Lana and Yara Oudat fled from Syria with their mother four years ago. As the civil war escalated there, the sisters discovered an unlikely source of solace here. Lacrosse.
Yara Oudat doesn’t need to look far on most game days. There, in the front row, she’ll find her mother, Lama, and her sister, Lana. She’ll hear them, too, screaming louder than anyone else at the University of the District of Columbia women’s lacrosse games.
Lama Oudat is still learning English, but she’s an expert in the phrase, “Go Yara!” and once mastered, “Go Lana!”
“She finds me before I find her,” said Yara Oudat, a 21-year-old defender for the Firebirds. “She also takes pictures of me every single game. It’s embarrassing.”
Lana Oudat, 24, remembers a time when her name was the subject of her mother’s chants. She was a midfielder for UDC before graduating last year. Unlike her sister, she found a way to enjoy the adulation.
“You know how some people, they don’t want their mom to scream so loud?” she said. “I don’t care. I love it. I feel support because she’s always there for you.”
Lama Oudat has been there every step of the way, but now it’s a new world. She’s no longer driving her daughters to basketball practice like she did when they were younger. Now, lacrosse is what strings this family together.
The Oudat family has been a mainstay in the UDC program for three seasons now. Win or lose — the Firebirds are 1-33 since debuting in 2014 — the Oudat family continues to take in the moment.
“Looking back at it, four years ago I would have never thought I’d be around these people doing this,” Yara Oudat said. “It makes me happy.”
It is hard to believe that just a few years — and some 5,800 miles — separate the Oudat family from a home under siege in Damascus, Syria. Now they call Washington, D.C., home. They live in a city far removed from their war-torn homeland, yet close in a geopolitical sense.
Yara, Lana and Lama now find solace in a sport virtually unknown to their friends and family. It’s a new start for the Oudat family, just as it is for UDC Coach Melynda Brown.
“Two women can come from really tragic backgrounds,” Brown said. “And you would never know it unless you really got to know them.”