Courage and Compassion: Tara's Story

Until the age of 13, I couldn’t imagine anyone having a happier childhood; there were no hurdles I saw as insurmountable. I had goals of one day working for NASA and never dreamed that anything might stand in the way of that. However, after the Iranian Revolution shocked the world and reshaped the country, all of this changed.

Five years after the initial revolution, I truly came to realize that there was no room for an outspoken person, let alone an outspoken woman in Iran; it became imperative that I leave. With only the bare essentials on my back, I fled the country on foot first to Turkey where I boarded a plane to Malaysia, from which I flew to Singapore to Hong Kong, and finally touched down in Vancouver.

After a series of legal proceedings and a court ruling, my refugee status was approved in 1986: I was safe. Under this status, there was little that I was permitted to do, but there are even fewer things that can stop me when I have my mind set on a goal. Wanting to improve my English and having missed the deadline for classes at various learning centres, I requested an audience with the principal at Western Canada High School and made my case: I would teach math for free in the library if I could sit in on some classes. My tenacity was embraced: I found a new normal in the walls of this Calgary high school. There was comfort in returning to the familiarity of academia; by then, I had already graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physics with a minor in pure math.

All alone at age 19 in an unfamiliar country, it would have been easy for me to despair, but instead I found myself inundated with appreciation for all that Canada could offer. I never lost sight of the bigger picture. It was the only way I could move forward without tripping on the roots I had planted in Iran; some days those tendrils were stronger than others, but I was more resilient than they would ever be.

While I fled Iran alone, I did not remain as such for long. Internet access facilitated contact with loved ones who stayed behind and newfound friendships soon developed. Above all else though, it was the kindness of a uniquely compassionate teacher who grounded me in this new life. Mrs. Linda Robinson acted as a second mother when I needed one most; she offered assistance with a gentle smile and a generous heart.

Years passed and I grew into adulthood:

1991 brought with it full citizenship and a new sense of security.

1993 was the year that I married Matthew.

1995 welcomed my son to the world.

1996 was the year my parents joined me in Canada.

1998 presented me with a second bachelor’s degree in communications.

A well-established Canadian by then, I sat back in 2006 and thought about my life: what I had done and what I hoped to explore next. Though my current job afforded me a wonderful life I loved, it left no legacy - I wanted to do more. Thinking back to the impact that Linda Robinson left on me, I pursued a bachelor’s degree in education with the aspiration to inspire in others what Linda had sparked in me. It wasn’t easy to both study and work full-time, but I had fine-tuned the ability to step back to see the bigger picture from my early years in Canada.

Just as I excelled in other aspects of my life, I shone as a teacher. Aiming to inspire as well as instruct, it was important that I be as kind and compassionate an educator as possible. I continue to teach today, working toward instilling a new generation with both confidence and a passion for learning.

Though I hold no regrets for the decisions that crafted the life I have today, it is impossible to fully surrender all scraps of nostalgia. I sometimes look back with a smile at the life I had when I was young, at the distinct and all-encompassing sense of community and kinship in Iran, and will occasionally think back to the basketball medals I left hanging in my room when I fled.

Despite these slivers of wistfulness that remain, I would have it no other way. I want it known that being here is a gift and that I am absolutely grateful for the life that Canada has afforded me.

Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity

This story is a collaborative effort between Skye Baxter and Tara Momeni

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