From war-torn Syria to Saskatoon, the only thing a new refugee family will be fighting over is breakfast.
Carlo Arslanian couldn’t have been more excited for his cousin and her family as they stepped into Saskatoon’s airport last week.
“I knew that when I saw them walking across the top deck of the Saskatoon airport from the arrival base — I could see them through the top of the glass — that they were on safe ground,” Arslanian explained.
Born in Syria and raised in Australia, Arslanian recently became a Canadian citizen after moving to Saskatoon 15 years ago through the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program.
Arslanian was successfully able to sponsor his cousin Maral Kasarjian and her family who had fled Syria after their home was bombed. They had been living in a Lebanese refugee camp before arriving in Canada.
Arslanian said despite his daughter and ex-wife, he doesn’t have family in Canada. Nearly three years ago he started to get in touch with family members in other countries, including the Kasarjian family.
“I get a text from Maral saying their housing complex has been bombed and can I help?” Arslanian recounted.
It was then that the long process to get his family overseas began.
Since arriving in Saskatoon, a handful of Arslanian’s neighbours have made countless meals for the family to enjoy.
Arslanian said Maral’s husband Kevork was overcome with emotion before eating a meal, asking the family to admire the food before devouring it.
“He said, ‘This meal was made with love and sincerity and thought.’ He just started to weep. He said, ‘I didn’t believe there are people like this left in the world,’” Arslanian recounted on Gormley.
Arslanian said the family’s greatest challenge will be the language barrier. Maral has been signed up for English as a Second Language (ESL) courses. The two eldest daughters have been enrolled at Aden Bowman Collegiate. Arslanian’s daughter, who also attends school there, will help them with their transition.
“If I could do it for any other family, I would. If I couldn’t sponsor them, I would help with money because the amount of people that have helped me along the way with my family – I can’t express enough gratitude,” Arslanian said.