HARTFORD, Conn.— When N.A. told her three young daughters in 2010 that they were only going to New York City for a few weeks to visit their grandmother, she meant it. She left their summer clothes—along with most of their belongings—behind in the house she planned to return to in the city she loved.
But a few months after arriving on the East Coast, A realized it would be a long time before she could call Damascus, Syria, home again. The city, where mosques keep their doors open all night long for those in constant prayer and the pious gazed at the burial sites of ancient religious figures, had become the scene of a dangerous and brutal civil war.
Uprisings against President Bashar al-Assad’s repressive regime turned deadly as opposing factions fought for control of the country and in the process claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Syrians—including A’s cousin and her sister-in-law’s husband. Millions more were displaced.
Soon after A’s arrival, her husband also fled Syria to join his family in the United States. He had learned authorities were looking to arrest him and—he feared—kill him for being a nonviolent protester.
While the young mom choked up at television sets blaring the violence taking place in her homeland, she sought to build a life for her family in America. She landed in Connecticut after a local lawyer there helped them get asylum. Everything from figuring out how to get immunization records so her daughters could register for school to learning English to securing asylum was a struggle, A said.