After nearly three-and-a-half years, Nasro Adan Mohamed finally got to hug her husband and little girl.
The Brockville-based Somali refugee was reunited with her family at the Ottawa International Airport Wednesday afternoon, a happy ending to a tale of separation worsened by procedural delays and a global pandemic.
“(I was thinking) is it real?” she recalled the next day of finally seeing her husband, Liiban, and daughter, Afnaan, in person.
On Thursday afternoon, Nasro, 28, Liiban Ahmed Khadiye, 26, and Afnaan, who turned four in January, enjoyed a sunny but chilly stroll on the Brockville riverfront, exhausted but happy.
“It’s really amazing, and when I recall yesterday it was a happy moment,” Liiban added.
While he and his daughter were still adjusting to the late-winter cold, there was nowhere else he wanted to be.
“It’s a very beautiful place and it’s one of my dreams to see Canada and to come here,” he said. “Really I love it.”
Nasro Mohamed’s refugee ordeal began at age 18, when she fled the violence of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. Both her father and brother were killed in a bombing in that troubled city in 2013. She fled to Uganda, where she ended up marrying Liiban while part of the lengthy refugee process.
She has been living in Canada since late October 2019, the start of a frustratingly long process to bring the rest of her family here, made even longer by the COVID-19 pandemic. She has been communicating with her husband and daughter via phone calls, Zoom and WhatsApp.
The Brockville Freedom Connection, a local refugee sponsorship group, has been working in partnership with First Presbyterian to reunify and settle the family here. The Rural Refugee Rights Network, a loosely-knit group of refugee advocates, had also taken up Mohamed’s cause.
Nasro Adan Mohamed, a Somali refugee based in Brockville, has been trying since pre-pandemic to bring her husband and young daughter to Canada but they have been stuck in transit in Uganda. Nasro poses for a photo with her husband Liiban Ahmed Khadiye and daughter Afnaan Liiban Ahmed at the Ottawa airport Wednesday.
They recently got the good news about Liiban and Afnaan’s arrival, and some 10 of these supporters were gathered at the Ottawa airport, waving welcome signs.
“It was a very exciting time for us all; we were all feeling a bit teary,” said Rev. Marianne Emig Carr, of First Presbyterian Church in Brockville, part of the family’s local sponsor group.
“I’ve never seen her beaming like that.”
The reception may have left the other people coming down the escalator wondering if a celebrity was in their midst.
“It wasn’t a celebrity, but we were celebrating anyway,” added Carr.
“It was quite the moment; it really made it all worthwhile.”
It was perhaps appropriate that Nasro, who showed strength and patience throughout her long ordeal, had her wish granted on International Women’s Day, said Carr.
Nasro’s supporters are now turning to the task of integrating Brockville’s newest complete family.
The settlement group was working to get the newcomers social insurance numbers and a bigger apartment.
As a permanent resident, Liiban is able to look for work. The locals are also hoping to get him enrolled at the TR Leger school, for English instruction, although he can get by in English.
Nasro currently works four days a week at The Score in Brockville.
Child care will be another consideration. Afnaan is not only a charmer, but full of energy, jumping up and down excitedly at the airport, while on Thursday a minor argument took place when her parents explained she could not take a dip in the water.
“We call her Nanny,” said Carr.