When my country is fine, I will also be fine

Haya was eleven years old when war broke out in Aleppo. What is it like to grow up in times like these? Can a child be a child in such conditions? Haya tells of her experiences during the years of war and how closely her emotional well-being is tied to the state of her homeland.

von Haya Hafez

Portrait of Haya Hafez at a school party in Germany. Berlin 2016. Photo: Candy

My name is Haya. I lived through a war that never knew mercy. I will tell you what my mind went through.

War has turned me into another person. I have grown up quickly. Time has become really short. Every day has become equal to an hour, and every hour has been similar the other. Every year, I would wait for the next one, and I did not realize that these years count that they add up to my age. I have forgotten to live. Everyone has changed. My father has turned grey-haired and my mother has grown old. My older brother has become a man so suddenly. War steals the most beautiful moments of ours. How cruel and horrific this word “War” is. It carries a meaning much bigger than its three letters. [1]

I am still a teenager, but I have experienced and learned things that have never been known by most people my age. I have learned strength by carrying water home after running out of it. I have learned courage by going to school while shells and missiles were pouring down. I have learned to live without when I desired a piece of clothing, but could not buy it. I have also learned that faith shakes mountains after passing the ninth grade by the light of a candle. I have gotten to know the value of life, and how human beings fear its loss: when gunfire starts, everyone hides. I have learned that loss is not only for material things like money, but is a boy losing his brother or a mother losing her son. I have learned that deprivation is not the mere fact that I do not possess the newest phone, nor it is not having the most up-to-date style of clothes. Deprivation is represented in a family not being able to purchase a loaf of bread.

And how many times I have seen things not known to everyone: I have seen a man crying because he does not have enough money to feed his family. I have seen children lost without their mothers. I have seen blood, sorrow and tears.

And after months and days, the war passes through while we learn more and stay in pain. Suddenly, I started to get used to war. Everything started to seem natural, and I realized that war was an element of my life. How cruel it is to adapt to seeing blood and witnessing violence. How painful it is for a heart to turn into a rock and for emotions to disappear. Every day, more deaths fall and more destruction happens. Every day is a new shock and new material and human losses. Victims became mere numbers: 20, 30 or 40. Death has lost its meaning, and human’s humanity was lost.

These words do not only represent me, but represent my entire generation. This suffering is not only mine but everyone’s. How wishful I am to see the day when my country becomes just fine. And when my country is fine, I will also be fine.



[1] The word “War” in Arabic consists of three letters too.

Haya Hafez, born in 2000, grew up and went to school in Aleppo. In December 2015 she and her family legally moved to Germany with the help of the Flüchtlingspaten Syrien e.V. association. To begin with she attended a welcome class and is now in Year 10 with the intention of completing the Abitur examinations.

Translated from the Arabic by Marwan Safarjalani.