Twice a refugee

Amira is 61 years old, each wrinkle on her face reflecting a sorrow, a heartbreak. Amira had a normal life in Syria not that long ago; she was happily married with six children before the Syrian Civil War came and tore apart her country and her family.

When a rocket exploded outside her family’s apartment in Aleppo, Amira’s husband went to help the injured. A second rocket exploded, killing her beloved husband and father of her children.

The next year Amira’s son died during a missile attack where people were waiting for water. To add sorrow to sorrow, soon another son would die, leaving behind his wife and four orphan children.

The following year the husband of Amira’s newly-married daughter was killed, leaving behind another orphan, a daughter who has meningitis.

2016 brought an intensified bombing campaign of eastern Aleppo, and with it untold pain, suffering and misery. The UN’s humanitarian chief warned that eastern Aleppo was being turned into “one giant graveyard” as the rebel-held area was being overrun. During this nightmare, Amira’s grandchild, the fourth child of her widowed daughter, was injured when a bomb blast threw her against a wall, smashing her skull.

So Amira left Aleppo through an established safe corridor to Idlib, hoping to recover from the horrors she has lived through. But in September and October of 2017, the hospitals where she had been taking her grandchildren for treatment were bombed. In early 2018, the fighting in Idlib and Afrin displaced thousands more and she decided to join the thousands of Syrians willing to risk their lives to reach Turkey.

Amira arrived in our city on the first of February with her family of 12: herself, a daughter with an injured child; her disabled son, his wife, and their daughter with meningitis; her youngest son, aged 13; and her widowed daughter-in-law with four kids, the youngest with a damaged skull. She moved in temporarily with her sister in a clean but over-crowded abode in a crime-infested slum area.

We met brave Amira one week after her arrival. Her brother lives here in Turkey; an injured man in immense pain with part of his head badly damaged. Amira just wants to find a safe haven for her remaining family, far from the sounds of war. You see the deep insecurity in her children, having fled Aleppo in 2016, and now, a year or so later, having to run for their lives again from Idlib. It is hard to imagine what these children must be going through, living in war zones for most of their lives and having to move twice already while still so young.

It seemed beyond our totally volunteer team’s capability to adopt a new refugee family, with our limited resources and so many other families to assist. Yet how could we not help them and try to take them under our wings?

An angel from abroad sent us $1000 to secure housing for Amira. A friend from the UK gave a generous gift for the mothers to purchase new clothes. We returned the next day with clothes for all the children, courtesy of a local Foreign Woman’s Club. Other friends went on a crusade to gather as many household items as they could.

Fast forward three weeks. They now have a new house in a better part of town, with a green area nearby where the children can play. Recently we did our second delivery of household items. The Foreign Women’s Club delivered two carloads and a truck of aid and we gave a nice bed and mattress from our former home.

We were also able to register them all to get their ID cards –in a single day! For those who work with refugees, you know that this process can take weeks and at times even months. The authorities bent over backwards to help us do this. We are in regular communication with the police here about our work with the refugees. We often enter neighborhoods that even the police usually do not enter. Our good relations with the authorities have paid off as they have been a big help to us.

Seeing Amira and her family’s utter joy as we delivered the different donations was such a reward. In a matter of three weeks I personally went from feeling overwhelmed to an overwhelming happiness in seeing how our donors in the West have once again risen up to the occasion to help others.

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