02 Jul Gabriela’s story, Refugee from Columbia
My father was a wealthy and influential politician; he was assassinated in 2008. One man was arrested for his murder, but my brother started gathering evidence that implicated many other powerful politicians. On the day of the funeral, members of their paramilitary group came to our house. They told us to stay quiet about the circumstances surrounding my father’s death.
The group started threatening us on a regular basis. I would change my phone number, but they would find me again. I moved at least 12 times, trying to escape them. They ransacked my house, even when my children and I were at home. One day my teenage son was walking home from school, and two of the paramilitary men stopped him. “Tell your mom to be quiet and remind her how her dad died. We’re watching you.” I changed his school immediately.
We remained in hiding for years. But one day I went to visit my mother’s house. We were confronted by two paramilitaries on a motorcycle. They threatened us, and beat both my husband and me with a weapon. We left Columbia one week later and never went back. A few days after we left, they burned my mom’s house down.
We traveled north by bus. I would never wish crossing the Mexican border to anyone, but we had no choice. We crossed a river into America, with my baby on my husband’s shoulders – the current was so strong that I thought we would be swept away. When we finally arrived in America, we were detained in prison. We were separated as a family, maltreated by guards, and I got an infection from not changing my clothes. You can’t imagine what we’ve been through.
I will never forget the day I arrived at New Hope. I had been wearing the same clothes for 6 days and I thought that God had forgotten me. But then I arrived here and saw beds for my family, and toys for my children, and food in the cupboards. I cried tears of joy for the blessing I found here.
Our refugee claim was accepted in June 2020, and we will become permanent residents in Canada. Thank you to everyone who has prayed for me and helped me and my family to start our new life in Canada.