'We feel free': A Syrian refugee family's journey to a home in B.C.
Saja Aeash and Shadi Alradi lived in a war zone, a refugee camp and a hotel before their Coquitlam apartment
When Syrian refugees Saja Aeash, 20, Shadi Alradi, 29 and their 14-month old daughter Zain Alsham, moved into an apartment in Coquitlam last month, it was the first stability they'd known since they fled Syria four years ago.
Here's their account of their journey to a safe home and the places they've lived along the way.
2011: Daraa, Syria
Shadi: I lived in the province of Daraa, but most of my studies were in Damascus. My house in Daraa was my own. I had my own garden. [It] was close to my family and my friends.
When I finished my studies in Damascus and went back to Daraa, there were a lot of bizarre and frightening events going on. It was becoming a daily occurrence that the military airplanes would drop explosive barrels which made no distinction between militants or children or women.
Death and destruction were everywhere.
2012: Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan
Saja: It was a very difficult situation. There is no life in the camp.
Shadi: There were no services at all, no infrastructure, no electricity, and you had to walk for several miles to get water. The sanitation situation was terrible. It was a very inhumane situation.
The situation in the camps was terrible, so eventually we had to sneak out of there illegally. I got a place and I got a job and started paying my rent, but we [were] frightened with any moment to be arrested and deported back to Syria.
Saja: [After Zain was born] It was a frightening feeling, because it was very troubled times filled with fear and worry for the future.
2015: Sandman Inn, Downtown Vancouver
Saja: We definitely felt very happy to arrive [in Vancouver], but we also felt a bit nervous, because it's a new country that is very different from what we're used to.
Shadi: [The hotel is] okay, fine. All things comfortable. The home is the main problem. All the people here [are] afraid about the home. How they seem. Is it bad or clean or big or small?
All the people here say the home is very expensive in Vancouver.
2016: An apartment of their own in Coquitlam
Shadi: We're very happy. We're really liking the feeling of security and stability. My first impression is that it's very silent and people are very helpful and very nice to me.
Saja: We feel very happy to be here and we feel free. We feel freedom. And Zain is very happy with all the kids that are around here.
When she saw the other kids she got encouraged to walk [for the first time] from the first day that we moved here.
As told to Catherine Rolfsen, with translation help from Barbar Moawad and Asser Hassan
To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: A Syrian refugee family's journey to a home in B.C.