Refugee family wins $1.5M after leaving wartorn Iraq

The decision to leave their war-torn homeland of Iraq for Canada has turned out to be a very profitable one for the Putrus family.

The West Windsor residents came here as refugees three years ago from Syria, where they had lived for a year after leaving their chaotic homeland.

On Monday the family suddenly became $1.5 million richer thanks to a half share of a $3 million Lotto 6/49 jackpot from Aug. 15.

“I was working outside in the garden and stuff and (my father) came and told me and I was just shocked,” said Faraj Putrus, 17, the son of Faiz Putrus, who purchased the winning ticket.

“I couldn’t imagine we won that kind of money.”

Faiz, whose name means “successful” or “victorious” in Arabic, speaks little English.

Faraj said his father bought the winning ticket at the Esso station at Tecumseh Road West and Northway Avenue, which is owned by Bradshaw Fuels.

His father learned of the win last Friday afternoon while buying gas at the same station.

“He just checked the ticket,” said Putrus, who has a brother Fadi, 14.

“He realized that he won that big money. He just stopped and he started looking at the girl that was working at the gas station. He was just shocked.”

Faiz then drove home and broke the news to his son in the front yard. They then went inside to tell the family’s mother, Alamm Azer.

“Everyone was shocked in the family,” said Faraj.

“We couldn’t even believe it, but it happened.”

The family drove to Toronto on Saturday to stay with an aunt, who has lived in Canada for 17 years, until the Ontario Lottery and Gaming prize office opened Monday morning.

Faiz showed up right when the doors opened at 9 a.m.

“It took about three hours to get the money,” said Faraj.

The family celebrated with a dinner at Mandarin restaurant, a Chinese buffet.

Faiz plans to continue working as a granite designer at Granite Design Works for now but plans to start his own small business in the future, Faraj said.

“He told his boss he won that kind of money and he took a vacation,” Faraj said.

The family is also planning to buy a new, larger house and possibly rent out the modest bungalow they currently own.

The family, who are Christian Chaldean, lived in Baghdad in 2008 when they travelled to Syria to say goodbye to an aunt who was leaving to claim refugee status in Canada.

The situation in Baghdad was chaotic and violent.

“Killing, robbing, and our house got on fire,” said Faraj.

While the family was in Syria, they received word from Baghdad that the family home had burned to the ground, and everything was lost. It was then they decided not to return, and would follow the aunt to Canada.

“We didn’t stop our life,” Faraj said. “We kept on going until we came to Canada as refugees.”

Faraj said the family likes Windsor and plans to stay here.

Asked if the move to Canada has worked out well for the family, Faraj replied: “Yes. Very well.

“There is no dangers in our lives, so we feel happy.”

Father Faiz chips in with a few words of English: “It’s a nice country.”

Story by The Windsor Star