Seeking sanctuary has its costs; Hungarian family celebrates 2nd Christmas in church

FILE PHOTO: The Juhasz family at the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in Langley at Christmas in 2014. Global News

As the year draws to a close, Global BC is looking back at some of the top stories that helped shape our province in 2015. We are following up with the people behind these stories and looking at the impact these stories had on British Columbians.

It’s been close to a year since Marianna Juhasz and her two sons received sanctuary at a church in Langley and although there’s been little progress in their case, the recent freedom granted to a Salvadoran dad in the same situation, provides the family a sliver of hope.

Marianna and her sons, 16-year-old Patrik and 12-year-old Tamas, fled Hungary to escape domestic violence almost five years ago.

The family settled in Canada with Marianna working three jobs to make ends meet, but the family was eventually ordered to leave the country. The Juhaszs’ friends and coworkers wrote letters to their MPs, and even contacted the Immigration Minister, pleading for the family to stay. But in November 2014, their application to remain in Canada on humanitarian grounds was denied.

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The family then chose to ignore the deportation order and sought sanctuary at the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in Langley.

It turns out the Juhaszs were not alone in the church, joining them was Jose Figueroa, who defied a murderous dictatorship and escaped his native El Salvador under death threats. He sought church sanctuary in October 2013, and on Tuesday, Immigration Minister John McCallum granted Figueroa an exemption to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

WATCH BELOW: An emotional Jose Figueroa takes his first step outside the Langley church he took sanctuary in two years ago.

“It’s nice and I think we have a little more hope that something changed,” Tamas said.

But that hope isn’t enough to help the Juhaszs deal with their day-to-day situation of living in a church and not being able to leave, except for the boys, who are allowed to attend school.

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Patrik, 16, says they’re “doing alright” but that coming back to the church after school every day feels “kind of like a jail.”

“Our hope is to have our next Christmas at a home, not at a church,” Patrik says.

For Marianna the situation is very hard. She is incredibly grateful for the people who come to visit and help her and the boys. The number of people from the community that have helped the family is unknown but for Marianna, they are her lifeline.

Marianna tears up when she describes what it’s like to stay inside every day, not being able to step outside by herself or as a family.

“It’s very hard inside… we almost died. It’s very, very hard. [Some times are better than others. There are lots of people visiting and lots of help.] Everybody loves you and you stay here but we don’t go outside. Not stepping outside is a very, very hard situation and for the boys, it’s more hard [sic]. We don’t go anywhere together.”

But Marianna follows up that comment saying without the people from the community coming to visit every day and more importantly, giving her a hug, they “would have died here” due to the emotional strain.

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Tamas believes he can bear the burden better than his older brother and mother, but he still has his moments too.

“I can bear it better than them because before this I never went outside because I had nothing to do, so I was home. I’m more used to it then they are, so I take it a bit better than them. But I have those sad moments too,” he says.

But with the New Year and a new government comes new hope. Marianna says they will be starting a second application to remain in Canada.

WATCH: From our 2014 files

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