This is my first Christmas in the UK. My family and I only arrived here one month ago, just as celebrations for the festive season were beginning.

It’s a difficult time to settle in a new country. And, as beautiful as the UK is, I am not here for a holiday.

I am here because I can’t go back to my lovely home country of Syria. I had to leave because of the war that is raging there.

It should be a joyous time of year, but if you are fleeing one country to another, leaving your home through fear of death, then it is completely different.

This is why I can’t feel the happiness in any other country or get excited to discover the UK or take part in the festive celebrations.

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I am 31 and have four boys, aged between two and eight years old. It’s been seven years since I left my home country of Syria.

Since then I haven’t been able to feel real happiness, even if this is meant to be a special time to celebrate with my family and the country we now live in.

Christmas in Syria is not unlike that in the UK. I remember there being many decorated places, shops and markets. The streets were full of lights and there were lots of Christmas trees.

When I was a small girl, I used to go to the markets with my family to see Santa giving presents and candies to children.

On the last day of the year, we prepared some delicious Syrian food such as tabbouleh, kubba (a dough made of bulgur and meat) and we’d eat desserts like cakes and qatayef (a pancake made with semolina instead of flour).

Then we would watch TV and see how every other country was celebrating the New Year. It’s a lovely memory.

For now, I can’t think about planning how to enjoy the holidays.

We are trying our best to settle as soon as we can so our children will feel more comfortable.

It should be a joyous time of year, but if you are fleeing one country to another, leaving your home through fear of death, then it is completely different.

Seven years ago when we left Syria, we moved to Saudi Arabia where my family lives.

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But we had to leave Saudi Arabia after my husband’s employer went out of business, meaning his visa employment ended. We would have had to return to Syria had we not been able to come to the UK.

Moving from Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, after nearly a year and a half of waiting for my husband to get a residence permit in the UK was a big change for my children.

They miss the lovely city where they grew up with their grandparents, their school and their friends.

Now my four little boys have found themselves in the UK, which is completely different.

They are living with a different language, different house, different schools with different courses and it’s rare to meet somebody speaking Arabic like them.

After only two weeks attending school, Christmas celebrations began.

They were surprised as it’s new for them because they were born in Saudi Arabia where there are no celebrations for Christmas.

But yes, it’s a big gift that we are together as one family now for Christmas.

Last year we had such difficult days because my husband was in the UK without a job, hoping to be granted refugee status.

I had to wait for him alone with my four boys and take that responsibility by myself for the first time.

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It was a really difficult time for me, it was like a nightmare. I can’t believe today that at last we are now with my husband because we waited for a year and three months to be together.

It was a long time, especially for the children. They missed their daddy a lot. Thank God, after all that, we are together.

After all our separations, I hope the war will end in our country soon and the peace will come back so we’ll be able to go back home and then all the Syrian people’s suffering will end. And we’ll build our country again, so it will be more beautiful than it was.

This year we were invited by community group Elmbridge CAN to attend a Christmas lunch with other refugees.

I think it will be lovely to share Christmas lunch with those who have gone through something similar as my family and I. It will be good to hear the stories of each refugee, how they fled the war and how they’re settling in the UK.

It will be nice to know and help each other because we are suffering the same problems.

And we will remember the beautiful celebrations for Christmas in our country, Syria.

Ghina’s new home was found through Refugees at Home, who hosted her husband, Anas, for a year before the family was reunited.

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