Lina Shamoun has been "glued" to the news, like many Canadians.
As images surface from Ukraine, she relives her own family's decision to abandon their war-torn home.
"When I was six years old (during the Gulf War), I would hear the sirens; you would gather your stuff and go into a bomb shelter."
She recalled "playing marbles with boys until the fighting was over."
The award-winning stylist and owner of Artline Salon sat down with CityNews to share how her childhood experiences influenced and inspired her success, along with her humanitarianism.
"Have you ever watched the movie, The Book Thief? [Set during the Second World War], this little girl in Germany meets a boy; when they hear the sirens, and the bombing is about to start, they find shelter, but the little girl is entirely in her own world."
Shamoun identified with the girl in the movie.
"I remember the bombs and the shelters, and the sirens. But you just accept it as a kid as your reality - you don't think about it. [It was part] of being a kid in the Middle East."
Although she rarely saw her parents show anything but composure, the gripping uncertainty took hold of her carefree childhood.
"They're just surviving," she said, empathizing with the children of Ukraine.
At 14, she became a refugee from Iraq, immigrating to Canada in the late '90s with her parents and four younger siblings. Arriving in Canada, she observed that women could be anything they want.
"[I realized] the opportunities that women had, I could do something with my life here. Up until that point, I had no control of my life because I was just a young girl growing up in the Middle East," she told CityNews.
Today, the owner of Artline Studio in Belmont Village has spent the last 18 years representing Team Canada at the OMC Hair Olympics in Moscow, Chicago, Milan, Frankfurt, Seoul, and Paris. She has achieved two European Championships and the World Championship.
Shamoun, who began competing in high school, said she went from feeling like "nothing to something."
"The boost of confidence that I got when I started competing in high school made me feel like I was special."
Locally, she has been named Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and recognized as a K-W Oktoberfest Rogers Women of the Year (Entrepreneur).
And her experiences as a newcomer formed her desire to give back to the community through various charities, devoting time to the Business and Education Partnership Program of Waterloo Region, and speaking at local high schools about entrepreneurship. Currently, she has trained over 20 co-op students and nine apprentices, judges Skills Canada-Ontario competitions, and trains high school teachers to help students succeed in competitions.
In addition, she is the founder of an annual charity event called HairUnited.
"All the proceeds are donated to a children's organization of some sort. [Pre-COVID], we brought together 10 salons regionally in one night. And it ended up being such a cool event that people wanted to be a part of it."
And demonstrating her easy-going, yet laser-focused personality, she shares her glass-half-full perspective while rocking her newborn son, who slept in her arms during the entire interview.
“I appreciate where I come from, my values and my culture. But that's not the reason why I should be given an opportunity. I think it's all hard work and passion; ultimately, if you love what you do, I honestly don't think it matters who you are.
"[Being forced to leave your home] makes people stronger because you've seen the worst that humanity has to offer," she said.
"But [here in Waterloo Region], I have never felt anything but inclusion and support from the community."
Shamoun, who admitted she's always been a dreamer and an optimist, added she “believes in the quote, 'If it's meant to be, it's up to me.'
“And so, if anyone isn't going to give it to me, it's up to me to go get it.”