“I become strong like that Syrian woman who is not bent by poverty, displacement or bereavement.” – Samah, Kiron Student
I’ll Do It My Way
THEY SAY “HOME IS WHERE OUR STORY BEGINS,” AND MINE STARTED IN FRIEDLAND CAMP IN GERMANY. IT WAS A COLD EARLY MORNING IN FRONT OF A SHACK MADE OF TIN, WHICH I LATER LEARNED IS CALLED A NISSENHÜTTE.
Chaos permeated the place. Too many cables lying everywhere, journalists, good-looking security men in their elegant uniforms who looked like they had stepped out of a Hollywood awards show, tall blond men in tuxedos walking and talking while pretty women ran breathlessly, holding notebooks and many other things! Later, I learned that some of these men were German VIPs, including the Minister of Interior Affairs and the Minister of Education. My eyes jumped from one thing to the next, trying to take it all in, but I couldn’t figure things out. I felt like I was watching one of those fl ashy, cheap Egyptian movies from the 1960s. Listening to the chaos and people talking in German made me even more panicked. I felt salty tears falling into my heart, but I stopped those tears from rolling down over my freezing cheeks.
My second day in Friedland Camp arrived after a sleepless and panicky night because of the trains that roared by all night long. No exit from this place and no place for me among thousands of refugees. There were 4,000 refugees at that time. All the corridors were full of refugees and the staff jumped over the sleeping people to reach their offices. We slept on the ground, under trees and in the cafeteria. How tiring. He was standing there smelling of aftershave.
He looked like a VIP, but not blond. The black hair and friendly smile encouraged me to go talk to him. It was just a few minutes, but they were enough to remind me of who I was before I was a refugee, fleeing and changing my destiny. He explained that the ministers were there to see the featureless shack and the old museum, and he told me about the new museum opening. I said to him, “Instead of showing people what happened in 1945, why don’t you show what is happening now?” He was polite and listened. He didn’t correct me. Then I heard myself talking and involving myself in his project as if I was part of it. It surprised me. When he left to join his people, the VIPs, I smiled sadly, remembering that I handed him my business card as if I hadn’t left home.
A wave of memories overwhelmed my soul, but there is no way back. I will never flee again, I promised myself. I stepped out of the tragedy of the war in my home – a war that made young people die fighting each other instead of fighting their enemies. I am here to live my culture of love, reconciliation and peace. It is my choice and life should be achieved, not waited for. This is the same old line I used on my students, lecturing over bent heads and now it was high time to stop preaching. My soul’s roadmap is clear and my destiny lies ahead. When my weakness makes my mouth salty and brings tears to my eyes, I take a deep breath and I can feel the patience of the women on the borders, near the check points, in the food lines, in that crowded small rubber boat holding their children and holding back their tears.
I am from Syria, the Lady of Thousands of Years, which is suffering from a crazy selfish and illogical war, where hearts, souls and minds have been and are being destroyed. Too many media headlines, UN reports, politician speeches, statistics, pros and cons activities for refugee, and the war mill is always harvesting the future or just mocking the children who were born in a plastic tent near the no-man’s-land or in a dark damp forest. In my home country, March brings spring, the most pleasant season and the time of rebirth, new beginnings and inspiration. German March was the same! The business card was the turning point because I now work for the Friedland Museum. I pay taxes and go to work. I was born again that spring and “I am doing life.”