Time passes so quickly. Even when life feels like it is going very slowly, we look back at a certain point, and we realize that it was all just the blink of an eye. Last week was the anniversary of my father’s death. He has been gone for three years now. It hasn’t been easy at all. When we were in Eastern Ghouta we were hungry, deprived of necessities and oppressed. Then, after we moved to the capital, Damascus, we continued to live in fear and humiliation, and when we left the country, we risked our lives by sea to reach Europe, and eventually Switzerland.
Although my internal scars – the ones I’ve suffered during five years of bloody civil war – never fully allow me to enjoy my new life, I do acknowledge that my life in this country has significantly improved as of late.
My mother risked everything to allow us to live normal lives in a place free of daily violence. When I look back, I find it hard to comprehend the amount of fear and misery we lived with, and the amount of patience and strength we demonstrated. My mother kept us strong. She gathered us around her and provided us with the support we needed. She is the reason we survived.
Losing a father is one of the hardest things a person can go through. I still cry every time I think of him. He was our shelter, our protection and our safety. And although my mother has done her best to provide us with the safety and protection we need, my father’s presence will always be missed. No one could ever fill the void he has left in my soul. For me, mothers are a source of love, but fathers are a source of safety – no one side can take the place of the other.
I do not know why I insist on looking back when I promised myself I would not, but thinking of my father has made me remember all the details of the past five years. When I think about what has happened to us, especially in the three years since my father died, I find it hard to believe that my siblings and I have managed to start over, despite all of the physical, mental and emotional destruction that we witnessed.
Apparently the Syrian crisis could not destroy us, and perhaps it has even strengthened us. I sometimes wonder whether it was only because of my mother that we managed to survive, or whether it was the love, the strength and the principles on which we were raised that sustained us. My father was a part of that as well. He provided us with the tools we needed to overcome the challenges we faced – he surrounded us with love and stability. It was not all because of my mother. Rather, it was something that both of my parents established within us. It is true that we feel weak sometimes, and that we stumble and fall, but we will always get back up again, stronger and more determined than ever.
I look back at what I have accomplished in just the past few months. After five years of war, I’ve managed to move to Switzerland, to marry, and very soon I will become a mother. Above all of that, I feel that I do not want to limit myself to being merely a wife and a mother. I have to continue with my studies because I have dreams and plans for things outside the kitchen or the house. I know that I must keep working on myself. I must become stronger and tougher. Life is full of surprises, as we Syrians now well know, and I should be prepared for them. Education is what will give me the tools to face any challenges that come. I am working hard at learning German, because it is the first step toward real security. At some point, I thought that being married would provide me with safety, but I’ve realized that marriage is just one little piece, and I need to work hard on the other pieces by myself – and I will do that.
When I think of my parents and how much strength they gave us, I wonder if I will be able to give the same strength to my child, especially when I am so far away from my home country that I miss so much. I guess only time will provide me with an answer.