well-placed gratitude

A few years ago, I wrote some little fictional blurbs trying to explore the reality of life as a refugee, specifically an Iraqi in Syria at the height of the crisis. In this one, a teenage boy who fled Iraq with his family and took on the role of man-of-the-house, interacts with a representative of a humanitarian organisation who has provided them with with some very simple bits of help.

Thank you, 9 September 2008

Ahlan wa Sahlan. Welcome. Tafadal, Tafadal, Make yourself at home.”
“Thank you.”
“What can I bring you? Tea? Water? Cola?”
“Oh, nothing, thank you. This is just a short visit.”
“You honour us with your presence today.”
“We just wanted to visit to find out how you’re coming along. It’s just a routine visit.”
“No, no, you are very welcome in our home. What you have done for us is something amazing. My sister is so thrilled with the hairstyling course she is taking. We’re really hoping that next year she will be able to get a job at the salon down the street. That will make such a difference.”
“Yes? Are you able to pay your rent on just your salary?”
“Oh, no. My mother works, too. And my sisters help her take in sewing projects. The sewing projects make very little but at least it’s something. But even then, you know… It’s not enough. We keep trying.”
“You have been here a year and a half, yes?”
“We left our home in Iraq on 17 March 2007.”
“Have you lived in this house the whole time?”
“No. This is our third house in that time. But the rent is much better than in the previous two houses so things are better now.”
“Have you been in the neighbourhood of Masaken Barzeh since you arrived?”
“Yes. My mother has a cousin who lives here, and she helped us when we first came.”
“What about your father? He is back in Iraq?”
“No. He died. In a car bomb.”
Allah Yarhamhu. May God have mercy on his soul.”
“Thank you.”
“So, according to our papers, you live with your mother, your grandmother, two sisters and a brother.”
“That’s correct.”
“And you’re the oldest?”
“How old are you?”
“That’s a lot of responsibility.”
“I don’t think about it.”
Allah Ya’atik al Afia. May God give you strength.”
“And you too.”
“So tell us, what can we do for you?”
“You are the first people who have helped us at all. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Like I said, my sister is very happy with her course. And we appreciate the fans you gave us, as this has been a very hot summer. And the vouchers for heating fuel and blankets, last winter was very difficult. But more than anything, I think finally knowing that someone cares, that someone is trying to help. That’s what we really needed.”

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