Sobhe and Mirna Kahwate with their children Etwal, 7, and Antounyo Kahwate, 2, are beginning a new life in Innisfail.

PHOTO | KRISTINE JEAN, INNISFAIL PROVINCE

Sobhe and Mirna Kahwate with their children Etwal, 7, and Antounyo Kahwate, 2, are beginning a new life in Innisfail.

March 21, 2016
KRISTINE JEAN
THE INNISFAIL PROVINCE

From the destruction and devastation of war to the joy of peace and a new home, the journey's end felt like a gentle landing in soothing light, just like the heaven on earth they have long waited for.

The Kahwate family from Syria fled their war-torn country almost two years ago to begin a new life, and now past trials are replaced with hope and the promise of serenity and happiness in Innisfail.

"I feel like I have an army of angels here," said Mirna Kahwate on her first impressions of the town and its people.

Mirna, 34, and her 36-year-old husband Sobhe, along with two young children - seven-year-old daughter Etwal and two-year-old son Antounyo, arrived in Innisfail on Feb. 14. Since then they have been adjusting well to their new home.

"He's starting to learn the language and is enjoying life here with us too," she said of her husband Sobhe, who does not speak English.

The family has been welcomed by the community, she said, noting the support of their sponsor Our Lady of Peace Catholic Parish and St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School, where Etwal has already been attending Grade 1.

Both Sobhe and Mirna were born and raised in Aleppo, Syria. The family fled their homeland almost two years ago during the height of the civil war.

They took refuge in Lebanon for about 14 months before coming to Canada, noted Mirna. Her son was just four months old at the time. The devoted mother and wife said it was a difficult period of their lives, filled with turmoil and fear.

DIFFICULT MEMORIES

"I don't like to remember the suffering. It was very dangerous," said Mirna, recalling one particular day when everyday life became progressively worse.

"I was inside my home, me and my daughter, and then I heard something so strong and loud," added Mirna, describing an explosion near their home in Aleppo. "For one year we didn't go outdoors. Never.

"Before we travelled from Aleppo, we sold everything we had. We sold our car and everything we could, for money to live and to help us," she said, noting they still have family and friends and a home in Syria.

Sobhe's family resides in Belgium, while Mirna's mother and sister still live in Aleppo.

The Kahwates were both raised Catholics, and throughout the war it was their faith that kept the family strong and hopeful for a better future.

"Everything in our life looks like a miracle. God makes many (miracles) for us," said Mirna. "We are still alive. I don't know how."

Now settled in Innisfail, Mirna said there are several things to which the family will have to adjust. Weather and food are two high priority areas the family is learning more about.

"The first time I tasted (food in Canada) it was sweet. Everything was sweet," said Mirna, adding that they already like many things. "The food here is good."

HAPPY AND GRATEFUL

Mirna said the family is happy and grateful to be in a country with a good and stable government, freedom, safety and excellent schools for their children.

"I was so glad when I took my daughter to school. She was excited and was playing with the children," she added.

Following an adjustment period of perhaps several months or longer, the couple hopes to soon find jobs to support their family and become a contributing part of their new community.

In Syria, Mirna worked as a salon worker and beautician, while Sobhe was a refrigeration, cooling and heating technician, as well as a transport truck driver.

As they look forward to building a new life in Canada, they vow to never forget how blessed they are.

"It is a new beginning for us. We love our new life, everything from food, people, to houses," said Mirna. While there may be challenges ahead it is important to remain positive, cherishing new experiences in their new home.

"Every day is Christmas Day (because) every day is a gift," said Kahwate.