Alone, afraid and longing for family reunification

  • May 18, 2011

Wafi Shara shows the bullet she was struck with during an attack on a Baghdad church. (Photo by Michael Swan)TORONTO - Wafi Shara lived through the attack on Baghdad’s Syriac Catholic cathedral Oct. 31, 2010, but the bullet Italian doctors removed from her leg still holds her captive.

Shara spends all day in a tiny, two-room apartment in midtown Toronto praying, crying and wishing to be reunited with her brother Wafi Youssif. The damage to her leg has left her with limited mobility. She’s in a strange city with few friends, working hard to improve her English.

While her brother would prefer to come to Canada, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees staff are recommending him for the United States. Youssif is now trying to decide whether to remain in Jordan and hope someone in Canada can sponsor him, going back to Baghdad where he fears for his family’s safety or going to the United States where he knows no one.

In Toronto living on about $600 a month, Shara carries with her the fears that became part of life in Baghdad as the city descended into rounds of violence and sectarian cleansing of neighbourhoods. She asked us not to photograph her face  for this article.

As she lay wounded underneath a pew in Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral, Shara saw her niece Raghda escape into the vestry. Shara thought perhaps her niece had been smart to get out of the main part of the church. In the end, Raghda was the only one of about 50 people crammed into the vestry who was killed.

Shara now finds herself in the country her niece dreamed about in Baghdad. The 61-year-old single Shara finds it a bit cruel that she is now in Canada in her niece’s place.

“She is the bridge for me to come to Canada. She wished to come to Canada,” said Shara.

The former school teacher lived with her brother in Baghdad and helped raise Raghda. Separated from the city she once loved and from almost all of her family, Shara wants nothing more than to be reunited with her brother.

“I am alone here. I live alone. I want him here with me.”

With her wound still fresh, Shara was evacuated from Baghdad to Italy for surgery and physiotherapy. There she met with Pope Benedict XVI before Canada stepped in to sponsor her as a refugee. Until and unless she has her brother back at her side, safely here in Canada,  Shara remains in limbo — the journey still not completed and so many left behind.

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