The following was written as an assignment for a writer's group with the topic, 'Refugees.' Specific details such as locations may not be accurate but I hope the spirit of the piece comes through.
Entry #1. I was awakened in the middle of the night by men shouting and the sound of gunfire. I looked out my bedroom window and saw flashes of light off in the distance. Ummi pulled me away and told me to go waken my brother and help him dress. She says we are to leave for Turkey where we will be safe.
Entry #2. Ummi says I am responsible for the bag she packed for Khaled and myself. My brother is too young and too little to carry a bag of his own so we are to share the one. There’s not much in it. A blanket and some food. And my workbook and pencil. Ummi says I must practice my writing and maths. She says that when it’s safe to return to our village, I will go back to school. In the meantime, I must practice.
Entry #3. It has been four days and we’ve walked for miles. My feet ache. All we do is walk. Walk and walk and walk. I’m so very tired. I want to go home but with each day, home grows farther and farther away. Abbi says we will soon be at the border and there, there will be camps where we can rest. I pray we reach the border, soon.
Entry #4. There’s not much food left in our bags but Ummi says there is enough until we reach the border. At the border camps there will be food. I hope so. Ummi and Abbi didn’t eat supper last night. They don’t think I noticed but I did. They ate no supper so that Khaled and I could.
Entry #5. We reached the border today. I was so happy. At the first sight of the camps off in the distance, I felt invigorated. Even though my body ached from walking, I wanted to run toward those camps. Khaled did, too. I could feel his excitement as I tightly held his hand. I saw such relief in Ummi and Abbi’s faces. But the guards wouldn’t let us cross right away. There were others trying to cross, too. Other Syrians like us. Abbi says that we’ll be able to cross tomorrow. He says the guards can’t let everyone cross all at once. Khaled and I ate the last of the food in our bag at supper. Abbi and Ummi did not eat but tomorrow… Tomorrow there will be food for all of us.
Entry #6. I awoke with such excitement. Today was the day we were going to enter the refugee camp. Today was the day we were supposed to…
Entry #7. Yesterday, the border guards said they could allow only Khaled and me to enter the camp. They said there wasn’t room for Abbi and Ummi. They’d have to wait. Abbi begged the guards to let Ummi come with us. He pleaded with them, saying the children needed their mother. There were tears in his eyes. I’ve never seen Abbi cry before. Ummi sobbed. She held me close, crying so much my hair became wet from her tears. She kissed Khaled and me goodbye, saying everything would be okay and just before the guards pulled us away, she pressed her wedding ring into my hand and whispered in my ear to not let the guards see it. Abbi told us to say our daily prayers and told me to look after my baby brother. Khaled is my responsibility until we’re all reunited again.
Entry #8. The camp isn’t so bad, I suppose. We’re not the only children here without parents. Khaled tells me he’s lucky because even though Ummi and Abbi aren’t with us, he still has me. I held him close and kissed his cheek.
Entry #9. Today was my ninth birthday. I didn’t tell anyone at the camp and Khaled didn‘t realize. He’s only six. I pray Ummi and Abbi will be here when he turns seven.
Entry #10. The nights are so cold now. The people in charge gave us a blanket to share and we still have the one Ummi packed for us. Even with both blankets, we must sleep close together for warmth. There is no bed for us in the tent and the ground is very cold. Khaled keeps asking when spring will come but I don’t answer. How can I tell my brother that winter has only just begun?
Entry #11. A great many refugees arrived at the camp today. Khaled and I stood watching. Watching, hoping and praying that Ummi and Abbi would be among them but there was no trace of our parents. I told Khaled, next time.
Entry #12. I overheard a man from a nearby tent talking to his wife. He said he heard rumours that some of the refugees wanting to enter our camp were being trucked off to other camps. I pray Ummi and Abbi are not among them. I miss them.
Entry #13. Khaled misses Ummi and Abbi so much and cries every night now. He cries without making a sound but I can feel his little body shaking with each sob. I simply hold him to me, tightly.
Entry #14. I still have Ummi’s ring. I suppose she thought Khaled and I might need to sell it or trade it when we left this camp but I wonder…
Entry #15. I approached a guard today, asking if there was any way we might find Ummi and Abbi. I told him I could pay to help search. He laughed at me and told me to go look after my brother.
Entry #16. During the night when Khaled and I slept, someone came into our tent. I’m sure they were after Ummi’s ring but thankfully, it was not found.
Entry #17. Khaled and I will be leaving the camp soon, I am told. All children without parents or adult guardians are being taken somewhere else. Khaled is excited. An adventure, he says. I worry Ummi and Abbi will be unable to find us if we’re taken away.
Entry #18. Khaled and I will be leaving this camp very soon. We will be taken to Ankara to be processed for refugee status. They say that if we’re lucky, we might be going to Canada. I’m worried Canada will be even colder than here.
Entry #19. This will be my last entry for I am leaving this diary with a very kind lady who has looked out for Khaled and me. I have asked her to watch for Ummi and Abbi and to give them the diary when they eventually enter the camp and to tell them we are in Ankara or maybe even Canada. I pray we may find them soon.