Rana, a 10-year-old from Aleppo, takes cares of her four younger siblings: Yousef, 8, Maher, 5, Rama, 4, and Ghaith, 2. Rana’s parents, Yasser and Wafaa, were killed by a barrel bomb dropped by government airplanes on October 24, 2014. That left Rana responsible for the upbringing and safekeeping of her younger siblings.
Rana and her siblings live in their house in Baedeen, a home consisting of an open courtyard and four rooms. The walls are riddled with holes as a the result of shrapnel sent flying during airstrikes. Rana spoke to Syria Deeply about her life since losing her parents.
Syria Deeply: How were your parents killed?
Rana: My parents headed out to the marketplace to buy a few things for the house at 9 a.m. They had instructed me to take care of my siblings until their return. Five minutes later I heard a loud explosion that shook our house. I thought of mom and dad. An hour later, our neighbor Abu Abdo came and told us that my parents had been hit by shrapnel caused by the explosive barrel dropped at the outskirts of my neighborhood. I couldn’t leave the house as my parents instructed me not to.
The only relative close by is my Aunt Hanaa. She lives in the al-Halak neighborhood, which is a 15-minute walk from our place. At noon my aunt showed up crying. She said that my mother and father had gone to heaven and are not coming back. I understood that they’d died. I couldn’t believe it. My siblings and I started crying, and when I asked my aunt to show me mom and dad, she said they had already been buried.
Syria Deeply: How did you spend the first few days after losing your parents?
Rana: The first night was extremely hard. I couldn’t stop crying or thinking about my parents. My brothers and sister were crying too, especially Ghaith, who couldn’t sleep because he was asking for my mother to breastfeed him. As the days went by, my siblings started to slowly forget my parents, especially since we stayed at my aunt’s in the beginning. I couldn’t forget my parents, not even for a moment. I wish my siblings and I would all die so we can be with my parents in heaven. I miss them a lot.
Syria Deeply: You mentioned that you were staying at your aunt’s house. Why did you return home?
Rana: My aunt hosted us the first week after my parents had died. I asked if we could go back home, but she refused, saying we’re too young to sleep by ourselves in our house. I asked because my aunt has seven children and her house is too small for all of us. We stayed there for another week, but I insisted that we go home, and my aunt conceded. She agreed to pass by us whenever she has the chance.
Syria Deeply: How do you manage to live here on your own?
Rana: The house was miserable when we returned. I saw ghosts everywhere and I used to cry at night because I was so frightened. I’m still scared so I closed up all the rooms. I’m very scared of the rooms I feel have ghosts in them. So my siblings and I eat and sleep in this one room. Every time I look at my parents’ portrait hanging on the wall, I feel safe. Our neighbor Abu Abdo also helps us and he hasn’t left us. He passes by every morning, buys us bread and brings us food his wife has cooked.
Syria Deeply: How do you live and manage to get food?
Rana: My aunt gives me 2,000 Syrian pounds a month and the neighbors give 3,000. The neighborhood council also gives us a food basket every month. I try to live off the money we’re given, but it barely covers the milk we buy for my youngest brother, Ghaith. Sometimes, Rama asks me to buy her biscuits, chocolates and chips, but I can’t because there isn’t enough money to go around. Our neighbor, Umm Abdo, cooks for us and sometimes my aunt when she visits, but I miss my mom’s cooking. I miss her a lot.
Syria Deeply: Who are these books for? Do you go to school?
Rana: A month after my parents died, Abu Abdo enrolled me and my brother Yousef in the school located in the al-Jameh area. The idea was to continue my education after it was disrupted after my parents died. I liked the idea, so I go to the morning classes and Yousef goes in the evening so we can take turns looking after our siblings. I went back to school to forget what has happened to me, but I can’t stop thinking about my parents. Their faces haunt me.
Syria Deeply: Tell me a little bit more about your parents.
Rana: I loved my parents. Dad used to promise us that we’d all go to Turkey where we wouldn’t hear the fighter jets and the sound of exploding barrels and rockets. We were hoping to go to amusement parks and zoos, but dad didn’t have enough money for us to go to Turkey. He had a small vegetable shop close by and didn’t make a lot of money. Mom always combed my hair and sang to me. She would tell me that one day, I would become a doctor. Now they are both gone and the dreams I had are lost forever.
Syria Deeply: Do you ever think about your future?
Rana: No one thinks about their future here. At any moment a barrel could drop and we would all be killed. My school teacher has asked the students many times to head to the basement when fighter jets are circling. Yesterday, a jet dropped [barrels] and 45 people from Baedeen were killed. All I think about now is how I am going to carry on without my parents and how my siblings are orphaned. Ghaith got sick after crying so much. My aunt took him to the hospital. They said he has jaundice. I’m very scared.
Syria Deeply: Where are your relatives? Did anyone offer to get you out of Syria?
Rana: My relatives live in another section of Aleppo. No one came to visit us after my parents died except my aunt. She visits every once in a while. My uncle came by yesterday after the shelling and took Rama and Maher to stay with him for a few days. I refuse to leave the house because I’m used to it. I see my parents everywhere I look. I am not more precious than my parents and I do not fear for myself. If I die, I would meet them in heaven. So why leave?
Photo Courtesy of AP Images