Canadians are welcoming Syrians with open arms as they seek refuge and attempt to build a new life here in Canada. But was it always this way? Global News spoke to refugees who fled persecution in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Vietnam and Hungary.
Here’s why they came to Canada, and their experiences in their own words.
Vania Donoian is a new refugee to Canada. She arrived here just three weeks ago from Qatar, where she was staying after fleeing the war torn streets of Syria in 2013. Living in Aleppo, her family was left without food, water, and electricity while bombs went off outside their home. Now Vania, her husband, and young daughter are adjusting to life in Canada.
“We hardly found food. War was very difficult. We pass(ed) many difficulties and hard days there,” she said. “I am happy for my daughter, because she is going to live in safety and peace in a healthy environment.”
Tina Tran is a refugee from Vietnam. She came to Canada in 1984 with the “Vietnamese Boat People” who fled their country by sea. Her seven-month-old baby died on the boat during a violent storm. She was robbed and abandoned, and left without food for three days. But she finally made it to Canada and fulfilled her dream of becoming a screenwriter and director.
“I lost my baby on the journey here. He was only six months old,” Tran said. “I wanted to go back to shore but people didn’t let me do that. So I (held) my baby, seeing him die. I tasted the pain. I know how it feels.”
Parwin Muwshtael was an actress in Afghanistan. Her husband was threatened for “allowing” his wife to have a career on the stage, and was killed in 2008. Parwin fled the country with her children, coming to Canada to start a new life. Her story is now the subject of a play, “The Road to Paradise.”
“I was the first woman who went on the screen after the Taliban came and because of that they killed my husband. They killed him right as he was entering our home,” Muwshtael said. “They were threatening to kill me and my kids as well.”
Melita Kuburas came to Canada with her family in 1993 at age 9, fleeing war-torn Bosnia where her father had been imprisoned, beaten, and starved for being Muslim. Their first stop here was temporary housing, before moving to an apartment in Mississauga. Ont. Her father found work as an electrician, her mother as an accountant and 10 years later they were able to by a house. Now, Kuburas is an editor at Metro News Toronto.
“I just remember men in uniforms storming our house and demanding money, ‘give us all your money, your gold,'” Kuburas said. “One of them pointed a gun at me and said ‘if you don’t give me all this money I will kill your daughter,’ and then later on they murdered my grandfather and my youngest uncle.”
Robi Botos came here in 1998 with his wife and two young children, fleeing Hungary and the persecution he was subject to as a Roma musician. Life turned out well for Botos here: he’s become an international award-winning jazz artist, playing the music he was once criticized for back home.
He recounts adversity he faced after arriving in Canada. “There were a couple of disappointments. A group of skinheads would come out and demonstrate against my people, but that was only a small percentage and I didn’t really take that seriously because I knew Canadians don’t think like that.”
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