Refugees Who Had Their World Taken Away
Issue 106 Fiction Poetry Nonfiction Art + Photography Film Music Books For Creators more
 Lyn Lifshin
arrow_drop_down
 Lyn Lifshin
Refugees Who Had Their World Taken Away
by Lyn Lifshin  FollowFollow
arrow_drop_down
I am addicted to ballet and ballroom-- so its not odd that two recent books are BALLET MADONNAS and out yesterday BALLROOM-- 300pages for only...read more dollars form March St Press I'm a workaholic tring to take a wildly different break maybe Spain, maybe some place in New England where nothing is as you'd suppose like a new coming book ALL THE PEOTS (MOSTLY) WHO HAVE TOUCHED ME,LIVING AND DEAD: ALL TRUE, ESP THE LIES is what I hope people believe of my poems in spite of the blurbs
More work by Lyn Lifshin:
Refugees Who Had Their World Taken Away
1546 1 1 0shareShare
Share:

Refugees Who Had Their World Taken Away

LIFE IN ALEPPO

 

a day without bombs,

is good. You can 

leave your apart-

ment, wander thru

small oasis of color

and light. No words,

only the sense of 

loss. No color except 

for an plot of green

and one plum tree,

not turned to drift

wood. One man who

has not left, says you

must live on the lower

floors to try to escape

airstrikes, shells, rockets,

phosphorous bombs, 

cluster bombs. Dreams 

blend with nightmares,

ghosts rise from the ruins.

Stark white bones litter

the streets. No more 

dancing, no more violins.

No flamingos or pelicans.

Terror blooms under a

blue moon. When a small

bomb lands on top of 

a building, it often takes out

just the top 2 or 3 stories.

Lately Basha al-Assad and

the Russian military have

been using a new kind of

bomb that demolishes the

whole building. People 

stay out of any rooms near

the street. There’s no electricity.

Families rarely leave the apart-

ment, prefer to die together

 

 

 photo 621968546.jpg

 

THE LAST GARDEN IN ALEPPO

 

this small oasis of color and life

as cluster bombs, barrel

bombs, missiles rain on houses,

hospitals, schools in this 

hazardous, unpredictable place,

a gardener was able to grow

flowers, vegetables, broad

leaved plants. Roses, gardenias,

bougainvillea. The gardener’s

whole existence dedicated 

to the beauty of life, a small

courageous attempt to promote

peace. Dust and smoke blur 

the stars, the watered ferns and

lilies in the shadows. Shivering

thru the raids, dreaming of 

his dead wife until eventually a

barrel bomb lands near his

garden, kills him, his dream that

the “essence of the world is a

flower,” the color, smell, how it

can inspire. But in the time 

since his death, Aleppo seems

mostly defined  by another 

floral attribute: fragility

 

 

going crazy photo gty_syria_children_14_jc_160912.jpg

 

THE CHILDREN

 

in Aleppo have to stay

off the streets or they’ll

be killed. Their parents 

listen for sounds of war,

planes or shells, or cluster

bombs. “We try to live like

underground rodents,” one

father says. There are some

underground schools but 

many parents find them 

too risky. Some families 

who live close to the school

let their children go if its 

not too long a walk, one man

opened a school called al 

Hikma which means wisdom

 

 

syrian woman photo 635935893308602209-02n120815.jpg

 

IN ALEPPO  

 

if you have a car

you’ll have a hard 

time getting gas 

for it. If you’re

hoping to keep it

from being blown 

up or damaged 

by shrapnel, you

might store it in

an empty garage or

shop. Open the 

windows too. Other 

wise the glass may

crack from the pressure

of bombs exploding

 

 

syrian boy on tank photo A-Syrian-Kurdish-boy-sits-on-a-destroyed-tank-in-the-Syrian-town-of-Kobane-on-March-27-2015.-ISIS-fighters-were-driven-out-of-Kobane-on-January-26-by-Kurdish-and-allied-forces.-.jpg

 

LISTENING FOR SCOUTING PLANES

 

they sound different from

fighter jets on bombing

runs. The scouts fly lower

and they make a constant 

buzzing sound. If you hear

them, you’ll know that shells

will be falling soon, bringing

death  with them. If you go 

outside make sure you don’t

end up in a group of more

than 20 people one man says

or you might attract a plane. 

Scouting  runs are especially

dangerous in summer when

there aren’t any clouds to 

obscure pilots’ vision. But 

they’re also bad on clear 

days in winter. Going out at

night is especially risky because

you can’t see planes coming over

head and you have to drive with

out headlights. One man said 

he suddenly felt pressure in 

his ears and the windows of his

car cracked. It was an air strike

less than 100 meters behind him, 

reminding him he was still alive

 

 

bombardment photo 150522151129-30-syria-timeline-restricted-super-169.jpg

 

WHEN THE BOMBARDMENT IS AT ITS WORST

 

you start to worry you

might lose more of your

friends, call them to 

check in. If you see them,

when you say goodbye,

you tell them “take care 

of yourself. Maybe I 

won’t see you

again”

 

 

after bombs photo 161222215917-14-syrian-civil-war-super-169.jpg

 

IT’S EASY TO LOSE YOUR MIND IN ALEPPO

 

you might go one day

to look for food and come

back to find your building

is destroyed and your 

family killed. People stand

in front of bombed out

buildings screaming and

crying in disbelief. More and

more people have lost 

their homes and now are 

living on the streets asking for

money. Before the war, they

never imagined they would

be beggars. Even people who 

still have their houses, struggle

to cope. One man killed him

self with a machine gun 

after another died. He shot

himself in the chest. Tho

more common in the west, in

Syria it is very rare. In Islam,

suicide is a terrible sin

 

 

exodus from syria photo 1-syria-civil-war-a-border-between-humanity-and-disaster-andi.jpg

 

ALEPPO

 

if you are not killed,

your next worry is

food. Now many

don’t have enough

money to buy any

thing to eat. There 

aren’t any jobs so

every neighborhood 

has young volunteers

whose responsibility     

is to get food and

other supplies. Families

that still have a father

are lucky. His mission 

is to get food and 

other supplies

every day

 

 

crazy world photo syrian-refugees4.jpg

 

MAYBE YOU’LL TRY TO GROW VEGETABLES IN YOUR GARDEN

 

some grow eggplant,

parsley and mint. Many

gardens have become burial

grounds because there                  

isn’t room anywhere else 

to bury dead bodies after

four years of war. But 

if the alternative is starving

to death, you might not mind

eating food that’s been grown

among corpses

 

 

ONE MAN SAID PRAY YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL

 

they’re absolutely

miserable. I don’t

know how the doctors

and nurses can stand 

all the blood, bones 

and bowels all over 

the floor. The smell is

awful. Patients who 

can’t leave are constantly

 screaming in pain. This 

man says, “several 

weeks ago I was shot

in the hand by a sniper

and I have some broken

bones. So I go to the

hospital once a week to

change my bandages. 

I can’t bear to be there

more than half an 

hour.” 

 

 

 photo 1113syrianrefugees.jpg

 

EVERGREEN, PEARS, TEREBINTH,  HAZELNUTS, ROSES, MAQUIS, ROSEMARY

 

in the last garden of Aleppo. For 

resistance, not remembrance.

The gardener, father of the flowers,

and his son. He thinks of the garden

as music. One flower was hit by 

shrapnel but it is still alive. Some 

buy plants and scatter them around

the city. Many leave freshly cut flowers

around the ruins. Then a bomb landed

near the garden and killed the gardener.

His son is lost. He doesn’t know what

to do. The chameleons are dust. To live 

here is to live with grief. But in time 

he will remember how his father 

described the cycle of life. This one dies

but another grows. It is the beauty

from god

 

 

 photo maxresdefault_1.jpg

 

IF PEOPLE ONLY KNEW HOW BEAUTIFUL ALLEPO WAS

 

the most beautiful

buildings reduced

to rubble. The lost

houses, the lost

flowers. You get 

used to the bombs.

One man, 53, says

he’s seen enough.

He doesn’t want

to get to 60

 

 

Aleppo pre war photo 3844-Beit-Salaheih-courtyard-lighting-51-1443358222.jpg

 

ALEPPO, A WORLD HERITAGE SITE

 

the camera was the

worst enemy. One poet

whose whole family was 

killed sings to the pigeons.

My heart is broken, my

eyes can’t sleep. Fly away

and reassure me. Tell me

about yourself. Don’t 

forget the beautiful words

 

 

Aleppo beauty photo show_a82ffb19-a78b-47c6-bf9a-f78d2bff91be.jpg

 

IN ALEPPO, A HAVEN OF BEAUTY

 

in the middle of

hell on earth. But

it was more than 

the jade abundance

and the brilliant 

colors that made it

an oasis of tranquility

and repose for those

who chose to stay

in Aleppo or can’t

leave. Barley wind 

from Yarmook River.

Abu Ward, whose name

means “father of the 

flowers,” fought to

preserve beauty in the 

rubble of what has 

been from the 

last remaining garden 

center in the once

bustling liberated area

of Aleppo. “My place 

is worth billions of 

dollars,” he told 

a video journalist, “it

soothes like Mozart.”

 

 

 photo 161213141219-pre-war-aleppo-1-exlarge-169.jpg

 

LATER AS THE GARDENER GENTLY TOUCHED A FEW GREEN  LEAVES  

 

growing out of

the top of an              

otherwise barren

stick of a tree. 
“This one was hit

by shrapnel but

it is alive. The tree

will live and we

will live.” The 

essence of 

the world is

a flower

 

Aleppo garden photo aleppo_garden.jpg__1500x670_q85_crop_subsampling-2.jpg

 

ABDULLAH, HELPING WITH THE FOOD SHORTAGE

 

runs a small garden

on a blasted out 

patch of ground

that was at one 

point attacked by a

bomb dropped by

a helicopter leaving

3 people dead. After

the bomb attacked

the patch of ground

he started planting 

tomatoes, peppers,

potatoes, Middle East

grain. He says his 250

square feet of produce

is his way of saying

he won’t be brought

down by terror. “My

garden,” he says, “is a

message to the Assad

regime and those who

support it. We will stay

in our city even if they

bomb it to smithereens,

we will resist no matter

how long their siege lasts”

 

 

 photo 479b88755435411db9bc835b72fb8aed_18.jpg

 

SYRIAN BOY

 

cries for Dad

after losing

both legs in

a blast. “Pick

me up Daddy,”

he cries “pick 

me up, pick

me up”

 

 

Bekaa Valley photo Zahle2.jpg

 

BEKAA VALLEY, LEBANON

 

ramshackle tents,

children playing

in garbage. Young

boys and girls, 

nephews, nieces,

huddled together

on the tent floor.

In the dry dust and 

wind of dead roses

the tents catch on

fire. Refugees from

Syria’s civil war wait

for something to

change but nothing

does. No jobs, no 

hope. Flamingos in

rubble. Crying babies.

Men staring into space

most days. One stays

hungry when the 

man doesn’t work

 

 

fleeing photo article-2216721-15781833000005DC-210_634x398.jpg

 

ONE FAMILY HAS BAD FEELINGS FOR THE NUMBER SEVEN

 

one man says his brother

was disappeared on the 7th 

of April. Another brother

on September 7th. A fellow

government employer was

taken, tortured and electrocuted,

his family got the corpse back 

on the 7th day of the 7th month

 

 

 photo Syrians-24059083_1.jpg

 

ISRAELIS HELP GERMAN AID WORK WITH SYRIAN REFUGEES

 

after taking the dangerous

journey from war torn Syria

to Berlin, refugees are  

surprised to be greeted by 

professionals from the Israeli

Trauma Coalition. One man 

says the long scar on his left 

cheek is not very heroic—it

was from barbed wire on the

Macedonia-Serbia border. 

He’s 29 years old but the marks

of exhaustion on his face are

from someone much older. 

11 years ago he started working

for the Red Cross then protests

were banned. “Every Friday 

we’d go to the mosque and after

prayers we’d start rioting and

protesting. Hidden among the 

masses we could protest in 

relative security until Asad’s

people starting planting  under-

cover agents in the rallies to

identify the protesters and

arrest them. Soon the noose 

tightened so they paid a smuggler 

who hid them in a car and took

them to Beirut, then he got 

to Greece, then Turkey where 

they left from Izmir on a small

boat with 40 other refugees. 
It was so small they weren’t

allowed to sneeze because any

small movement could have

flipped the boat and cause every

one to drown

 

 

In Germany photo 19225158_303.jpg

 

ONCE IN GERMANY

 

the refugees are

treated for trauma. 

Israelis know a lot

about trauma and 

how to treat it be-

cause of the terrorism

in their own country

and organizations

that treat Holocaust 

survivors. Politically

this is an interesting

experiment: Israelis 

are coming to aid

refugees from enemy

countries on German soil

 

 photo syrian refugee woman jordan.jpg

 

SURREAL  

 

helping the trauma

victims among the 

Israeli professionals

is Vivian Reuflinger

in the settlement Oranit 

where Mohammed, a

Palestinian social worker

who moved from Qalgilya

to Berlin 4 years ago and

is now helping refugees.

In the past, Vivian and

Mohammed were on

opposite sides of the 

conflict and hadn’t come in

contact with each other. 
Now, she’s instructing one

how to help Syrian refugees 

deal with the ache of war.

“I have nothing against the

Israelis, I accept all people,”
he says during a coffee break

as a way for two people on

two different sides of a

conflict, to say “ hello” when

they meet far from the conflict

zone”

 

 

 photo 25038542.jpg

 

IN THE TRAUMA CENTER POLITICS IS SWEPT ASIDE

 

dozens of children raised

in the belief that Israel is

as bad as Satan are receiving

life saving treatments at Ziv

Medical Center in Safed after

escaping the pain and suffering

of civil war in Syria. “I was 

afraid of the Jews, but now I’m

not afraid at all,” says a ten 

year old boy whose hands were

saved by Israeli doctors

 

 

 photo 2AE8846100000578-3179916-image-m-58_1438260520096.jpg

 

THE REFUGEES FROM SYRIA

 

have been thru three

life shattering experiences.

the war, the journey which

is often horrendous and

immigration which is

considered one of the most

difficult experiences

of a person’s life

 

 

 photo syrian-refugees-greece.jpg

 

IN THE REFUGEE CENTER

 

the food is halal,

adhere to Islam’s

dietary laws. But 

many of the refugees

have grown tired of 

Islam, with some

often seeing it as one

of the reasons for

their situation. Many 

even let their children

eat local gummy bears

even tho they contain

gelatin produced from

pig’s meat. “God,” they

believe, “is looking the

other way”

 

 

THE REFUGEE HILTON

 

there are signs in

English and Arabic

all over the building.

Small windows are

decorated with small

German flags, leaving

no doubt as to what 

country the refugees

want to live in. Jugs 

with drinking water

are everywhere while

large rats run around

the trash cans outside

enjoying the piles of

left over food

 

 

ONE OF THE BUILDING'S FLOORS IN A REFUGEE CENTER

 

has a room strictly

for women designed

by female refugees

using donated fabrics.

In large bags they can

find knitting needles

and balls of wool. On 

the table are bottles

of nail polish to give

the women some link

to their old lives

 

 

 photo c7245fcdf1313fa54e6d2408c6afc59e3d1c74c6.jpg

 

AT THE GERMAN REFUGEE CENTER

 

the Israeli therapist

finds the exercises

awaken many demons.

No one knows in weeks

she will go back to Israel

to work with Holocaust

survivors. “Coming in

contact with the German

street, the accent and

the buildings is not easy

for me,” one woman 

would say later. “Berlin

is not my favorite tourist

destination. But working

in the center is like being

in a  bubble encompassing

past, present and future.

Here I can do what was 

not done for my family

and my patients—perhaps

minimize the trauma, 

silence and pain that are

passed down with the

generations

 

 

THERE ARE MANY CULTURAL GAPS BETWEEN THE REFUGEES AND THE AUTHORITIES

 

the refugees are frustrated by

the fact that the Germans don’t

understand what they went thru

and their response is not always

the right one. The Germans 

misinterpret the refugees’ action.

They think if they are yelling, then

they are displaying violence or

aggression but this is pain. A therapist

says “we who came from the Middle

East understand this emotionality better 

than the Europeans. Our work is   

that of Tikkum Olam (the Jewish concept

of repairing the world) a way of coming full 

circle nights the refugees huddle under flannel,

listen to night birds unlike any they’ve 

heard in cities they hate to see torn

to rubble in streets they don’t expect to

see again or listen in their old beds

to the sound of mulberries thru 

where once those leaves

were a magical, mysterious

 

 

 photo arsal-syrian-refugees-lebanon-4.jpg

 

WE DON’T SEE POLITICS

 

we meet people all over

the globe whose world

was taken away from them.

Everywhere similar stories

of sorrow and pain. Every

where young women 

weep for those sunny 

afternoons sipping dark 

coffee under the shade of

Terebinth branches.

In all these places, therapists

committed to dealing

with crisis.  They leave politics

out of it. Some say it is

the Israelis who understand 

pain well. Here there 

are no “us” and “them”

only what we do together

 

 

bunk beds photo ShowImage.ashx.jpeg

 

THERE IS A CLOSENESS

 

You understand the area

and the history one

woman says. This is

a sort of tikkun because

we’re doing something good

for them. There are people

who have never seen Israelis

so we’re doing a kind of PR. 

In their wildest dreams they

didn’t think they’d be sitting

next to an Israeli.”

 

 

SYRIA TV ALWAYS SHOWS THE ISRAELIS STEALING LAND

 

murdering Palestinians, poisoning

the water. One man says, “but when

I meet Israelis here I see they are

humans. There are many countries

that choose to remain silent seeing

the horrors in Syria. Israelis not only

help the wounded in Syria but they 

also help us here.” “Perhaps,” a young

man who fled Damascus says, “the 

world is not such a rotten place.”

 

 

In Canada photo bwrefugees115.jpg.size.xxlarge.promo.jpg

 

SYRIAN REFUGEES IN CANADA’S NORTH

 

it’s not warm in weather, 

but in emotions. In communities

such as Yellow Knife the 

temperature can sink to -40, a

dramatic change for refugees 

who had never experienced

anything like it. 

After a rocket hit his sister’s 

house and killed his brother 

and nephew, Mustafa knew

he had to leave Syria. He says,

“I was not expecting to end up

in the kind of place where snow

blankets the ground for months 

at a time and temperatures drop

to -40. As refugees from Lebanon, 

the family took courses to prepare

for the move to Canada. They were

warned it would be cold but just    

how cold would depend on where

they ended up. When they arrived

in Yellow Knife that was a surprise.

Within hours, Mustafa, his wife and

four children were taken on a 

shopping expedition to stock up

on winter gear. The trip was the final

detail in the carefully planned operation

to bring the family to Yellow Knife 

as privately sponsored refugees. They

arrive in Canada, stopping in Montreal. 

“Don’t go to White Horse,” they were 

warned. Not many people and it’s freezing.”

Soon after getting there however the family

realized there was little truth to what 

they had been told. “People were so good

to us. Yes, the cold is really cold. Luckily

even the cars have heat.” They saw Northern

lights for the first time and were thrilled.

“Here it’s not warm in weather but 

warm in emotion and feelings.”

 

 

 photo canada-syria-migrants.jpg

 

SYRIAN REFUGEE GIVES BIRTH IN CANADA 

 

secretly entering labor en route

Ibtesam Alkarnake had already

started the hard 24 hour journey

from a temporary home in Jordan 

to asylum in Canada when her water

broke. Nearly six years after they 

fled the war in Syria, safety seemed 

finally in reach as the family made 

their way to northern Alberta to 

begin new lives as privately sponsored

refugees. Dreams of  dates and barley,

roses in the dust of bombs, plum

wind from the Yarmouk River still in

her dreams, Alkarnake said nothing,

enduring hours of discomfort in silence

as they made stopovers in Frankfurt

and Calgary. When the family landed 

in Fort McMurry she posed for pictures,

trading hugs and smiling at the dozens 

who showed up at the airport to greet

the city’s newest residents. Only when

the family was she taken to their new

home did she reveal to one of the 

sponsors, she was about to give birth

and just hours later her son Eyad was 

born at a local hospital, a month early, 

making, for the whole town, a memory

magical as the print a leaf makes 

in amber or stone

0 comments

Discussion

There are no comments yet...
 

Join Red Fez

Start your adventure

By signing up you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.
Already a member? Log in

Log in

Continue your adventures