Geography of Escape (1)

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Hi, have you been to Syria? I know, my home country is  #1 on the list of dangerous places on the planet, so you can’t go now and you shouldn’t. When cutting out this colourful refugee map from my shattered memories, I  tried to imagine Syria before it descended into infernal civil war. I heard my uncle speaking to me from the distance of several countries and he said: “Believe me, boy, Syria, and its cities in particular, were tolerant and peaceful places. Damascus and Aleppo, which are among the oldest, continuously inhabited cities on earth, used to attract visitors from all over the world. For ages and ages, various religions had been respected here. People of different faiths shared public spaces like coffee shops, art galleries, hammams, and you couldn’t tell who was Muslim or Christian, Sunni or Alawite, Kurdish or Arab. Families loved to be outdoors and had picknicks alongside ancient Roman ruins like Palmyra or close to The Crac de Chevaliers or in sight of the waterwheels of Hama. They cheerfully promenaded through souqs, buying ice creams or sweets at Damascus’ Souq al-Hamidiyya. Does that sound like paradise to you? It was, my boy, believe me! ” 

I listen to my uncle but I don’t remember such pleasures. My family is torn apart, in fact, my entire community has fled to safety. All those foreign countries I passed through, afterwards I could barely identify them, and mapping my escape from Syria was tiresome. But now I am proud of my work, of my refugee map. I follow the line of the thread back to Syria, listening to my uncle and  his treasured memories of peace in Syria. 

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