A restaurant in Turin called Zenobia is managed by a family of Syrian refugees who want to promote integration.

A restaurant run by a family of Syrian refugees called Zenobia, after the third-century queen of the Palmyrene Empire, was inaugurated on July 7 in Turin. The family fled Syria through humanitarian corridors and has opened the restaurant, which offers Syrian and Lebanese cuisine.

Walaa Makawi, 25, is from Homs. Her family includes her parents, two brothers and three sisters. "It was beautiful to live in Syria," she told ANSA. Walaa graduated in physics before the war. After that, "everything became extremely dangerous. We witnessed very difficult times." 

Walaa's mother was a housewife and her father a mechanic, but in 2007, he moved to Malaysia for two years to run a restaurant. After that experience he moved back to Syria.

"We all studied before the war but we had to leave everything behind: our home, our friends, our life," she narrated. In 2015, the Makawi family fled to Lebanon and moved in with an aunt. Walaa's brothers completed their studies but "life was difficult and my father was unable to find a job," Walaa said.

Through Facebook, the family discovered Rome-based Catholic charity Community of Sant'Egidio, the Valdensian Church and humanitarian corridors. "We contacted them, organized a few meetings and they decided to take us to Turin," she said. The Makawi family arrived in Italy on May 5, 2016.

A job for independence and a future

The initial period in Italy was difficult. "We needed help for healthcare and to pay the rent," Walaa said. Now the family wants to become independent by earning money. "Our dream was to open a restaurant and today we have succeeded... We all work together [at the restaurant]. We are the only ones running it. We all attended the course for the Haccp certification", Walaa said, referring to the food safety management procedures and hygiene regulations.

She herself works as a waitress - "a wonderful experience and so far clients have appreciated our food very much," she says.The restaurant offers typical dishes from Syrian and Lebanese cuisine and the family is dreaming about opening other restaurants in Milan and Venice. "We have met many people, Italians, but also Syrians, from Aleppo, Damascus. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet people," Walaa said.

Refugees who arrive in Italy "receive economic aid from the government and associations to survive but there is a saying in Arabic - the sea is endless, money ends," she stressed. Walaa wants to stay in Italy. "People are nice here, they respect us. They never made me feel like a foreigner," she concluded.

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