First refugee family from Syrian civil war arrives in Louisville

Published: Feb. 13, 2015 at 8:34 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 30, 2015 at 8:38 PM EDT
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A family fleeing the Syrian civil war arrived in Louisville on Friday. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
A family fleeing the Syrian civil war arrived in Louisville on Friday. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Valentine's Day is about celebrating love in all of its forms - romantic, friendly, and familial - but how about love of someone you've never even met, from a country you've never been to? At Louisville's airport Friday, a small group, with hearts on their sleeves, planned the best welcome they could give to a family starting a new life right here.

Once, many of those gathered at the airport were strangers in this country, arriving in Louisville for a safe and peaceful life. Today, it's home and it's their turn to make another family feel welcome.

"We all came as refugees and now it's about time for us to give back," said Semsudin Haseljic.

He arrived in Louisville to get treatment when he lost both legs in the Bosnian war. "It was difficult at the beginning because I was here by myself," Haseljic said. "I didn't have any money, any clothes, any family members."

Today, he's a caseworker with Kentucky Refugee Ministries. The organization with the help of the Bosnian American Islamic Center, and thanks to a grant from Islamic Relief USA, is bringing a family fleeing civil war in Syria. "This is a young couple, a husband and wife, and two young children," Haseljic said.

Mohammed Masmoom and his family have had a long journey, stretching many months and miles, but when asked about his emotions today, all he could talk about was his welcome.

"He feels great that he saw all these people welcome him in the airport," said Miriam Jaleel, who translated for the family.

The family was taken to the apartment that's been rented in their name for a welcome meal, and then a weekend to adjust and decompress.

On Monday, Kentucky Refugee Ministries will begin explaining the services they can expect, the English classes they'll take and the help they'll get finding jobs. The goal is for them to be self-sufficient in five to eight months and then help other families that Refugee Ministries expects to arrive in Syria.

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