‘Here, the life is re­ally good’

Fam­ily forced to flee Kan­da­har ben­e­fits from en­rol­ment in Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre

Vancouver Sun - - CITY - GOR­DON MCIN­TYRE gordm­cin­tyre@post­media.com twit­ter.com/gordm­cin­tyre

Maybe you don’t think there’s any­thing re­mark­able about push­ing a stroller on the way to an evening class a half-hour’s walk away, or feel­ing se­cure leav­ing Metro­town at 10 p.m. af­ter a night of shop­ping.

Or walk­ing down your street and not hav­ing to worry about a sniper’s bul­let find­ing you.

But for Fireshta Sar­dar, these are the most glo­ri­ous feel­ings in the world.

“It’s re­ally safe here, I’m not scared,” she said. “Here, there are po­lice, there is govern­ment, you can call them.

“Back home, it’s not like that, you’re scared to do any­thing.”

Fireshta, her hus­band Mo­ham­mad and their two tod­dlers moved to Burn­aby five years ago from Afghanistan af­ter the Tal­iban threat­ened Mo­ham­mad’s life be­cause he was work­ing as an in­ter­preter for the Cana­dian mil­i­tary in Kan­da­har. She has en­rolled in the Canucks Fam­ily Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre, funded through The Van­cou­ver Sun’s Raise-a-Reader pro­gram, at Ed­monds Com­mu­nity School in Burn­aby, where care is pro­vided for her youngest child, Ni­laa, one of two of Fireshta’s chil­dren born in Canada.

Be­gin­ning in 2004, Mo­ham­mad, who had worked as a clerk in a phar­macy, be­gan work­ing as an in­ter­preter with the U.S. Ma­rine Corps, be­fore join­ing the Cana­di­ans in 2006. By 2011, he was forced to flee Kan­da­har af­ter first re­ceiv­ing death threats over the phone (“I don’t know how they got my phone num­ber”) and then a death-threat in the form of a mailed let­ter.

“The Tal­iban was of­fer­ing $10,000 re­wards to cap­ture in­ter­preters,” Mo­ham­mad said.

Walk­ing around his vil­lage in dis­guise was no longer work­ing.

“We lost a lot of friends be­cause they helped the U.S. and Cana­dian Forces,” Mo­ham­mad said. “I’d leave (the Cana­dian mil­i­tary) base and not know if I’d make it the 20 kilo­me­tres home.”

“We were scared to go out to shop for sup­plies,” added Fireshta.

“We had a lot of friends killed, be­headed.”

To­day, read­ing to their four chil­dren at bed­time in their safe and se­cure Burn­aby home is a fam­ily rit­ual.

But English has been dif­fi­cult to mas­ter.

Con­sider this rule of gram­mar, which you al­most cer­tainly know but didn’t know you knew: There is an or­der to the way we line up ad­jec­tives ahead of a noun, and na­tive speak­ers do it in­stinc­tively.

We just know it’s a cute, lit­tle, black puppy, never “Ooh, look at the black, lit­tle, cute puppy. “

(Or, put another way, would you read a story to your chil­dren called Rid­ing Red Lit­tle Hood?)

We are prac­ti­cally born with this knowl­edge, but imag­ine mov­ing here from another cul­ture and try­ing to mem­o­rize that, ac­cord­ing to lin­guists, the proper or­der for ad­jec­tives is opin­ion, size, age, shape, colour, etc., then noun.

Or take English’s im­prob­a­ble spell­ing and pro­nun­ci­a­tions.

Why don’t flood and food rhyme? Or friend and fiend? And why on earth do fair and bear rhyme (but not fear and bear)?

It’s into this quandary that the Canucks Fam­ily Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre has waded, help­ing im­mi­grants learn to read this in­fu­ri­at­ing lan­guage.

“When I came to Canada, I could not even say ‘Hi,’ ” Fireshta said. “I wasn’t go­ing out and my hus­band told me I would not learn any­thing if I didn’t go out.

“The English classes have been a re­ally, re­ally big help.”

Fireshta’s par­ents are still in Afghanistan, while her re­main­ing brother is in limbo in Tur­key as an un­doc­u­mented refugee.

Her other brother died in a bomb blast while on his way to school for his fi­nal day of Grade 12. He was 18.

“My mom had been so happy he was go­ing to fin­ish high school,” Fireshta said. “My par­ents stay in­side, hid­ing from ev­ery­body. Dur­ing the day, I am busy with my kids. At night, I can’t go to sleep wor­ry­ing about my fam­ily.”

She avoids TV news and Face­book be­cause any­time some­thing bad hap­pens back home, it gets re­ported and posted.

“Back home and here, it’s re­ally dif­fer­ent. Here, the life is re­ally good, ev­ery­thing is good. The only thing I miss back home is my fam­ily.”


Fireshta and Mo­ham­mad Sar­dar pose with 18-month-old daugh­ter Ni­laa at their home in Burn­aby. Read­ing to their four chil­dren at bed­time in their home has be­come a trea­sured fam­ily rit­ual. “Back home and here, it’s re­ally dif­fer­ent. Here, the life is re­ally good, ev­ery­thing is good,” Fireshta says. “The only thing I miss back home is my fam­ily.”


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