My year as a refugee: A 13-year-old girl in a foreign land

I will always love Syria because it is where I came from, but I want to live in Canada, especially now that my sister, Yaman, is here too.

Before my sister joined us in Canada, I would go to school but my mind would be at home

The author (right) with her sister, reunited in Canada. (Supplied)

The following was dictated to, and translated by, Ahmed Najdat. To read it in Arabic, click here. إقرأ المقال بالعربي هنا

There was nothing more beautiful than Syria when my sister, Yaman, was with us.

Yaman is 19 years old — six years older than me. She was getting ready to come with us to Canada from Lebanon in early 2016, and then the phone rang, just a few hours before our trip.

Yaman couldn't go. I was destroyed.

I didn't know why they wouldn't let her join us, but my father said it was because she had to be with her husband, who didn't have a UN file back then.

When we went on the plane, at the end of February, there was not any kind of joy. I only remember pain on that trip, the pain of leaving Yaman behind. But I have to be grateful to everyone who helped us.

I still remember when I gave a speech at a refugee event in Langley, B.C. after I arrived, in front of government officials. I urged them to help me bring my sister here. That day, I couldn't finish the speech. I cried when I remembered Yaman.

Yaman is coming

Then, the day came that they told us that Yaman was coming. I couldn't believe it. Thank you, God.

A member of parliament, John Aldag, helped bring us Yaman.  My parents requested to talk to him and told him about my sister. He listened.

On her arrival a couple of months ago, we couldn't bring her from the airport. It was snowing and nobody offered to take us there. But she managed to come, anyway.

When I first saw her here I couldn't believe my eyes. My siblings couldn't either.

Nagham and Hasan are my two disabled siblings. Yaman was their main caretaker and friend back in Syria. Their joy of seeing Yaman gave me joy. They are very attached to her. Well, I am too.

The author and her family. (Supplied)

We also finally got to meet Yaman's new baby. He was born in Lebanon after we left Yaman. We have only seen pictures of him. Now I really want Yaman to live near our home here in Langley. She lives far away in Vancouver. She asked the officials to find her a home here close by, but they said there are no available homes in Langley. For now, she only visits. Apparently she is not allowed to stay here with us and whenever she leaves us to go back to her hotel in Vancouver, my siblings start crying.

School was very difficult at the beginning. On my first day, the school made me take some tests and I did okay because I studied English at a private school in Lebanon. They were surprised that I knew some English.

Getting along with classmates

The other kids were all supportive. My closest friends were Yurdanis and Mebrak. They were from Sudan and were also learning English so we were always helping each other and practicing with each other. They also supported me a lot when I was stressed over my sister. Also, Sophia was really helpful. She is a Canadian girl that helped me with English a lot. Unfortunately she is no longer in my class. They moved her to a different section. They were all very happy for me when my sister came.

I am learning new things every day. At the beginning, the teacher would come to me and explain what the class was about while the other kids would do exercises. Now, I'm following the teacher just like the other kids. Things have gotten even better since Yaman's arrival. Before, I used to go to school and my mind would be at home, thinking about my siblings and my sad parents, who missed Yaman. Now, it all changed.

I am very happy to be in Canada since the people are so nice and helpful. I want to continue the rest of my life here. I will always love Syria because it is where I came from, but I want to live in Canada, especially now that Yaman is here too.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

About the Author

Seham Alomar

Seham Alomar is a 13-year-old student living in Langley, B.C.


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