Syrian refugee family rebuilds life in the United States

Published 9:28 am Monday, September 21, 2015

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Hussam Al Roustom and his wife didn’t tell anyone before they and their two small children left Syria, fearing their plans for escape could fall apart.

Leaving their homeland had never been part of the picture before. Al Roustom had a supermarket and owned their home in the western Syria city of Homs. But a civil war that started with unrest in 2011 had taken its toll, especially on his son Wesam, already dealing with autism and so traumatized by the barrage of violence that he stopped speaking entirely.

“When they would exit the house, it was only to the sounds of war,” Al Roustom said through a translator. “When they would sleep, they would hear the sound of bullets.”

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These days, it’s the sounds of passing cars and conversations between people on the street for Al Roustom and his wife, Suha, as they and their children settle into their small apartment in Jersey City, New Jersey. They’ve been here about three months, among the 1,500 or so Syrian refugees who have been resettled in the U.S. out of an estimated 4 million who had fled the country in recent years.

Wesem, now 7, speaks “a few words,” his father said. He and Maaesa, 3, have been to the park, the pool and the beach, and Wesem has learned to swim.