‘Every day someone dies.There was too much noise at night, bombs and gunfire shook the ground,” said a Syrian refugee who found a safe haven in Simcoe County
When she was about seven years old, Silva Buzan fell asleep in a van while driving to Aleppo late at night when she was shot in the abdomen by unidentified assailants.
She was awakened by the sound of gunfire and stood up straight for a few seconds when a bullet passed through the van and hit her in the gut. If she had been sitting, it would have hit her head.
Her brother was also shot, with a bullet hitting his upper thigh. He also fell asleep.
Silva’s father, Ahmed, held her in his arms. Her mother Hasna tore off the hijab she was wearing and wrapped it around her son’s leg as a tourniquet.
Another Boshan’s son, Khalil, who was only about six years old at the time, remembers that night in detail. His mother was screaming. The van ran out of gas and they had to park behind a building and fill it up with Jerry cans. His sister’s intestines came out of the bloody wound in her abdomen.
He was convinced that his siblings were shot by ISIS forces.
They eventually met their uncle, who came to them with the police in Aleppo. They desperately searched for a hospital – one that could take care of Kurdish patients – and finally found one.
“In five minutes, I’ll be dead,” recalls Silva, now sitting on a lawn chair in the Collingwood home’s backyard. She graduated high school this year and will be attending Georgia College as a pharmacy technician.
The Buzan family fled Syria during the civil war and ended up in Canada as the first family sponsored by the Collingwood Syrian Patronage Committee. They arrived in Collingwood on June 1, 2016, after years of fleeing violence and racism.
In Syria, the family has faced violence because of their Kurdish ancestry. In Turkey, they fled from their homes in Syria to Turkey, where they were denied medical care, police protection, and even access to playgrounds because they were Syrian.
“A lot of people don’t know what we’ve been through,” Silva said. “Life is hard.”
Khalil and Silva said they would not be allowed into the playground. Groups of children would line up to pass so they could beat Kurdish children. Few hospitals accept Kurdish patients.
“In Turkey, they tell refugees to go home, violence against refugees,” said Khalil, who graduated from high school this year. “Turks want refugees back to their country, but it’s not safe to go home.”
The Buzan family hid for days in the basement of the apartment building before leaving. They heard tanks, planes, bombs in their city. The building next to them was razed to the ground in a bombardment.
“Every day people die,” Khalil said. “We didn’t get a lot of sleep. There was too much noise at night, bombs and gunfire shook the ground.”
Food is also scarce – a truck arrives every day with supplies and bread, but often not enough to keep people waiting in line.
“People would fight other people for food,” Silva said.
The Buzans did escape, and they came to Collingwood to find a group of volunteers eager to help them build their new home.
The sponsorship covers the cost of a year, with volunteers helping arrange English lessons, driving lessons, transportation, connections to school and community sports, and childcare for parents while they are in English lessons.
Less than a month after arriving, the family welcomed their sixth child, a son named Evan, the first Canadian in their family. In 2019, they bought a house.
Ahmed Bozan will be the second person to hold a civic ceremony in July.
Upon arrival, they found work as housekeepers in the Blue Mountains, and Ahmed now runs his own car grooming shop. He also works part-time at the Holiday Inn. Silva and Khalil both work in the Blue Mountains.
Halil also entered Georgia College in the fall to study electrical engineering.
The family is grateful for what they call the Collingwood community and the help they have received from the many who welcomed them and supported their movement across the world.
They travel with very few things, but arrive at a home, furniture and clothes.
Every day, they are reminded of the lives they escaped. Many of their family members still live that way.
Hasna worries about her sisters, who face the danger of war, food shortages caused by drought and an impossible market with skyrocketing prices.
Today (20 June) is World Refugee Day – a time to remember those like the Hasna family surrounded by war, violence, racism and death.
“I think it’s time to raise awareness about the plight of refugees,” said Ruth Plante, a member of the Collingwood Syria Sponsorship Committee. “There are people who have lived in refugee camps their whole lives and they will never see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think a lot of them still hope that someday things will change.”
Since its inception in 2016, the council has sponsored two Syrian families and one Iraqi family. They also support others who travel to Collingwood as refugees in other projects.
Two families have purchased a home in Collingwood and three of their children are now in higher education. All the adults have found jobs, and many families who arrived first are helping to support the newcomers.
The committee received an anonymous donation to allow them to sponsor a new refugee family, and Plant said they are now working through the process and waiting to hear which family they will be matched with and where they will come from.
“There are many refugees who have been waiting many, many years for sponsorship,” Plant said.
The committee welcomes volunteers and may collect donations at a later date for future family sponsorships. Volunteers who speak Afghan, Sudanese or Somali languages are especially needed to help with translations.
Volunteers interested in joining the committee can email Plant at [email protected]