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

Just Posted

CatVideoFest makes its way back to Victoria

A curation of favourite cat videos will be featured on the big screen, all to support cats

UPDATED: Indigenous youth occupy B.C. Legislature steps amidst court injunction

Police negotiating with people gathered in support of some of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

Two Scout leaders found near Sooke

The pair went missing Sunday afternoon

Hundreds of wax figures find new life in Saanich man’s home

Former director of Victoria’s Royal London Wax Museum still hopes to revive wax figure tourism

Greater Victoria has Canada’s sixth-highest ‘moving penalty’

Disparity between vacant/occupied units incentivizes renovictions and reduces mobility, researcher says

VIDEO: Illicit drug overdoses killed 981 in B.C. in 2019, down 38%

Chief coroner says figures were down about a third in the province’s fourth year of the opioid crisis

Michelle Obama: In Conversation in Victoria, March 31

Former First Lady hosted by Victoria Chamber for moderated event at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre

Kingfisher spa now open following early January fire

Owner Bill Brandes offered personal funds to minimize the impact of the situation on his employees.

Off-leash dogs could be a thing of the past on Saanich beaches

‘This isn’t about loving or hating dogs, it’s about finding the right balance’ councillor says

Cowichan Valley Regional District requests rainstorm, flood photos via online tool

Officials want to know more about how that type of event impacted the region as a whole.

VIDEO: B.C.’s seventh coronavirus patient at home in Fraser Health region

Canada in ‘containment’ as COVID-19 spreads in other countries

B.C. takes over another Retirement Concepts senior care home

Summerland facility latest to have administrator appointed

RCMP pull office from Wet’suwet’en territory, but hereditary chiefs still want patrols to end

Chief says temporary closure of field office not enough as Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute drags on

Prescription opioids getting B.C. addicts off ‘poisoned’ street drugs

Minister Judy Darcy says Abbotsford pilot project working

Most Read