SYLVANIA, OH (WTOL) - The airstrikes during the civil war burdening Syria seems like an issue that exists thousands of miles away for most. On the seventh anniversary of the blood shedding war, a local family living in Sylvania reminds us, it is a closer issue than we think.
Rakan Alkhalaf, sought solace in Sylvania in 2016, when his hometown of Homs, located in western Syria, became too dangerous for him and his family.
"I came here because everything was destroyed and we had nowhere else to go," Alkhalaf said.
Alkhalaf and his wife have six children together and have another on the way. It will be their first child born in America. It is the glimmer of hope they need considering what they have been through.
"Syria was destroyed. Rockets and planes were hitting us day and night," he explained. And that violence has only gotten worse.
March 15, 2018 marks the seventh year to the day of the Syrian war. A war that has taken more than 400,000 lives and has displaced millions around the world, even within Syria.
Alkhalaf feels lucky his fate turned out so differently, but his family is now scattered. His father and brother live in Jordan and his sister lives in Saudi Arabia now.
His wife's parents are still in Homs, never leaving their home country and her siblings are spread out between German, Libya as well as Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile Rakan and his wife live in Sylvania and dream of the days they will all be reunited again.
"There was no better life than the life we had in Syria," he said. "We were happy. Everything was affordable. We didn't have worries or responsibilities and we all helped each other."
He says Syria used to be very peaceful before the war.
"Christian families lived next to Alawites and Muslims. Everyone loved each other and got along," he said. "But Syria is no more."
Alkhalaf believes there is no going back now and has recognized America as his new home.
He believes there are more opportunities for his family, even if that means he has to go through a hard time transitioning to the life here, particularly with the language barrier and not having a steady paying job like he had in Syria, owning a sweets bakery.
His children have acclimated much faster, especially with learning English. Shahd, his 9-year-old daughter, lights up when talking about her new life, going to school at Stranahan Elementary and even gets excited about doing homework.
"I like to go to school to play with my friends and to learn new words and to learn something new," she said.
But she does admit her English still needs some work. She struggles in certain situations, like going to the doctor to explain herself.
"When I need to talk with them, it's hard because I don't know how to talk with them," Shahd explained.
The Alkhalaf kids do what most American kids do after school: Have a snack, do some homework and watch cartoons. The youngest of the bunch, Karima, has a "Frozen" obsession, with her Disney movie theme on her backpack and slippers she sports, like many of her peers in kindergarten.
Their father, Rakan, recognizes how they will grow here, but without the government assistance they have been receiving it would have been nearly impossible.
"From health insurance to food stamps, the government still helps us," he said appreciatively. "If they didn't we'd be lost in the streets."
Like most beginnings, they take some work to get through, just like the Syrian War that has ceased to have an end, even seven years later.