Find Khaled Houri Zada’s display at First Presbyterian Church, 320 Sixth Avenue
“I’m from Syria. We are here in Pittsburgh nine months. When I came here, I never speak English. I did everything to feel I’m not different.”
I’m from Homs, near the capital of Syria. We left in 2011 because we had a big war between the people and the government. Now it’s between all the governments. We don’t know what is the reason and what they want. Now we are in America looking for the safety. We want peace and to build a life here. In Homs they were not fighting originally. They are protesters for freedom. When the people protested, the government sent the army to fight them because they don’t want to make it like a fire and bigger. The army start to shoot the people who protest, and so it got bigger. The people started to be angry. They don’t know how to protect themselves, you know? The army don’t care about the children, they don’t care about the woman, and they don’t care about the man. They kill anyone.
After that, we got bombing from the airplane. We cannot live. We cannot stay. My father decided to leave Homs to go to Damascus. Damascus it’s more safety than Homs. When we went to Damascus, we stayed there for three month and after that, slow and slow. It’s bombing in Damascus also, same as Homs. We don’t know what we have to do, so my father friend, he told him and he said you can come to Egypt, it’s here safety. You can come here, you can work. We stop in Egypt. In the beginning, we don’t know anything, we don’t anyone, we are refugee and the people they don’t know us. Everything it was different. You know if anyone left their country, this would be so hard.
We still there for five years and we didn’t get any chance to build a life. Then we get the chance to come to the U.S. When we came here, we felt like it’s near more safety and opportunities. We decided to build a life and to stay here. We are here in America, in Pittsburgh, nine months. When I came here, I never speak English, I did all the hard work. I did everything to be good, to feel I’m not different.
I started in school. Anyone I came to like my principal and all the counselor in school, I talked to them on the translator. When I talk to them into translate, they were like, “Oh my God! You need a lot of years to be good.” They tell me, “You have start on the ninth grade.” “I’m 18-years-old,” I said. “If I stay in ninth grade, I will not study. I will go to work.” She said, “No, you have to be in ninth grade because you don’t have English. Your English is zero, everything is zero.” I told her, “This is my problem, I can solve it.” She said, “You cannot be a senior. You cannot be in 12th grade.” I was angry. I want to go 12th grade. I don’t want to do it again. She said, “Okay, as you like. This is your fault.”
I started in 12th grade. I started slow and slow, I got honor. I’m so proud of that, Slow and slow, I make a lot of friends. All the school knows me. This year I can’t believe how I did. Thank you, thank you U.S.A. Thank you, Pittsburgh, for everything you gave us. I am so happy to be here. In the end of the year, when I came to get my diploma, the counselor was like, “Oh my God, Khaled! We can’t believe that!” I graduated this year from Brashear High School. I’m going to CCAC, and I was thought about the mechanical engineering or nursing. But I have to have more English, you know? Another nine months.