Syrian refugees: Family starts new life in Windsor after daughter's death

A Syrian family has started a new life in Windsor, after a 2012 bombing killed its teenage daughter and left her mother paralyzed from the waist down.
Suzan Kewan holds picture of her 17 year-old daughter who was killed in a bombing in Syria in September 2012. (Aadel Haleem/CBC)

It's a day Suzan Kewan will never forget, even though she has trouble remembering all of the small details.

In September 2012, her family's Syrian home was destroyed in a missile attack.

She just heard her children scream "mom, mom!" and remembers saying, "Don't worry, I'm okay."

Then, she fell unconscious for four days — and she doesn't remember what happened after that.

When she regained consciousness, the 35 year-old discovered she was paralyzed from the waist-down and was told her 17 year-old daughter was killed.

"I lost a daughter and this is bad enough ... and I feel as though I've lost my body. So it's a big change and big challenge for me," Kewan tells translator Omar Farzat, himself a Syrian refugee.

One of those challenges is not being able to run around and play with her five children, ranging in age from seven to 17. 

"It's very hard for me to see my kids growing up and I can't do what I used to do," says Kewan, wiping away tears.

Four months after the bombing, her husband was arrested on his way to buy bread.

"The Syrian regime forces bombarded me because they thought that I was a supporter for the Free Syrian Army but I was just the owner of a store and they used to buy things from me," said Waled Al Rebdawi.

He owned a convenience store in a rebel-held village near Daraa, Syria.

The family fled to Jordan. They arrived in Windsor three weeks ago, as government-assisted refugees. 

Dr. Ahmed Chaker says he's treated three Syrian refugees in Windsor with war-related injuries in the past five weeks.

"[Kewan] has major permanent physical injury. As you know, she has neck and back injury due to the missile hitting her house and it results in major neurological dysfunction and now she cannot move. Her lower body is permanently disabled."

Dr. Chaker says those are just the physical scars.

"She lost her daughter in front of her eyes and ... she is suffering now from major post-traumatic stress disorder."

Kewan's family is currently staying in a downtown Windsor hotel and awaiting a permanent and accessible home.

While the memory of her teenage daughter will never fade, Kewan puts on a brave face for her other children.

"We now have a lot of hopes because when we arrived here, we had the warm welcoming [at the airport] and [settlement workers] promised we will continue the therapy... and we will continue our lives here."