EDITOR’S NOTE: On Jan. 10, the Canadian government updated the number of Canadians killed in the Jan. 8 Ukraine International Airlines crash in Iran from 63 to 57.
Sahar Haghjoo and her eight-year-old daughter Elsa Jadidi were sitting in their seats on the tarmac at Tehran’s international airport anxiously awaiting departure.
“Still haven’t taken off, so at least 30 min. delay,” she texted to her father at home in Toronto.
Sahar snapped a selfie of herself and Elsa. They’re both smiling in the picture. She texted it to Habib Haghjoo. Then a few moments later, she wrote, “Taking off now.”
“Good,” he wrote.
Within minutes, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crashed, killing 63 Canadians — including Sahar and Elsa.
“I am broken,” said Sahar’s father.
Sahar, her husband, and their daughter went to Iran on vacation for several weeks to visit family. He returned home a week ago to go back to work. Sahar and Elsa stayed back.
They sent another selfie from a train during their travels in Iran to Sahar’s father. Again, both were smiling. Elsa’s long brown hair is down. She has tiny bows on either side of her head.
“She was a sweet and amazing girl,” said Habib, about his granddaughter — a Grade 3 student at Al Haadi school in Scarborough.
School administration posted a tribute to Elsa on the school’s website.
“Elsa was a bright, beautiful and brilliant student who was loved by everyone who had the privilege of knowing her. She was a kind, compassionate soul who lit up our classrooms, and held so much promise as a stellar student and impeccable leader at such a young age,” the statement said.
“Our school will be much dimmer without Elsa to warm the hallways with her smile and laughter.”
Outside Elsa’s former school, Wali ul Asr, Global News interviewed Sahar in May 2018. The school was the target of anti-muslim graffiti and as a result, the subject of a Toronto police investigation. Sahar had just dropped off her daughter for class.
“We live in Canada so we appreciate the diversity and it’s just horrifying,” she told Global News at the time.
“We’re seeing it more and more, unfortunately. So I would discuss it with her in case she’s exposed to it again, so it doesn’t frighten her, so she has an understanding — but it’s just a sad truth,” she added.
Sahar, 37, worked at the Toronto YWCA since 2015 helping immigrant and refugee women settle in Canada. Her colleague Dolores Montavez-Ruz said the team is devastated by the loss and struggling to cope with the void left by her death.
“She was bright, full of life, witty and funny and smart,” said Montavez-Ruz.
“She was so devoted to assisting and helping newcomer women.”
Montavez-Ruz said the two worked closely together, even on weekends if necessary because Sahar was committed to her work.
“Green was her favourite colour and she wore it so well,” she recalled.
Before coming to Canada, Sahar had a successful career as an English-speaking TV host for an Iranian program, Pure Home: Family Standards in Islam.
“Still she was sending narration for some English program in Press TV … They wouldn’t let her off with all her busy life,” said her father.
“She was an exceptional lady and glowing all her short life.”