Saturday, December 19, 2015


Every time his three sons headed off to school, Sarkis Apkarian would say a prayer.
Zawenawedian Dawdian, 2, is held by his mother Mario
and was one of a group of sponsored Syrian refugees
who arrived in Toronto on Dec. 16, 2015.

(Michael Peake/Toronto Sun)
“We prayed to God to protect them,” said the 55-year-old father, who landed in Toronto last Tuesday with his family and dozens of other Syrian refugees.
Back in Syria, his sons were afraid and unable to sleep at night.
“We need peace, we need to live, we need to study,” Apkarian said. “Now we come here, we want to live in Canada, we want to work here.”
Apkarian was one of a plane-load of refugees who were greeted and fed at the Armenian Community Centre on Wednesday. The Toronto Sun spoke with some of these newcomers about their hopes for life here in Canada and their thoughts on Canada ending its involvement in the bombing mission against ISIS.
Back home in Aleppo, an explosion by their house injured Apkarian. There was no water, no electricity, and the family could not sleep at night with the bombs.
“We don’t know who is fighting with whom,” Apkarian said.
An electrical engineer with 28 years of experience, he is cheerful, bubbly, and looks forward to rejoining the workforce.

Here’s what Syrians — some who just arrived in Canada and others who have been here for months – had to say at the Armenian Community Centre on Wednesday:

Zohrab Tutungian and his parents can’t wait to start a new life.
“I will start from zero but that’s OK as long as I’m safe,” said the 38-year-old.
Originally from Aleppo, he and his mother and father arrived in Toronto via Lebanon, where they lived for more than a year.
“I’m grateful for the Canadian government and for the Armenian community, that they gave us the chance to be here and to be safe,” he said.
When asked if Canada should continue its bombing mission against ISIS, his reply was swift.
“Yes, they should continue to bomb, without stopping,” Tutungian said. “Because ISIS is against humanity.”
Nanor Shohmelian steers clear of the news now.
“I’m only interested in the humanitarian side of the whole story because it’s been too much for us,” she said.
The 35-year-old mother of two landed in Canada last year with her husband.
Her aunt privately sponsored the family, to rescue them from the rapidly debilitating state of affairs in Syria.
The turning point was a mortar shell that hit so close to their home, it shattered all the glass inside.
“The sound was so frightening,” Shohmelian said.
Now, she doesn’t want to think or read about the utter chaos they left behind.
“We lived two years in the war in Aleppo, it was so hard,” she said. “So I keep myself away from this whole political mess.”
Kevork Keshshian and his wife are just grateful to finally be in a place where their one-year-old daughter can be safe.
Speaking through a translator while cradling his daughter Tsolin in one arm, the 33-year-old father is all smiles.
“He’s just very thankful to be in Canada and to be in a safe place where he can maybe give a better future for his child, obviously somewhere where it’s safe, where he doesn’t think his kid can die,” Anna said.

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