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Syrian Diary, Part 16 – My First Day at University

Marah, a teenage girl from one of Syria’s besieged cities, shares her stories of life in the war. She recently moved to Damascus to continue her education, deciding to focus her college studies on prosthetics. She hopes to help heal the injured in her country’s conflict.

Written by Marah Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes

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.

Today I’m writing about my first day at university, at a special session in the prostheses institution where I now study. The professor asked us to observe the amputation of a leg – that is, those who could bear the sight of it. I was among those who volunteered to watch the amputation. I don’t know what drove me to do this. Maybe it was an act of rashness or rebellion? Or was it out of curiosity and the love of knowledge? I don’t know. The time came for the amputation, and the doctor positioned the leg before us. My hands and legs were shaking and my heart was beating too fast. I blacked out, although I looked awake. The whole procedure happened, but it’s as though I didn’t see any of it – I don’t remember how it was done, although I was standing right there with my eyes open.

The doctor praised me for hanging in there and not stepping back, and he told me that with time I will get used to it. But the truth is I don’t want to ever get used to it. The funny yet sad part of the story is that the other students revered me for witnessing the amputation. They started asking me questions about it, but I was blank. My body had been there, but my mind and senses were far away, like the scattered body parts and blood in my war-torn town. I remembered my friend who disappeared suddenly, and my father whose limbs were scattered, and the many disabled people in my hometown – they all came before my eyes and blinded them.

I fear that I might have chosen the wrong field of study, because it requires a strong and healthy heart that has no pain. But my heart is full of probably untreatable pain, so will I be able to go on? I don’t know. Am I brave or a coward? Sick or normal? I don’t know. I just know that I want to live in peace.

Nobody around me knew what happened to me, and I couldn’t tell anyone how I felt. I held back despite my desperate need to reveal my pain. I wished I could cry and shout, but I chose to remain silent. I went home to my bed, where I’m used to drowning myself with tears of hurt and anger; I thought and thought, and I still don’t have a logical explanation for what happened. To stare at something without seeing it at all – maybe it was because I forced my eyes to see something they refused to see, so my brain blocked my vision. I really am astonished. I truly hope I can forget. I left my hometown hoping to forget all the injustices and horrors I went through, but it seems impossible to let go. I always remember the past. Although I always try to ignore the past, both sweet and bitter, I always fail.

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