Syrian native lets life speak for others


Families all over Fort Collins gathered together at the Heart of the Rockies Church to help raise money for Syrian Refugees with Radwan.Kalaaji.


Mohamad Radwan Kalaaji

Syrian refugee Mohamad Radwan Kalaaji has impacted lives all throughout America and his home country, he has touched lives here in Eaton. Kalaaji and his family lived in Aleppo, Syria from the day he was born until 1983. 

   Aleppo is one of the most devastated cities due to the war in Syria. Suffering constant bombings and chemical attacks. Kalaaji said he has only returned to Syria twice: Once in 1988 and a few months before the Arab Spring, a series of protests and demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa that erupted in 2010. Kalaaji said,  “I had no idea when I left that I had to say goodbye to my family, to the beautiful city and ancient ruins, to all the things I had there. I had no idea.”  Kalaaji graduated in 1977 with a degree in civil engineering from Aleppo University. He taught engineering at Aleppo University for six years, and became eligible for a PhD in civil engineering and water resources in the United States. He relocated to Sioux Falls, South Dakota with his family in 1983. Kalaaji made the decision to stay in America and live in Fort Collins with his wife and seven children. Kalaaji earned a master’s degree in civil engineering at Colorado State University. Kalaaji became an American citizen in 1998. 

   The Syrian civil war, also known as the Syrian crisis, is an ongoing conflict in Syria. Between forces of the Ba’ath government and forces who want to remove the government. The conflict began on March 15, 2011 when the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stopped growing peaceful protests throughout the country. He used tanks, attack helicopters, and artillery against the protesters and tortured and executed their children.Kalaaji said he could not stand aside and do nothing knowing citizens were being tortured and killed in Syria. To help raise money for the cause Kalaaji started baking traditional Syrian food and selling them. Kalaaji bakes baklavas and then collects donations from his visits to community centres, schools, libraries, universities, and other events in Fort Collins, informing America about the events taking place in Syria. Baklava is a rich, sweet dessert pastry made of layers of filo dough filled with sweetened chopped nuts and held together with syrup or honey. Kalaaji brought Eaton his famous baklavas when he came and informed last years juniors about Syria. Kalaaji said, “My income is very low but I can’t just sit there on the sidelines. What’s happening in Syria is real, it’s not a film.” All the income made goes straight to Syria or toward more cooking supplies for more meals. The money for Syria is sent to his niece Ayah, a doctor a hospital in Aleppo. Kalaaji said, “I will always carry on baking baklavas until Syria no longer needs them, and when anyone asks me how I make them so tasty, I just smile.”