Every Sunday pigeon breeder Slavik Haimov hosts an informal gathering of bird enthusiasts at his towing and repair lot, where a bright red banner boasts “Pigeons From Around the World.” The most prized flyers can cost hundreds of dollars. They trace their roots to Uzbekistan, Haimov’s home country in Central Asia, Poland, Iran and elsewhere around the globe.

In 1991, Haimov joined the flood of more than 70,000 Bukharian Jews to leave Uzbekistan, then a newly independent republic of the former USSR. He remembers his life before independence as relatively comfortable economically. But without the freedom to travel and speak his mind, he felt like a bird in a cage.

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