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Family still adjusting to Santa Clarita Valley life a year after fleeing Syria

Posted: July 21, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 21, 2013 2:00 a.m.
John Asmarian. Photo by Dan Watson John Asmarian. Photo by Dan Watson
John Asmarian. Photo by Dan Watson
The Asmarian family, from left, Pardy, 17, John, 15, mother Lisa and Anthony , 13, look at photos of the family in Syria. The Asmarian family, from left, Pardy, 17, John, 15, mother Lisa and Anthony , 13, look at photos of the family in Syria.
The Asmarian family, from left, Pardy, 17, John, 15, mother Lisa and Anthony , 13, look at photos of the family in Syria.

It’s been almost a year since the Asmarians had their lives turned upside down.

Almost a year since the family was torn up by the roots, forced to flee their home as violence and chaos reigned around them.

Almost a year since the family members first arrived in the Santa Clarita Valley, where day by day the hope of a quick return to their home in Syria was replaced by the sinking suspicion that they may never be able to return.

And though almost a year has passed, the wounds of the Syrian conflict, and the damage it has wrought on their family, remain fresh in the minds of the Asmarians.


It was July 2012 when Hraj Asmarian handed his wife, Lisa, and their children plane tickets with a simple request: get out of the country.

But the decision to leave was preceded by days of uncertainty and fear.

“We didn’t even know if we would go to school sometimes,” said 15-year-old John Asmarian, the middle child of the family. “We would get a call saying it had been canceled some days.”

School was the least of the family’s worries. Often the family members felt they couldn’t leave their home for fear of the conflict raging around them.

“It wasn’t safe out there­ — there was bombing, there were kidnappings,” Lisa Asmarian recalled. “If you go out, you didn’t know if you would come back.”

Initially, the family thought it would be a short visit, like many of the trips they had taken to the Santa Clarita Valley.

“We thought it was a vacation at first,” said Lisa Asmarian.

Speaking in the Stevenson Ranch house that belongs to Lisa Asmarian’s brother, the family said it is unclear if they will ever return to their home in Syria.

“We don’t know if we will ever go back,” Lisa Asmarian said. “We might never.”


Most of the members of the family are dual citizens and were able to get to America fairly easily.

The lone exception was Hraj, who stayed behind for several months after the rest of the family had left.

When he eventually joined them, he left behind his business: the family’s main reliable source of income.

Even now, try as he might, he has been unable to find steady work.

“It’s been hard for him,” his wife says. “It’s hard when your life goes upside down, and you are struggling.”

Lisa Asmarian said she is looking to attend school herself so she can find a job and help the family out.

“We came from a good situation, a good house, a good life,” she said. “But we left everything and we have to start from the beginning.”

It’s also been difficult for the children to leave behind family friends and classmates.

“Saying goodbye to my friends at school was difficult,” said John Asmarian. “I thought I would make friends easily when I got here, but it’s been so hard, so complicated.”

Part of that complication is the fact that the children were still largely learning English when they settled in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“America and Syria, they are just different countries,” said 17-year-old Pardy Asmarian, the oldest child in the family. “There’s change everywhere, so we have to change too.”


Despite all the difficulties, the Asmarians continue to adjust the best they can.

Lisa Asmarian said she has brothers who live in or near the Santa Clarita Valley, giving the family much needed support.

John has carved out a niche on the swim team at West Ranch High School. He hopes to compete for a spot on the varsity squad next year.

Pardy said she is doing what she can to make new friends and help her brothers do the same.

“I’m trying to help them out as much as I can,” she said. “I’m the bossy one, though, so I know I help them.”

And 13-year-old Anthony is pursuing one of his dreams: playing American football.


Though they have faced their fair share of challenges, family members say they are well aware how lucky they are to have a roof over their heads in a safe area.

“Even though we’re in a hard situation, we’re thankful because we know there are others out there who are having a much harder time than we are,” said Lisa Asmarian. “And our thoughts are always with them, too.”
On Twitter @LukeMMoney


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