Family Houses

Amani Alnajjar (+Video)


I had a beautiful life in Syria. I worked as a human resources assistant at a big company. I lived with my mother, father and siblings. We had a farm with many fruit trees, flowers, a swimming pool and a playground. In the summers, we stayed in our farmhouse. In our other house in the city of Aleppo, my sister and I shared a bedroom that was decorated in pink. I still miss our room. 

In 2012, war started in our city. Gangs destroyed some of my father’s properties and stole our farm. It was so sad and scary to see bombs, fires, tanks, armed soldiers, and victims in the streets every day. Believing we’d be back soon, we left our Aleppo home behind and moved to Jordan. In Jordan, I met my husband. I loved his character. We loved spending time together. We had a daughter and named her Alma. She is the most important person in my life. 

In 2017, my husband decided we should move to Canada. He said Canada would provide a better life for us. But he did not want to risk quitting his job, so he suggested that my daughter and I go first and he would follow later. Although I worried about the two of us going without him, I did it. After a long flight, Alma and I arrived in Calgary in November 2017. I rented an apartment and started to buy furniture. It was hard to do everything with my child.

The snow covered the city. My feet froze in my runners. We got sick. I bought tall, black winter boots that were supposed to be good to -40 degrees, even though my feet still froze at -30.  But my boots helped me balance and walk in the snow.

Finding a job was difficult because my English was not very good. The Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association trained me to be a dining attendant in a seniors’ home. To better understand what the residents were saying, I started taking English courses at Bow Valley College. It was hard to work at the seniors’ home and take English courses while caring for my daughter. 

After a year, my husband arrived in Calgary. He got a job, and I volunteered as an administrative assistant to gain more Canadian work experience. We moved to a lovely, small house where my daughter has a pink room, like the one my sister and I had in Syria. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic happened a year later, my husband lost his job and got depressed. He sent Alma and me to live at my sister’s home. Suddenly, I was a single mom. My daughter and I were very sad. I found short-term contract work in customer service and as a receptionist. I worked as a line controller at a large vaccination site. I worked with the City of Calgary for the election. I did all of this with the hope of one day having a stable, long-term job. 

My daughter was always asking about her dad. A few times, I tried to talk to him about getting back together, but he refused. Over time, I learned to live without him. Then one day I was walking in Princess Island Park. I was wearing the winter boots I had bought during my first winter in Canada. I heard my phone ringing, but my hands were so cold that I didn’t take them out of my pockets to answer. Later, when I listened to the message, I learned it was my husband. He said that he wanted to get back together, that he felt his life was nothing without us. I told him that it was too late. However, a month later, I agreed to try again for my daughter and the love that we had before. So, now we are all back in our lovely house, striving for happiness and a bright future together as a family.

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