“In Syria, I Would Think, Maybe This Minute I Will Die”: How My Family Escaped to Safety in Toronto
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“In Syria, I Would Think, Maybe This Minute I Will Die”: How My Family Escaped to Safety in Toronto

From growing up in a war zone to future Canadian dentist.


Maya Aldroudi. Photo by Stephen Thomas.

I’m from Syria. I’m 16. I’ve been in Canada for one and a half years.

In Syria, it was hard. When I would go to school, I would think, maybe in this minute I will die. My life was sad. I mostly couldn’t go to school. Like, one week I go, one week I couldn’t go. But when I go, I felt happy and not happy. Happy to be in school; not happy because maybe I can’t come back tomorrow, or maybe I die, or maybe I couldn’t see my friend anymore.

My dad has hemophilia. In Syria he didn’t have injections. If he didn’t get it, maybe he would be dead. So we came to Lebanon. From there we took a taxi and had only one bag. He said we’re going to come back after two days. But they closed the border, and we couldn’t go back. So we couldn’t see my grandfather. I told him, “Don’t worry, we’ll come back after two days.” But then we stayed one month, two months, one year…I said, “Oh my God. How can we go back?” He’s doing good now. But he misses us.

In Lebanon, we lived in an apartment building—five floors—waiting to figure things out. My dad didn’t have a wheelchair. And no elevator. If he wanted to go somewhere, we carried him.

One day he threw up blood. We called the hospital, and my dad said, “Leave me alone, I want to die here. Why do I want to go to the hospital if they don’t have medicine? So let me die here.” We started crying; like, what are we going to do? He threw up blood. It was the first time I saw that. My mom called the Canadian government and said, “We can’t stay in Lebanon anymore.” After one year, they said, “Do you want to go to Canada?” It’s better than here. So we said, “Okay.”

The first day in Canada was amazing. I was sad and happy. Sad because I didn’t have the language, but happy to be here. The first night, we stayed in a shelter. We were the only Syrians. Everyone was from different countries, like Sudan and Europe. For one month and a half. And then we found a house.

When we came to school, I was the only Syrian. Marc Garneau High School. I couldn’t speak English, and it was hard. No one to translate. I only sat and watched. I was crying all the time. But then other Syrian students came to school. I found friends from Syria. So right now I feel happy. I can speak English. I can go anywhere. And my dad is doing well.

I want to be a dentist. My mom told me, “Now you’ve come to Canada, you have to study something high, like dentist or doctor.” I told her, “Okay, I will really study.” She said, “Okay. I’m proud of you.”

Immigrants of Toronto is a weekly feature celebrating Toronto’s diversity as a vibrant city of immigrants, refugees, and newcomers, as told to Stephen Thomas.