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A displaced mother’s tale of survival

Listen to the letter here

 

Dear World, 

This is not a love letter; this is my story. 

I was an only child and had a happy family; my dad used to be a mechanic with a decent income, and my mom was the most fantastic chef in the world! She kept a small garden where she grew parsley, mint, thyme, tomatoes and cucumbers. She would refuse to buy any herbs from the market, and only used what she grew. 

I was 10 years old when I had my first encounter with death. Soon enough, I would find that it wouldn’t be my last or worst experience. My father passed away when he was sleeping. He went to bed and just never woke up again. He left this world peacefully, just as he lived his life. He was loved by everyone and would always go out of his way to make people happy. 

Things changed after my father’s death. My mother fell ill soon after; I think her soul and heart gave up on life. She couldn’t move and just stayed in bed all day. Back then, my uncle from my father’s side lived in a different city and used to visit us once a week. He would bring us groceries, check up on us for a little while and then travel back home. This went on for three months. But soon after, he started visiting us less frequently, and once every two weeks turned into once every month, and after that we stopped seeing him. 

Things quickly went downhill after that. Once, we even stayed for two whole weeks without food, electricity or water. We were really starving. Thank God we owned the house, otherwise, we would have been thrown in the streets as we definitely couldn’t afford rent! 

When I was 11 years old and fatherless, I stopped going to school and started roaming the streets collecting plastic bottles and soda cans. I would sell them at the end of the day, similarly to many other children, mostly boys. They were mean to me, and would hit me to steal all of the plastic I had collected. During those days I wouldn’t eat, but I still hoped for a better future.   

This went on  for two years, until death revisited us again. This time, it was my mother. She had grown old and fragile in the two years since my father’s death.  Towards the end, she stopped eating and her body just gave out. Three days after my mother’s death, my uncle came to visit us with a friend of his and his son, and he simply told me to go with the son. Just like that, I was married at thirteen and living with a stranger in a village I did not know... but at least I stopped collecting plastic bottles and soda cans in the streets... 

My husband was nice to me. He was gentle and loving, and I spent the happiest ten years of my life with him... Then, the war started, and just like that, in the blink of an eye, my husband was gone. Barely a week after his passing, our whole village was destroyed by bombings. This sent my five children and I on a horrible, exhausting, and lengthy journey of displacement with just one suitcase. Over the years, we lived in 5 different displacement camps; and would spend on average 3 to 5 months in each camp. Then, the camp would be bombed and we would somehow miraculously survive and begin our search for a safe place again.  As we traveled, we had to cross dangerous checkpoints, sleep in the wild, and even eat boiled tree leaves, but we survived! 

It's been three years now since we were first displaced, and we have finally found a safe place in the displacement camp where we currently reside. When we first arrived here, we didn’t have a place to stay and slept in a tent that I made from discarded plastic sheets and some tree branches during the first week. After that, the camp management gave us a small caravan to live in. I was so happy and relieved, especially for my children who had been through so much! We had a small stove, with all of the basics. We also received food baskets, blankets, and new clothes from local organizations working there.  

Still, the moment that made me happiest was when my children started going to the school in the camp. It gave me more free time, and I felt like now I could focus on being a good mother rather than just survive. There was a center in the camp that provided psychosocial support and parental awareness sessions. There, I found myself again, and now, I have the chance to support my children and guide them through life’s challenges and towards a brighter future that, hopefully, they will build on themselves. 

My bad experiences were not the end of my journey; they were just the stepping stones to a better future that I slowly but surely built, for myself and my children. 

 

Yours sincerely, 

 

A former child bride and a mother