christians.

After a series of interviews, background checks, and applications which spanned four years, the family was sent to Spokane in August 2005. Diana and her husband had recently become parents as well. So in addition to learning English, understanding American culture, and potentially finding a job, Diana was also a full-time Mom.

“I started my life in Spokane with a baby in my arms, zero English, and almost no friends,” Diana said. “I started my life here just like everyone else.”

Many of Diana’s refugees come to Spokane in similar situations. Whether it’s a single mother who needs to learn English or a individual man looking for a job to pay for rent and utilities, Diana has an anecdote for each person who comes through the door.

For a refugee who held a degree or certification in their home country but found it didn’t hold weight here, Diana can tell them about her experience having to return to school despite being a certified nurse in Russia. If a client finds they don’t understand their English classes, Diana tells them stories about her struggles in the exact same classrooms.

“I just love them,” Diana said. “I know a little bit about how they feel.”

The stories, strange hours, and hard work are all about giving back to a community which welcomed Diana twelve years ago. Her father-in-law planted a church in Spokane that now supports refugees through Good Neighbor Teams. Diana’s first experience serving through World Relief came on those teams. She said her team worked with a Sudanese family of nine and “spoiled them a lot.”

The experience motivated her to apply at World Relief when a job opened up as a case manager last year. With nearly a year of using her experience to teach her clients the ins and outs of America, Diana’s motivation to serve has stayed the same.

“I fell in love with refugees,” Diana said. “I just want serve them.”