As part of a collaboration between Syria Deeply and Rookie, we’re publishing the memoirs of a teenage girl living in the midst of Syria’s war. Marah, as she’s chosen to be known, lives in a city under siege. She was 15 years old when the uprising began. This is the fourth in her series of articles.
My new world can be described in a single word: unfamiliar. It has taken over my life. So many of the people I loved and who had once surrounded me are now gone. I am left alone, struggling to find my way. So here I am, with a crushed, frightened heart. My father, grandfather and grandmother have been snatched away. I remember my favorite uncle. I used to wait for his visits before he was killed by a shell. He was a funny man. Oh how I miss him!
In the past, my extended family would gather at our big house. Where are they now? This war tore us apart. Everyone left the city, which is now a ghost town. Both my aunts fled the bombing and the famine. One lives in Egypt, the other in Turkey. One of my uncles is in Lebanon and the rest managed to make their way to Libya. We were a family, now we are an entity that has been splintered into so many fragments that we’re impossible to reassemble.
My neighbors, my second family, have met a similar fate. I grew up in a small neighborhood, a different neighborhood than where we live now. As children, we played together. But many of them have fled the city. When I yearn to see them again I visit our old street, only to return home crying. It has become a desolate place. Everyone has been displaced by violence and fear. Everyone has left, including my girlfriends from school.
I miss everyone. Often, I call my cousin, who used to be my confidante, and my friend Hanin, who shares my worries. But hearing their voices doesn’t satisfy my yearning to see them in front of me. I’m attached to the phone – it is my salvation from the darkness that shrouds my city. But the phone can’t put me in touch with those who have gone forever.
Even those who have remained in the city are permanently scarred. My loved ones are now strangers. My uncle is distant. My girlfriends have been overwhelmed by worry and sadness and we’ve lost our closeness. I am terribly lonely. I fluctuate between love for everyone and hate because they left the city to lead a better life elsewhere.
Now when I remember my loved ones, I get a sense of unease. They are part of a grand past, which I loved and still love even though it causes me pain to remember it. The present is a place ruled by blackness and a relentless, unforgiving unfamiliarity.