Syrian refugee family in Winnipeg airport

Bakr family reunited in Winnipeg, Man., with brother Abdo (centre right) after being uprooted and separated by the ongoing war in Syria. Courtesy of Bakr family

Refugees resettled in Manitoba reunite with relatives three years after separation.

By Lidia Abraha

Thousands of refugee families are often separated when fleeing violence or conflict. So, when Abdo Bakr landed at the Winnipeg International Airport, he rushed to kiss his mother’s feet a sign of respect in their cultureand hug the siblings he hadn’t seen for years. 

“It was really hard for us, we were really missing him,” said his brother, Mohamed, on the phone from Portage la Prairie, Man. 

The whole family was uprooted by the ongoing civil war in Syria, forcing them to flee to Turkey. Mohamed, his parents and two sisters were among the 25,000 Syrian refugees resettled in Canada in 2015. During the process, the case file for Abdo got separated and he had to be left behind. 

“My mom was crying all the time because she’s not used to it, she can’t be without one of us. It was really hard for her.”

Knowing that Abdo was still in Turkey made it harder for the family to adjust to life in Canada, said Mohamed.

“We were in Canada, without language, without anything. Actually, we felt really lonely here because we don’t have any Arabic community or Kurdish community.”

Thanks to the help of his sponsor, Abdo was able to reunite with his family on October 16, 2019. A video of the emotional family reunification went viral on Twitter with 2.8 million views. In the video, the family of five waits at the base of the escalators, and Mohamed is holding his mother back as Abdo makes his way down the stairs. Abdo then immediately drops to the floor to kiss his mother’s feet. 

She drops down with him, and they both cry in a warm embrace, while the rest of the family gave a sweet welcome to Ado’s wife and three-year-old daughter they’ve never met before. 

“I knew my mom was going to do that. That’s why I held her from the back. I was expecting her to go up to reach the stairs because I know she missed him too much, and she just wants him to come,” said Mohamed.

Before his brother arrived with his wife and two children, Mohamed was taking his mother to the hospital every week since she went into a deep depression after leaving Abdo behind. She even suggested going back to Turkey so they can be a whole family again. 

“We are really happy now, life has changed, believe me. When the family is together, everything has changed,” said Mohamed.

With the help of their local community in Portage La Prairie, Mohamed hopes to raise enough money so they can welcome his two remaining sisters in the near future. 

“Canada is our new home. Syria’s down, our house is down, everything is down. We learn here now, our job is here, we study here, I don’t think we’re going to go back to Syria anymore. So that’s why we are hoping to bring them too,” he said.

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