Sara and Akbar Sadat
Sara and Akbar Sadat have spent their entire adult lives learning: new languages, new cultures and hard lessons about surviving as refugees. They left their home in Afghanistan fifteen years ago to escape the aftermath of the Soviet occupation.
Akbar attended a simple village school with no tables and chairs. They rarely had paper and pencils. Sara grew up in Kabul and attended a more modern girls-only school. They both always enjoyed learning.
As a young man, Akbar went to the USSR to study architectural engineering. He then spent three years in the Afghan army. After leaving Afghanistan, they had several difficult years in Turkey, Tajikistan and then Kazakhstan. They decided to try and make Russia their permanent home.
Their journey from Kazakhstan to Russia was a frightening ordeal. They had four children and Sara was eight months pregnant. A taxi driver stole all their belongings and official papers. They were forced to walk 24 hours with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. They finally arrived in Moscow with no money and nowhere to go. They sold all of Sara's jewelry to buy food. Eventually, Sara and Akbar found a tiny apartment. It was so cold that the blankets would freeze against the window at night. Sara and Akbar couldn't find work, so their son worked to support the entire family. It was "a very bad life," says Akbar.
The Sadats registered as UN refugees and tried for three years to get legal refugee status in Russia. On the advice of a UN worker, they applied as refugees to Canada and within six months they got the good news that they would be able to join Akbar's family who were living in PEI. Sara and Akbar agree that coming to Canada was the hardest thing about their journey, because it was such a "big deal." But Sara says, "We feel very happy and free."
The Sadats have been living in Charlottetown for over a year, attending language school full-time learning their seventh language. Going back to school has been "very good," they say. "We feel like teenagers," Sara laughs. "We are happy at school," agrees Akbar. It's also easier to help their five children with schoolwork. Sometimes the kids help their parents, too.
The Sadats have plans for the future. Akbar wants to have his professional credentials recognized and Sara would like to have a career in the medical field. Like many newcomers, their dreams also rest with their children and the future they will build in their new country.