From Syria To Sugar Grove: A Big Change For Grandmother

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Thanksgiving at the home of Ohio University Lancaster Student Khalid Abdulsalam, 19, was one of true thanks this year.  Abdulsalam’s grandmother is now living with his family in Sugar Grove after fleeing her home in Syria last September.

“My Grandma didn’t want to leave,” said Abdulsalam. “She lived in Syria her whole life. It took a lot of pushing.  But, we knew she would be safer here.”

The escalating conflict in Syria was the catalyst for the move. Reports indicate that several hundred, if not thousands, were killed in a chemical weapons attack in Syria on August 21.

“She lived in the middle of the capital city,” said Abdulsalam. “She says she would sit out on the balcony of her apartment and there would be shots fired.  She said she was very calm about it and she would sit and watch.  She said they looked like fireworks.”

Abdulsalam graduated from Berne Union High School and is a Mechanical Engineering major at OUL.  He was born in the United States after his parents came to the U.S. from Syria.  In September, his grandmother went to the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon to try and get a visa so she could come live with her family in Ohio.

“A lot of other people that we know had applied for a visa and they were all denied,” said Abdulsalam. “One of the things that helped my grandma is that she is older. She is not going to work or apply for welfare or drain the economy in any way.  It’s a relief.  We’re all happy she’s here.”

Abdulsalam’s grandmother is 70 years old.  She only speaks Arabic. Living in small town Ohio is a big transition.

“She does not speak English. But, it’s good because wherever my Grandma is, one of us is there,” said Abdulsalam. “She is not used to driving as much as we do here.  The weather is an adjustment.  She told us she hasn’t seen snow in 10 to 15 years.  The third day she was here there was a snow storm.”

Abdulsalam’s grandmother is currently permitted to live in the United States for two years.  He hopes it will be longer.  They are working to see if they can get permission from the government to allow her to live with them permanently.

This article was contributed by Cheri Russo of Ohio University Lancaster