Syrian refugee family from Fresno experiencing first Thanksgiving

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A gathering of family and friends from diverse backgrounds and cultures gave thanks Thursday. Among them, the Kashak family, refugees from Syria who have been in Fresno just six months, and are celebrating their first Thanksgiving.

"First Thanksgiving. I and my family is very happy," said Thafar Kashak, Syrian refugee.

New friends are treating the family of five to a traditional Thanksgiving feast, with middle eastern touches, at a relatives home in Monterey. Another example of the warm welcome this family has received here.

"Life is so different, be we are here comfortable. We are here thankful for everyone, try to make us happy, make us comfortable, try to help us. Thank you for everyone, the government, the friends, the community here," said Nour Kashak, Syrian refugee.

We spoke to the family in their Fresno apartment before their Thanksgiving road trip. Thafer, Nour, their son Basil, who's 17, and two daughters, Deema, who's 14, and Lamar, who's 3. The family fled the Syrian city of Homs, escaping to a refugee camp in Jordan, and finally, after extensive vetting, being allowed to come to the United States.

In Syria, Thafer was a successful businessman, with a factory and shops in the city of Homs, that made and sold Tahini, the flavorful sesame seed ingredient in hummus.

"We had a good life over there. We had one building, two or three shops, two cars, one big factory, but all that's gone now," said Basil .

The shops were bombed, the factory seized by the government. When they arrived here the US gave them just $900 to re-settle. But new friends, like Kamal Abu Shamshie of Fresno and his family, have helped.

Thafer has a job in a restaurant and hopes to someday get back into the Tahini business. Son Basil is a junior at Clovis West, hoping to play football. Daughter Deema is also in school.

They are distressed by what is happening to their country, but focusing now on a new life here, and their first Thanksgiving.
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