PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Imad and Remonda’s love story has spanned several decades and thousands of miles.
The Syrian couple is back together now thanks to help from Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden.
Imad and Remonda haven’t been able to physically see each other for about 10 years. She was stuck in Syria while Imad has been in the US.
“She is the love of my life, you know,” Imad said.
Imad came to America in the early 1990s to create a better life for his family. He became a citizen in 2000 and worked in LA, saving up money to open a market with his cousin.
He was able to visit Syria up until 2006, but he lost his business during the economic collapse, his heart began to fail and ISIS started cutting a path of destruction across the county.
The Catholic mother and her son, who is a priest, were still in Syria and began to fear for their lives. Christians are persecuted by ISIS in Syria.
“My wife prays a lot,” Imad said. “She has been always going to church and praying.”
Remonda’s 23 applications for a visa were all denied.
Imad says hearing about the atrocities in Syria brings tears to his eyes.
“Very, very stressful. When I see such things or how a Jordanian pilot was burned alive and about 150 Christian children were burnt alive as well in a cage, that made me go to the hospital right away with severe chest pain,” Imad said.
While Imad was in the hospital having heart surgery, he met Merkley’s wife, Mary, who asked if he had anyone with him at the hospital.
“I told her ‘I don’t’ have anybody. Only the lord if he likes. He might come and be with me, but I think he’s busy in Syria so,'” he said, laughing.
Mary Merkley got the ball rolling on a renewed visa attempt and the senators helped secure visas for Remonda and her son.
When Remonda arrived at the airport — her first time flying — Imad was finally able to do something he had always wanted to do — give his wife a dozen roses.
“She just arrived here and now she is in a shock when she arrived here. The beauty of the country, the green. Everything is organized,” Imad said. “All the order, people are respectful and thank you and things like this. That brought tears to her eyes.”
Imad is relieved to have his wife and son in Oregon now, and Remonda, who used to be a teacher, wants to share her experience with others.
Imad says Remonda wants to write her story, but he jokes that she needs to study the language first.
“I would like to learn how to drive a car and study English,” Remonda said.
“I love it when she laughs,” Imad said. “She has a very pure heart.”
Editor’s note: Imad and Remonda asked to keep their last name private because of the instability and persecution that continues in Syria due to ISIS and outside forces.