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'He is the happiest person on this planet'

Emotion and pure joy was on display at the Greater Sudbury Airport on Monday afternoon, when Sudbury's first family of refugees from Syria were reunited with their grandfather.
A little more than three weeks after starting their new life in Canada, Sudbury's first family of Syrian refugees were reunited with their grandfather Monday at the Greater Sudbury Airport. Photo: Darren MacDonald.
Emotion and pure joy was on display at the Greater Sudbury Airport on Monday afternoon, when Sudbury's first family of refugees from Syria were reunited with their grandfather.

The Quarquoz family arrived in the city on New Year's Eve, excited to be starting a new life, but torn because they had to leave their grandfather behind in Lebanon.

The delay was related to issues with travel documents, then his arrival was delayed because of health concerns. But the elder Quarquoz was finally able to leave, arriving in Toronto late Saturday and in Sudbury on Monday. He was greeted by a throng of well wishers and media at the airport.

“He is newborn," he said, speaking through a translator Monday, moments after his arrival. "He's very happy to have his grandchildren and his son and his daughter-in-law, but he's also so happy to see all these people here, and all these cameras and flashes. He's really excited."

"He is the happiest person on this planet because he is with his son and his family. He left his home, and now he is in his second home."

While it was stressful to be left behind in Lebanon when everyone else was able to travel, the grandfather said he wasn't afraid he would never make it to Sudbury.

"Any person who has a strong faith, he's not afraid of anything,” he said through the interpreter. “He is one of those people. And thank God, he is here."

For his part, the father said when left for Sudbury without his dad, they left half their hearts in Lebanon. But they were able to keep in contact with him, and gave him an idea of what life here was like.

"They sent him pictures every day of the snow," he said through the interpreter. "And now that he's here, they are very, very happy and very grateful. Before he made it here, they knew the people in Canada they are the greatest people on this Earth."

"Thank you, Canada!" he said in English. "And thank you, Sudbury!"

Joanne Ross, who speaks for the group at St. Andrew's United Church that sponsored the family of five to come here, said Monday that the whole family has really embraced life in the North. And it has been fun to watch them try things most of us grew up with for the first time.

"Yesterday they went tobogganing for four hours,” Ross said. “And came in and they said, 'Skating? Skating?' They just want to savour everything.

"They've really been dying to go skating. I had my skates in the trunk of the car and I showed them to them. And they were so fascinated by them.

They wanted to touch the blades and I told them, careful, it's sharp! It is really neat to see first-time events like that, things that we take for granted."

Ross said a big step in integrating them into the community is learning English and for the dad to find work. There's progress on both fronts, she said.

"They're working so hard to learn English, and dad has a job interview on Wednesday, which is very exciting for him and for his family," she said.

"That's a big part of integrating, and certainly in the patriarchal society that they come from, being able to provide for your family is a very big part of defining who you are.

"We're really happy that things are coming together. It's a lovely family. We're lucky to have them."


Darren MacDonald

About the Author: Darren MacDonald

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