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Greater Sudbury Immigration Stories

Hussein Qarquouz signature

Having worked in a bakery in his home country of Syria since the age of 16 to help support his mother and siblings, Hussein Qarqouz is no stranger to hard work.

Years later, he opened his own bakery in the city of Homs where his family lived and ran a farm. Then, the revolution came, war broke out, and everything changed.

What was once a stable country quickly descended into chaos.

Mural of the Old Bridge over the Orontes River near Homs, Syria
This mural of the Old Bridge over the Orontes River near Homs, Syria is proudly displayed at Damascus Bakery & Cafe.
Aerial photo of Homs showing the destruction after years of war.
A once vibrant city, Homs was destroyed by years of fierce fighting and war.

As Hussein worked in his bakery, bombs began raining down nearby. He remembers taking his children by the hand, running out into the street, fearing the building was coming down on them. It became obvious that he and his family were no longer safe in Syria.

Shortly thereafter, he was arrested and imprisoned for being Sunni Muslim. For months, he endured torturous conditions, cramped in an overcrowded prison cell. He clung to hope, dreaming of freedom for him and his family. After being released, he quickly fled to Lebanon.

“I lost many family members, my home, and my business in Syria. We decided to flee to Lebanon where we lived as refugees. I needed a place where I could give my children a future. Canada gave us our future.”

— Hussein Qarqouz

Crowd waiting for the Qarqouz family at the airport
An eager crowd welcomes the Qarqouz family at the Greater Sudbury Airport.

Hussein and his family arrived in Greater Sudbury in December, 2015 where they received a warm welcome from the local community.

While everything in Canada was new, including cold weather and a new language, Hussein quickly immersed himself in the local culture. He started working at Golden Grain Bakery where the owners allowed him to sell traditional Syrian pastries. With his pastries being well received by their customers, Hussein felt encouraged to pursue his own bakery once again.

Hussein standing in the entrance of his business
Hussein stands at the entrance of the new Damascus Cafe & Bakery in 2016. Photo by Ella Myers.

A year later, he opened up his own bakery in Downtown Sudbury. Damascus Cafe & Bakery opened to great fanfare in 2016.

Giving back to the community is important to Hussein, who regularly gives food to those in need. He knows what it’s like to be hungry and continues to pass on the good will he received from the Greater Sudbury community.

Syrian shawarmas
Hussein prepares his signature Syrian shawarmas.
Hussein helping the less fortunate
With a strong sense of empathy, Hussein regularly gives food to those in need.

The Qarquouz family continues to thrive and grow in Greater Sudbury. Hussein and his wife have recently welcomed a new son and daughter to the family and their eldest sons play, study, and work in the community.

“We love our life in Sudbury. Our kids go to school and have joined sports teams. We bought a home and our neighbours are very friendly. It’s a great place to live. It’s safe here. I have a lot of friends. It feels like my city in Homs. There is peace for us here.”

— Hussein Qarqouz

Hussein and his family getting their citizenship
During the production of this video, Hussein and his three eldest sons passed their citizenship tests and are now proud Canadian citizens.
Yeika Abad photo
Yeika Abad photo
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