“We tend not to express our pain,” said Sarah. “We were raised to think that such behavior would make us look weak and pitiful.”Sarah (not her real name) is visiting her family home in Damascus, drinking coffee on the balcony with a view of the Qasioun mountain.
Now in her thirties, Sarah was forced to leave Syria to protect her two children Ali, eight, and Leila, seven, from the effects of the war. But she travels back every once in a while to visit her homeland, even though every time she returns she feels despair and pain.
“When I hear the sound of shells falling, I fear for my two children, and I would never forgive myself if anything happens to them. I do not have a choice; the father of my children divorced me… He insisted we moved back to Damascus so he could relinquish his responsibilities as a father. Damascus is safe, he said,” Sarah continued. But then bombs fell in her neighbourhood.
“No one from my family is left in Syria with the exception of my father,” she continued. “Even my father has forsaken me, and refuses to help me raise my two children. It is painful to return to my family house and find no one there. Each corner of the house reminds me of a memory or story. I can even hear the echo of their voices in the house. It’s painful to hear the sounds of bombardment with no one around to make sure I seek shelter. No one here worries about my safety. No one here can warn me to stay away from windows. The emotional void of being alone in this house is really painful.”.But Sarah is determined not to give in to despair. Despite her pain and misfortune, she has never given up on her dreams.
Sarah is now enrolled in a master’s programme in Lebanon. Everyone at the faculty is very helpful, understanding that she has to go through a lot to be able to learn. She has to work, take care of her children and her house in addition to studying.
She spends any spare time working on activities to support women and children, and she describes her progress as successful.Sarah concluded, “One day, I will say it was not easy, but I made it.”
Lana Saleh, 30, from Damascus, is a journalist focusing on women’s and children’s issues.