'It's a gift': Separated by war, siblings reunite for Christmas in Canada

Three families separated by the war in Syria are spending their first Christmas together in 15 years.

As Canada welcomes Syrian refugees arriving daily, many are reuniting with families they haven’t seen in a long time.

See Full Article

That includes the Panossian family, who are grateful to be spending Christmas together under one roof after being worlds apart for so many years.

Maria Panossian and her husband Harout Abajian, of Toronto, sponsored Maria’s two siblings, Mego and Betty Panossian, and their families, to bring them to Canada. The Syrian-Armenians arrived in early October.

It was a long journey from their homes in Aleppo, Syria. The families fled to Lebanon in 2011. Finally, in October, they arrived on the doorstep of their relatives living in Toronto.

“It’s not easy, but Canada is a great country,” said Mego.

Maria said it is an “amazing feeling” to have her loved ones at her home for Christmas, after years “without having any celebration” with extended family.

Maria’s sister, Betty, came with her husband and two adult sons after life in war-torn Syria changed everything.

“Life became upside down, it turned,” Betty said. “ We felt very uncomfortable, unsafe -- and without a home.”

Getting to Canada was anything but easy – even for family members who were a world away from the conflict.

“We were sitting in front of the TV 24/7, watching the news,” said Maria’s husband, Harout Abajian. “When you have your close family over there, and you don’t know what’s going to happen every minute.

“They were bombing, shelling.”

Despite having arrived in Canada, life isn’t easy just yet.

Mego, who came to Canada with his wife and two young daughters, said his family is still adjusting to their new life.

“Everything is new. The names … the streets, the system is new,” Mego said. “It’s so difficult.”

Betty said all the initial hardships have been worth it.

“It is a gift that me and my family reached Toronto, Canada,” she said.

As the siblings and their families prepare for Christmas Eve on Thursday, the house will become even more crowded. Approximately 20 additional family members from the U.S. and Montreal are also coming to celebrate.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Mego. “I’m so hopeful, I’m so happy that we are celebrating Christmas and New Year’s together after almost 15 years.”

Maria added: “It’s joy -- actually it’s a blessing for me.”



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • 'Extreme' winter weather hits Canada

    Canada News CTV News
    An “intense winter storm” could slam parts of Quebec and Atlantic Canada this weekend, bringing with it “major” snowfall of 30 cm or higher, according to Environment Canada. “While it is difficult to give details this far in advance, all indications show a major snowfall event (for the Maritimes),” the department website reads. Source
  • Canadian kidnapped in Burkina Faso found dead

    Canada News CBC News
    A Canadian kidnapped in Burkina Faso has been found dead, says his family, two days after he was abducted. Kirk Woodman, originally from Halifax, was abducted Tuesday night by a dozen gunmen at a mining site owned by Vancouver-based Progress Minerals near the border with Niger, in an area the government says is under growing threat from armed jihadists. Source
  • Canadian kidnapped in Burkina Faso is dead

    Canada News CTV News
    CTV News has confirmed that a Canadian kidnapped in Burkina Faso has been found dead. Kirk Woodman was working for Vancouver-based Progress Mineral Mining Company. A spokesperson for Burkina Faso's security ministry said Woodman was abducted during a raid of a local mining site in the northern party of the country. Source
  • Defence to question forensics officer at Dennis Oland murder trial

    Canada News CTV News
    SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- A forensics officer is back on the stand today at the Dennis Oland murder trial, this time facing defence questions. Sgt. Mark Smith of Saint John police has recounted for the court the collection of over 500 pieces of evidence from the scene where multi-millionaire Richard Oland was bludgeoned to death, and from searches relating to his son Dennis. Source
  • Defence chief admits slower-than-expected growth in female representation

    Canada News CBC News
    Canada's top military officer admits there has been slower progress than expected to get more women into the Canadian Forces. New figures show there has been only a small increase in the number of women in the military over the last two years, but Gen. Source
  • Eskasoni grieving after multiple 'expected and unexpected' deaths

    Canada News CBC News
    Nova Scotia's largest Mi'kmaw community is grieving after what the band council calls multiple "expected and unexpected" deaths. The Eskasoni First Nation council said in a statement yesterday the community in eastern Cape Breton is going through a difficult time. Source
  • Global pushback against autocrats grows, says rights watchdog

    World News CBC News
    The world is seeing growing resistance against the abuses of autocrats as states, civic groups and popular movements all push back against populists seeking to curtail freedoms, according to a new global report released Thursday that also outlines where Canada is both advancing and falling short in its efforts. Source
  • New Hampshire toddler escapes home, found dead in freezing temperatures

    World News CTV News
    NEWPORT, N.H. -- A New Hampshire toddler, barefoot and clad only in a nightgown, was found dead early Monday in bitter cold weather just feet from her front door after she managed to get out of her house and couldn't get back in. Source
  • 3 young children die after getting trapped in chest freezer

    World News CTV News
    LIVE OAK, Fla. - Authorities in Florida say three young children playing outside climbed into an unplugged chest freezer and died when they couldn't get out. The Suwannee County Sheriff's Office says the children, ages 1, 4, and 6, couldn't be revived when they were found Sunday at a home in Live Oak in north Florida. Source
  • Kenya still hunts for explosives after deadly hotel attack

    World News CTV News
    NAIROBI, Kenya -- Kenyan bomb disposal experts on Thursday searched for explosives left over from the deadly extremist attack on a Nairobi luxury hotel complex in which 21 people, plus five attackers, were killed. The Kenyan government said its quick reaction to Tuesday's assault on the DusitD2 complex reflected improvements in its ability to respond to such brazen assaults on civilian targets. Source