Sahar Haghjoo and her daughter Elsa Jadidi are seen in this handout photo. (Habib Haghjoo/Contributed)

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

Habib Haghjoo’s girls are returning home.

The bodies of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, will land in Toronto on Saturday, Haghjoo said of his daughter and granddaughter who were on the Ukrainian flight that was shot down by Iran forces earlier this month.

“It’s going to break me badly,” he said through tears. “I know my heart is going to bleed inside, but I will be strong. I’ll do my best.”

The pair’s remains were identified last weekend, he said, and Sahar Haghjoo’s husband, Siamak Jadidi, resisted the Iranian government’s repeated requests to bury them in Iran.

“We think the minimum right is to have my kids close to me and my family,” Habib Haghjoo said.

The Iranian government relented, he said.

Habib Haghjoo spoke to his daughter nearly every day, even texting with her while the pair was on the doomed plane waiting for take off. She sent a selfie. Both mother and daughter were smiling — Elsa wearing a pink sparkly shirt, Sahar in a yellow and grey hijab.

Time has stopped for Habib Haghjoo since the plane crashed on Jan. 8. He can’t escape thoughts of his “girls,” as he calls them. The only reprieve comes at the pool of the local Y, where he swims 500 metres every day.

Little things trip him up — he cannot stand using the past tense when talking about them.

“I don’t say they did, I say they do,” he said. “I want to believe they are with me, but are just far away.”

Habib Haghjoo and his wife left Iran in 1987 and moved to Ireland where he began working as a computer programmer. Sahar — the couple’s third daughter — was just five years old when they left their home country. Her younger sister would soon be born in Ireland.

READ MORE: UBC grad and sister killed in Iran plane crash had bright futures ahead, close friend says

One day while waiting for a meeting in Dublin, Habib Haghjoo decided to visit the Canadian Embassy. Inside he found a copy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“I read it and sort of fell in love,” he said. “Probably that’s a land I can raise my kids and family better.”

So he applied for a visa and two years, in 1991, they moved to Toronto. Canada was in the middle of a recession that year, and Habib Haghjoo had thought he made a mistake. But his wife implored him to stay.

So they stayed, settling in Richmond Hill, Ont.

That’s where Sahar met and became friends with Mina Mozaffarian, who is the principal of Wali ul Asr, an Islamic school in east Toronto that Elsa attended.

“I’m still in disbelief,” Mozaffarian said. “She (Elsa) was incredibly bright…She was one of our best readers.”

Elsa’s grandfather, like any proud relative, said she was going places.

“We say she’ll be a minister, if not prime minister,” Habib Haghjoo said.

Elsa was the couple’s only child, but Sahar had recently confided in Mozaffarian that she wanted another child.

The school is struggling to cope with the loss, but a drawing by Elsa has helped soothe the pain and ease the difficulty of discussing her death with her classmates.

A few months ago, Elsa drew a picture of heaven. After she died, a photo of the artwork began making the rounds at school.

It shows a beaming Elsa holding a large white poster with the words, in letters the colours of the rainbow, “Life in Heavin.”

She drew three mosques: one of the mosque of the prophet’s family, another with the words “Pray Salah” and the third that recognizes the Qur’an. Butterflies flutter near a palm tree with a bounty of coconuts. A creek flows along one edge. And a sun shines brightly on the entire scene.

“It does give people a little bit of comfort that she visualized something so wonderful that will be her reward to be in a good place,” Mozaffarian said.

The school’s director, Syed Adil, said the image has helped the students.

“It provides us an opportunity to talk with students to live your life and make sure you’re a source of kindness, just like Elsa,” he said.

Habib Haghjoo saw the artwork for the first time on Friday.

“I think both of them are laughing at us from Heaven,” he said.

The federal government has been good to Habib Haghjoo, he said, with Global Affairs calling daily with updates on their efforts to repatriate the remains of “his girls.”

“I never was as proud to be Canadian as I am today,” he said. “I love, love, love this frozen soil. The weather is bad, but I love it.”

He wants the entire country to come to the pair’s burials on Sunday, which begins at 10 a.m. at the Imam Mahdi Islamic Centre north of Toronto, because he says Canadians have been so kind to his family.

For his part, he is trying to remain positive despite believing “these beautiful souls were murdered.”

“This is their message,” he said. “Just look at another person as a human and love everyone.”

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Flight 752 crash in Iran

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP report woman arrested after ramming police cruiser

Suspect wanted for crimes allegedly committed in Kelowna, Salmon Arm and 100 Mile House

Axe throwing, road hockey among Salmon Arm food drive festivities

Fill the Pantry event wraps up on Monday, Feb. 17 with day of activities

Salvation Army’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser in Salmon Arm welcomes you

Make community connections while taking a walk and contributing to $35,000 goal

Letter: South Shuswap incorporation a foregone conclusion?

Writer overwhelmed with information at committee meeting

Snapshot: Valentine’s donations to Shuswap organizations

Shuswap SPCA, SAFE Society receive some love from SASCU Insurance

Kelowna’s Family YMCA opens doors on Family Day

The entire day was free for the community

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

South Okanagan woman reflects on prestigious win at Westminster dog show

“Polly” the Scottish deerhound was crowned best in breed and reserve best hound.

Wild weekend results in pair of losses for Salmon Arm Silverbacks

Away games ahead before Feb. 23 contest versus Cents at Shaw Centre

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

Sicamous Eagles’ playoff hopes dashed by Storm

Kamloops team wins 7-4 in Feb. 14 contest

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

Most Read