UNHCR, refugees, iraqi,
L: Mona, Diana, Azaldeen, Kaj. Source: UNHCR/Max-Michel Kolijn

The brutality of war has forced this Iraqi family to give up their homes and memories. 

34-year-old Azaldeen Kadhem and his then-two-year-old daughter Diana felt it was time to leave Iraq and the war behind after the kidnapping and disappearance of Kadhem's wife back in Baghdad as it was an unsafe environment to raise his child. 

“There’s no peace for Diana in Iraq,” Kadhem told the UNHCR

One of the many countries to have opened its doors to refugees of wars is Finland. In 2015, Kadhem and his daughter moved to a little island named Nagu, in the Southwest region of Finland where around 100 other refugees settled as well.

Upon their arrival, they met 80-year-old Mona Hemmer, an active member of Nagu's community. 

Hemmer later became a grandmother-like figure to Diana, even having Kadhem calling her mother for the bond between them grew rapidly strong.

“Some people were worried about how the refugees would affect our small community."

Along with her partner Kaj, the Finnish couple took the two Iraqis in and helped them feel like home. 

Steadily, with the aid of Hemmer, young Diana was able to overcome the struggles she faced after the sudden loss her mother.

''She has grown incredibly fast and transformed from a very anxious child to a girl that communicates and relaxes,” Hemmer told the UNHCR

With a local community of 1,500 people out of the summer season, Nagu houses mostly fishermen and voyagers. 

“Some people were worried about how the refugees would affect our small community.

But most of all, we were curious. The Nagu people used to be voyagers, fishermen – they are curious about the unknown and different cultures. Instead of closing up with fear, we decided to welcome the families and children as our guests,” Hemmer explained

New home, new life

Kadhem immediately felt comfortable in Nagu and started learning Finnish, while other refugees sought to relocate to larger cities in Finland.

Diana, now turning four, is ready to start a new life after being given refugee status and residence permits with her father. She is now surrounded by a big loving family and community in Nagu.

“I don’t want to move Diana again now that we finally have found a big family here,” Kadhem says

“My family is Mona and Kaj and the others on Nagu.

Nagu is a good and loving place. This is our home now.”