Melissa Colorado, KARE 11.
Their pictures show the Syria they remember.
Smiling children in a colorful classroom. A father and son posing at a beach. Two sisters in an embrace, as they stand next to a multi-colored backdrop.
But that Syria no longer exists. A bloody civil war has ripped apart the country, forcing approximately five million Syrians to seek a better life elsewhere.
Those refugees include the Alebbid and Al Obeid families, believed to be the only Syrian refugee families who have resettled in Minnesota.
The Al Obeid family, which includes five children, arrived in April of 2015.
Speaking through a translator, Ramia Aljasem recalled the violence and terror that forced the family to leave Syria for good.
They crossed the border into Jordan by foot, clutching their children as they feared they would come under fire.
Jordan provided safety for the family but limited opportunities. Syrian refugees were not allowed to legally work or even drive.
Eventually, a UN staffer contacted the family and told them, they could resettle in the United States.
“My children now go to an excellent school. We are grateful to this country and everyone who has helped us,” said Aljasem.
Aljasem’s 5-year-old daughter, Samar, is thriving at her new school.
“I learn ABC’s and the letters,” she said, in perfect English.
Her father, Mohamad, is working at a nearby Wal-Mart.
Mohamad’s brother, Mohamad Ali Albebbid, his wife and six children, joined the family in December of last year.
According to the International Institute of Minnesota, refugees go through the strictest form of security screening.
Jane Graupman, executive director, said refugees are screened by the FBI, Homeland Security and other agencies.
“The process takes at least two years for all those security clearances, so folks are very well vetted,” said Graupman.
Minnesota is preparing to accept another wave of refugees this year, mainly from Burma and Somalia, according to Graupman.
She predicts there could be more refugee families from Syria on their way.
“Any community that is new here, it is always a transition. And the people that are the pioneers that come first, really have to form a community,” Graupman said.
There’s now a new photo to add to the family album. A cell phone picture of the two beaming families at the Mall of America.