Boushra Dabbagh, Syria
It was midnight and the voices outside were louder than our voices inside. It was one of the dark days in Aleppo. We were frightened when Dad said that it was time to go! The time when our lives would change forever. We started packing our things, and I was talking to myself while packing, ‘’Soon I will be able to get away from here to relax in a place where I can feel safe without hearing any missiles or artillery,” I thought to myself, “a place where I open the tap to get water and turn on the light in the evening to study without spending hours trying to invent new ways to get some light. A new country to start a new journey to pursue my dream and follow my passion. I was stranded here and now it is time to go!’’
I bought a suitcase a few months ago preparing myself for a day like this. It might be small but it will fit my small essentials anyway. I will take my mother’s silk scarf which holds in its folds her odor that makes me feel safe, my father’s authentic pen to remember him every time I write something and to give me the power to hold on to my dreams, my brother’s coat which helps me feel his supportive arms around me, and of course I am not going to ruin the closet of my stylish little brother, I will just take his out of trend sunglasses, what else! I will definitely bless myself with my grandfather’s prayer beads and my uncle’s old wallet. From my aunts, I will take from everyone a small souvenir and I am not going to forget to bring the perfume bottles, the sweet earrings, and the fancy pens that they gave me on many occasions. I was trying not to leave any important things behind so I took my friend’s small gifts, my graduation project, and a heavy photo album with my precious memories, and my cactus which my beloved fiancée gave to me! To my surprise, I noticed that my suitcase was full and I still need to take my diary, and my favorite dresses, but my necessary clothes still hung in my closet! I sat thinking with tears in my eyes what can fit into my suitcase. If it fits my official papers it won’t fit my identity and humanity, and if it fits some of my beloved ones’ souvenirs, I have to choose among them, and what will fit won’t be enough!
I realized that my essentials are not only warm clothes to prevent me from the cold! It is the feelings that I feel with my loved ones, and it is not only official papers that prove that I am a human, or photos that shape my nostalgia and memories, or a passport that barely enables me to reach neighboring countries! It is my whole twenty-four years of life in one suitcase!
This is just one example of the important work produced by YaLa’s citizen journalists, a program funded by the European Union’s Peacebuilding Initiative in order to enable young leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa to document and share their experiences of the region.