It’s been nearly one year since Mirna Yazji fled Syria to the small town of Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. But even after moving to Canada, images of death and destruction remain in her mind as she fights another battle in her new country.
“One night we woke up to bombs coming down and we had to escape,” Yazji said while sitting peacefully in her sister’s diner.
Yazji lived with her two children in Syria’s second-largest city, Homs. She and her family were privately sponsored to come to Canada.
Shortly after arriving in Canada last February, though, Yazji was dealt another devastating blow when a routine checkup turned into a breast cancer diagnosis.
Yazji has since completed chemotherapy and is beginning radiation treatment — something she said she would not have had access to had she stayed in Syria.
“I keep thinking what if I had this [news] in my country during the war? I would not be able to be a survivor,” she said.
Yazji said before her family was forced to flee to a smaller city after her home was bombed in 2012, life was wonderful. She turned her passion for baking into a career.
“I had a catering company, small company, and I [would] bake cake for weddings,” she said. “I loved it.”
But when war struck, the family was living in constant fear for their lives as they tried to find a way out.
“I kept thinking if we get lucky, we’ll make it.”
Throughout her journey, Yazji kept in touch with her sister Nataly Khoury, who immigrated to Shubenacadie more than 20 years ago.
“I still remember one night she called me, she heard something in the news,” Yazji said. “I said, ‘No honey, we’re okay,’ and I was there hiding in the bathtub with my kids from the bombs.”
A committee of churches from the Shubenacadie area raised funds to privately sponsor Yazji and her daughter to come to Canada. Yazji’s son is now living in Holland, safe and sound.
Welcoming Yazji and her child into the town is an experience that’s been rewarding for the whole community.
“She brought us together as a community, which was big, she did as much for us as we did for her,” said Henry Shea, a member of the sponsorship team.
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