Violinist. Sister. Student.

Mariela Finds Refuge in the U.S.
Dream of Peace in Homeland Lingers

It was a hot summer afternoon on the road from Aleppo, Syria when the music changed for Mariela.

“They saw my violin case and they were afraid it was a gun,” the 24-year-old classical musician from the northern Syrian city explains, referring to soldiers at checkpoints the day she and a group of others fled Syria, wracked by a conflict now in its fifth year.

“We were ordered off the bus at each checkpoint and told to stand at the side of the road. They made me open my violin case each time, and they inspected it thoroughly, inside and out. Two days after we passed through, buses started being fired on. People I know were killed on this road.”

It was a terrifying, 17-hour journey. But Mariela, determined to escape the violence in her homeland to pursue her lifelong study of music in a safer place, made it to Beirut. She spent just one night there with friends before boarding a plane to the United States on July 15, 2013.

“I feel like it was here, in the United States, where I began my life,” Mariela says in fluent English, stressing her gratitude to the US government for giving her asylum and to groups like the Syrian Community Network that have eased her transition to life in her new country.

Mariela, who graduated from the Arabic Institute of Music in Aleppo in 2004, is continuing her music studies at Monmouth College in Illinois where she delivers classical music performances regularly as Concertmaster of Monmouth Orchestra. She will begin work on her master’s degree at DePaul University in the autumn.

Mariela describes talking with her mother on the phone recently and hearing the mortar explosions that damaged the neighboring apartment building. Not a day goes by when she does not fear for the lives of her parents and a brother who remain in Aleppo. She looks forward to the day when they are reunited.

But for the moment at least, her home away from home is in the United States.

“I feel very attached to America and I hope that one day I can bring back to Syria love and peace though my music,” Mariela says.

Catch Mariela performing LIVE at the Kennedy Center on June 20th in Washington, D.C. Learn more.

Refugees. Ordinary people living through extraordinary times. Share their stories.

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