Seven years ago, Fadi Al-Masri, fled his native war-torn Syria with his family to Ireland and Laois.
Seven years later the refugee has opened a new pharmacy in Co Carlow and is proud to say he has made his home in Portlaoise.
Fadi, who is aged 34, opened his new pharmacy in Ballon in June a move which led to national attention thanks to a report on RTÉ.
The pharmacist and his family were one of the first Syrian families to seek refuge in Ireland back in 2014.
“We moved here and lived in the Mosney Accommodation Centre. At first we were nervous, we didn’t know what Ireland was like and what to expect. But the warm response we received settled us straight away,” he said.
He said life in that reception centre was a good start to his life in Ireland.
“Mosney was something incredible, I stayed friends with people from there. It was a good experience but there was also this fear- what is going to happen to us?” he said.
“The support we received not just from the Mosney workers but also from the community was great,” he said.
Eventually, the family moved to Laois because Portlaoise was chosen as a resettlement town for people who fled the conflict.
“I worked in some pharmacies around Portlaoise where they showed me the ropes- ‘here is the best place to order this product, here is how you do this here’. It helped me so much and I’m thankful for it.”
While Carlow has given him a professional opportunity Fadi and his family plan to stay in Laois simply because it's his home.
“Sometimes someone will ask me, ‘where are you from?’ and I will tell them, ‘Portlaoise'! The confusion on their face is something else”, Fadi laughed.
“My extended family are here in Portlaoise too and I’m happy to be here. When someone asks me where I am from, I will tell them Portlaoise, not Syria” he said.
As to why he chose Carlow the adopted Laois man says there was an opportunity.
“I saw that there was space for a pharmacy here. For 2,000 people the nearest pharmacy is Enniscorthy, it’s crazy. I worked in Carlow and would travel 2-3 times a week. When I familiarised myself with the area, I dreamed of opening a pharmacy here in Ballon,” he said.
Fadi is originally from Homs, Syria's third-largest city. He was running his own pharmacy when the uprising against Bashar al-Assad began in 2011.
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