There were Vespas humming through the streets, tourists crowding the sidewalks and this old Gothic church that Sajjad Husaini stopped to marvel at each time he walked the cobblestone streets of his new neighborhood.
Husaini, 30, was raised in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan. But for weeks, he had been living in a tropical climate in Italy’s coastal Cagliari, swimming regularly in the Tyrrhenian Sea — a refugee and an athlete hoping to soon be back where he belonged: on the slopes.
Not long before arriving in Italy, Husaini was a top slalom skier in Afghanistan whose Olympic dreams had garnered international attention. He did not quite qualify for the 2018 PyeongChang Games, which would have made him the first Afghan winter athlete to do so. But he had his eyes on 2022, and, as a tour guide in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains, he was building a life and career on snow.