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Proud moment for Syrian family


Five years after arriving in Australia as refugees from war-torn Syria, Ani and Moses Iskanian and two of their three sons, Vrej and Shant, are now proud to call themselves Aussies.

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The family became Australian citizens at a ceremony at Woodville Town Hall on March 23.

The Iskanians fled Aleppo in Syria in 2014 and spent two years in Lebanon before being accepted as refugees by the Australian Government.

Of Armenian Christian heritage, they were among a refugee intake of approximately 12,000 Syrians, 800 of whom settled in Adelaide, following the mass exodus from Syria at the height of the civil war.

The family has faced numerous challenges since their arrival, including learning a new language. While the children picked up English quickly and Ani had some grasp of the language through her work as a teacher in Syria, Moses found it particularly difficult to gain the confidence to speak English.  He was diagnosed with cancer and has undergone intensive treatment which appears to have been successful but has prevented him from attending English classes.

The family moved from a small apartment in Brompton to a larger home at Kilburn and Shant is doing well at the local secondary school. Ani volunteers at the Vinnies House of Welcome at Kilburn and hopes to find work soon, now that Moses’ health has improved.

Vrej was 20 when he arrived in Australia and was worried about finding work, having been a jeweller in Aleppo.

After the family’s story was shared in The Southern Cross in December 2016, Vrej was put in contact with Steve Bosley, the owner of local kitchen supply business Amorini, who offered to employ the young Syrian as a store person.

He caught two buses early in the morning from his house in Brompton before saving enough money to buy a car and recently he was appointed warehouse manager.

He admitted that it wasn’t easy when the family first arrived in Adelaide. “On the second day my dad and I decided to go back to Lebanon again, we were so scared for new challenges,” he recalled.

“But then everything started going well; I started school at Thebarton Senior College which was very hard because I couldn’t speak any English.

“I found a job at Amorini which was a life changing moment. I started working and making new friends at work with lots of helpful people around me.”

He expressed his gratitude to the Bosley family for their support.

Apart from being away from friends and cousins, he said one of the challenges of resettlement was getting used to the Australian food but eventually they “learned about supermarkets” and started sourcing the right ingredients to make their own traditional food at home.

“The best part of living in Australia is the work opportunities,” he said. “And you get a peaceful country to live in, we feel really safe here in Adelaide.”

Vrej joined the Thebarton Senior College soccer team and found a lot of good friends who were very helpful, along with his “amazing two coaches”.

By far the hardest part for Vrej and his family has been separation from oldest son Manoel, 28, who remains in Lebanon and is trying to obtain a visa to migrate to Australia.

“Hopefully he (will) come here one day and be with us again; it’s been almost five years we didn’t see him and he is having some tough times in Lebanon because of COVID-19 and lack of work,” he said, adding that Lebanon had been in full lockdown for some time now.

As for becoming Australian citizens, Vrej said it was “such an honour and proud moment for my family and myself to be Australian and represent this beautiful country”.

Vrej said the family was very happy to be Australian citizens and loved their new country.


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