KELOWNA – Throwing snowballs and sharing laughs, that’s how a Syrian family that touched down in Kelowna on New Year’s Eve spent part of their afternoon on Saturday.
“It’s beautiful and so cold,” says 16-year-old Syrian refugee Antoun Kurkgean.
Nivin Cousa, her husband Elias Kurkgean and their two kids, Antoun and Jack touched down in Kelowna around midnight on Thursday.
Earlier that night, Nivin’s mother landed at YLW and a few weeks before that, her sister’s family also arrived in the city.
Speaking through a translator, Elias talks about how the entire family is trying to leave behind the dark memories from their time in Syria.
“We had so many explosions beside our house and it was very scary and their kids’ future was the main thing that was of concern,” says their translator Raafa Abdullah.
The families fled Syria two years ago and were staying in Beirut, Lebanon while they waited to be accepted into Canada.
They were sponsored by two Kelowna Catholic Churches, and members of the refugee committee are feeling relief now that they’ve arrived.
“These families were applied for last July. They weren’t supposed to really arrive within a year but with the change in government things picked up and it happened,” says Martin Landry, a member of the St.Pius X Church refugee committee.
The families will be fully supported for a year as they work to gain independence. Accommodation has been set up, English classes are available for the parents and the kids are scheduled to start school this week.
“They’ll be in Rutland Elementary, the two younger children […], and then someone is taking Jack and Antoun for school registration on Monday as well, so they’ll be getting right into the process,” says Lorraine Landry with the St.Pius X Church refugee committee.
Both Syrian families are now able to mark both a new year and a fresh start.