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“Brosky,” a citizen of Mali, is overcome Monday as he speaks about the hardships endured by his family in the West African nation. In the foreground are what he said are receipts for Moneygrams he has sent home to help support 40 relatives. “Brosksy” is a nickname given by his co-workers at the Equinox Resort in Manchester. He asked that his real name be withheld to protect his family from reprisals. (Peter Crabtree)
“Brosky,” a citizen of Mali, is overcome Monday as he speaks about the hardships endured by his family in the West African nation. In the
“Brosky,” a citizen of Mali, is overcome Monday as he speaks about the hardships endured by his family in the West African nation. In the foreground are what he said are receipts for Moneygrams he has sent home to help support 40 relatives. “Brosksy” is a nickname given by his co-workers at the Equinox Resort in Manchester. He asked that his real name be withheld to protect his family from reprisals. (Peter Crabtree)

Clarification: This version of the article clarifies the roles of elected officials "Brosky" communicated with.

MANCHESTER -- A Mali native sits at a table in tears over a pile of crumpled MoneyGram receipts. He has been talking with the Banner about how the civil war in his home country has put his family's future in doubt and how he has spent the past decade working to support them.

He is well-known and well-liked where he works as a cook at the Equinox Hotel in Manchester, and while his story and image cause him no discomfort he asked the Banner not to use his real name for fear that it being published would put his family in jeopardy.

Called "Brosky" by his friends, he works to send money, clothing, and goods to his 40 family members living in Mali, a nation in western Africa that became split by a complicated civil war in early 2012. France sent troops there in January of this year, and the nation's troubles have largely been overshadowed by headlines about other countries experiencing civil war such as Syria.

Brosky said he spends at least an hour each night reading, watching, and listening to international news networks reporting on Mali, and he speaks to his brother who is looking after Brosky's young son. Brosky, who spoke to the Banner on Monday, said his family was born in a rural area where there are no schools, and so his son lives with his uncle near one of the cities.

"I talked to both of them this morning, they are very scared," said Brosky.

French troops have pushed the fighting away from the country's center, he said, but the killing of a French military captain and a suicide bombing near where his son attends school give him great cause to worry.

"We are all scared. I'm scared for my family, I'm scared for ... it's still my country, but I believe Mali is never going to be peaceful if nothing is done. "

CNN reported in January that United States was supporting the French military by conducting aerial refueling operations. Direct military support has not been given because the Mali government fighting the northern rebels came about as the result of a coup, CNN reported.

According to Brosky, the president of Mali at the time of the rebellion was Amadou Touré, whose leadership during the crisis was heavily criticized and opened the door for a coup led by Amadou Sanogo. The British Broadcasting Company reported in June that a peace deal was signed between the Mali government and the rebels, however more recent news reports say the rebels have called an end to the cease fire.

"I would never imagine 10 years ago that can happen to us," Brosky said.

Brosky grew up in a Muslim family in which his father had multiple wives. He was the youngest son of the oldest wife, making for a difficult situation. "I hate it," he said. "You have three wives, you always love one over the others. You have 20 children, you always have a tendency to love the children of the wife you prefer to the others."

He described himself as a "believer," a lover of peace, and reader of the Bible.

Before his father died, he asked Brosky to take over being the family's provider, despite Brosky being one of the youngest of his children. This was because, aside from his father who was a nurse, Brosky was the only one with an education.

Brosky has a four-year degree in teaching English as a second language. He said he speaks English, French, three African dialects and can understand Russian. Despite this, he sometimes feels he will never "be somebody" because of his poor upbringing.

His family is large and adheres to traditional tribal customs. One of these customs prevents him from sending money and clothes only to his son. What his own offspring gets, all his relatives must get. Brosky benefited from this as a boy, he said, and so he continues the tradition.

Brosky finished his education in the early 1990s, but could not find work in Mali. At that time the country was overseen by Moussa Traore who was considered a dictator but was overthrown in 1991, paving the way for nearly a decade of stable, democratic rule. 

With no job, Brosky went to his native village to help his father farm, hunt, and fish. They would sell the meat and fish, and they would use their donkey to gather dry wood to put up for sale as well.

About 10 years ago he came to New York City on a tourist visa. "I came here to visit, but I want to stay because I met a lot of people from Mali; what they are making a week is what I'm making almost in two months," he said.

Brosky said he could have worked in New York City or Boston as an undocumented worker with little trouble, but he wanted to be somewhere else and to be working legally.

"I never heard about Vermont before," he said. "When I left Mali, I landed in New York City. I never ever heard about Vermont in my life until I went to a job agency to find a job. New York was crowded, New York was noisy, I couldn't handle that as someone who's coming from a small city or a small country like Mali."

In Vermont, with fewer people and smaller crowds, he has found it easier to have an identity of his own and make connections with other people.

What has not been easy is getting his U.S. citizenship.

Brosky has met with a number of attorneys who he said took his money competently enough but when it came to getting his green card there have been issues. He said he is done with attorneys and has a valid work visa now, but there have been serious complications.

In 2009, Brosky spent a month in the Franklin County jail in a section set aside for those being detained on immigration issues. He said his work visa needs to be updated periodically and he is required to file the application months in advance of the deadline. Brosky did this, but immigration officials did not process his papers in time and so he was left unable to work legally. This led to the Equinox sending him home until his privilege to work was restored.

He took a job making doughnuts and continued to support himself and his family some 4,300 miles away, until a Winhall Police officer pulled him over one day and turned him over to immigration officials.

Brosky said he is not a criminal, has nothing to hide, and if it is the government's will to deport him then it knows where it can find him. He said he handcuffed himself before going to jail.

"They don't trust you in certain situations," he said, saying his Muslim name and country of origin have caused the government to scrutinize him more, but he accepts the reasons for this and said it makes America a safe place to live.

In jail, he was housed with some alarming individuals. Thinking he was going to be deported, Brosky was ready to return to Mali when he was inexplicably released from the jail and told if he wished to return to his home country he could go on his own. His work visa eventually came through, and he has since had it renewed, but this time he spoke to Gov. Peter Shumlin's aids when the governor visited the Equinox after Brosky returned to work there. This resulted in getting the process sped up. Brosky has also sent a letter to Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, about getting help for Mali and has received a response. He said his ability to talk to high-ranking elected officials is another benefit of living in a small state.

"I'm here just to help my family," Brosky said, beginning to tear up as he sat for this interview. "These are the receipts from MoneyGram. Every pay period I have to run to Shaw's, even when I'm busy."

Brosky has been made employee of the month twice, and of the year once, and gets emotional when speaking about his co-workers there. "Even when I'm busy at work, the general manager Mark O'Neill say, ‘If your phone rings, take it. Answer your phone. If you don't answer Mali, you are in trouble with me.'"

He said this is the kind of thing he has found in Vermont that he could not in a larger area.

"Everybody treats me as a brother. This is the toughest part ... they love me, they respect me. The Equinox is my family. When the civil war broke in Mali, they sent $2,000 U.S dollars to my family to pay for food."

Brosky said he wants America to help more in Mali, but not with military intervention.

"I don't want Americans to send any troops on the ground," he said. "American people don't deserve to die for useless causes. They are brave people. American people don't deserve to go die for nothing. People gotta get along, they gotta do their best to get along and speak the same language -- peace. This is what I am looking for. I thank America for what's been done, but there is a lot to do."

He said he will not go to Mali because he is afraid he will not be able to return to the United States, which is the best place to help his family from. His father told him, before he died, not to return even for his funeral.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.