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Here's What Canadian Winter Looks Like Through The Eyes Of A Syrian Refugee

Hani Al Moulia and his family arrived in Regina from a refugee camp. They just experienced their first Canadian winter.

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Hani Al Moulia fled Syria in 2012 with his parents, four brothers, and sister. They were living in a refugee camp in Lebanon when Al Moulia, who is legally blind, enrolled in a photography course offered by the UN Refugee Agency. Armed with a camera, he documented life in the camp in a photo series that was later featured by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. The Al Moulia family arrived in Regina, Saskatchewan in 2015, and BuzzFeed Canada commissioned him to document his first winter.

Here's what a Canadian winter looks like through his eyes and words.

Hani Al Moulia

We were along a highway near Regina and I saw this amazing sky with the snow. We never saw a snow at this time of year in Syria. We'd get snow for one week — not for like six months! This is really funny to me.

Hani Al Moulia

We went skating for the first time at a rink in downtown Regina. I fell a lot of times. In the picture it's great to see all those people from around the world sharing a traditional Canadian way of fun.

Hani Al Moulia

Here's my sister Lina, 19, enjoying her first skating experience. Back at home it would have been embarrassing for her to go out and skate and fall in front of everyone. In Canada she can try whatever she wants and not worry about it.

Hani Al Moulia

This is my friend Mohisen, from India. He read about me and contacted me because he's interested in photography, too. He's been in Canada for five or six months, so it's also his first winter. Like me, he's building a new future here, and has hope again.

Hani Al Moulia

I used to have a horse in Syria. A friend had a farm with horses and one day he said one of them was mine to take care of. The smell of this horse in Regina brought back all the memories. In Syria we treated Arabian horses like they were our children.

Hani Al Moulia

My brother Ashraf, 5, is the same age as the revolution in Syria. He's never been to school. In the refugee camp he didn't get to do the things that kids do. Now we're in a peaceful place and he's doing the stuff he wants to do, like drawing and painting.

Hani Al Moulia

Akram, 10, and I stepped onto the ice and he started skating circles around me. He used to dream of becoming a footballer. Now it's hockey. "You're still young and hockey here is a big thing," I told him. "Maybe you can do something with it."

Hani Al Moulia

After playing hockey, we got into the car with my father. Akram was tired but he had a look of passion in his eyes. You can see how proud my father is that Akram is taking on a new challenge and doing so well.

Hani Al Moulia

My mother was talking to someone back in the refugee camp over WhatsApp and my father was looking at himself in the mirror. This photo is a contrast between our life here and our life back in the camp, and what the future might hold.

Hani Al Moulia

I worked for UNICEF as a drama teacher in the refugee camp, helping kids and adults express themselves. Here I'm trying it with Ashraf. As a result of the war, he gets frightened from loud sounds. So we're try to combat this with music and drama. I took this photo using a remote shutter that I controlled with my phone. I'm holding it in my right hand, just out of the frame.

Hani Al Moulia

This is a spot high up in a building in Regina. As soon as we saw this view we all said how it reminds us of Homs, Syria, where we were born. There was a building there where you'd see the same view at night.

Hani Al Moulia

A love of football is in our blood. My father wants to start a team here for Syrians who want to play. We go out for football whenever the weather is good — only now we call it "soccer."

Hani Al Moulia

Mohammed used to live in the same neighbourhood as us in Homs. But we only met him when we came to Regina. It's his second winter here, but he told me he "still hasn't gotten used to this atmosphere." He talks a lot about the old times in Syria.

Hani Al Moulia

Muhammad was a mechanic and he owned his own garage in Homs. He says he used to go out a lot at night. It was tough to see him sitting like this without anyone around, in the cold snow. The cold is not just on the outside; it's inside as well.

Hani Al Moulia

We went for a walk with Muhammad in the park. "We have never seen this," said my brother Hussein. "Everything is white." He didn't have a warm jacket like Muhammad.

Hani Al Moulia

My father takes Akram out to skate whenever he can, especially on the weekends. He stays with him so Akram won't feel alone. With summer coming he will get back to soccer, but maybe we can find a private rink for him to skate on, too.

Hani Al Moulia

This is my family sledding for the first time. People helped us by sharing their sleds because we didn't bring any of our own. There was so much snow and happiness, and it was a very multicultural community of people. I was happy to see everyone together.

Hani Al Moulia

This is my family in Wascana Centre before the snow came. For me it shows how we've gone through everything together — our life in Syria, the refugee camp, the hardship and suffering. Now we're here with a new challenge and we are still together.

Hani Al Moulia

I'm hoping now, after all of I've been through, to continue with photography as a freelancer or photojournalist, like my teacher Brendan Bannon. I also want help people express themselves as much as I can, because I believe it's very important.

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