We have teamed up with the War Childhood Museum for Refugee Week 2020
For Refugee Week 2020 we have teamed up with the Childhood War Museum (WCM) to bring a virtual exhibition to our residents of Kirklees. The exhibition features personal objects and stories of children from Syria, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Afghanistan.
The exhibition aims to advance a better understanding of the difficulty and complexity of the situation of displaced children, both in their home and host countries that would ultimately improve their position.
The WCM continues to highlight the human stories behind statistical data and headlines we see and read about every day.
Check out the #KirkleesWelcomes blog to keep up-to-date with other activities taking place throughout Refugee Week 2020.
I bought this notebook a year and a half ago. I used it for maths. I kept it because the teacher was really good, and she loved me a lot. I liked her because she respected us as students and played with us during breaks. She made maths easy for us, and I started to love that subject.
Everything I learned is in this notebook. I kept it in my closet with my clothes. When we left our house in the Shatila refugee camp, I took it with me.
Besides going to school, I sometimes help my father. He sells vegetables in the market, and I clean the vegetables, so they look nice.
I still think of our house and our city. I think of how I would wish to swim again in the the Euphrates river. I think of my friends as well. I wish I brought Hamza with me to Lebanon. He is my best friend.
Mahmoud Mouhamad, 2007
Life in Syria was really beautiful and simple. I had good relationships with my relatives and friends. We lived close to each other. I was happy with them, despite all the trials and fear we felt on a daily basis I was so scared. I used to hear the sounds of bombing and airplanes. I prayed not to get killed, not to lose a family member, not to lose my home, and not to become homeless.
Sedra is my only friend that I have in Tripoli, Lebanon. I trust her, and she reminds me of Syria. We understand each other.
At school, Sedra and I were tied for being top of our class. We were so happy because of our success. To celebrate our happiness we went down to the garden and drew everything around us: balloons, decorations, and nature.
I think I should study hard, so that I can be a productive person and help rebuild Syria when I go back. I hope to have a peaceful future like other children have.
My friend gave me this bracelet, and she got it from her brother. I have worn it only once. I put it on the day before we left. We came by bus, and the trip lasted for more than two and a half days.
A lot has changed since we arrived to Lebanon. I have two new brothers, Yaakoub and Walid. I go to a new school. My father has a new shop. His job is to fix fridges and washers. Sometimes I go to the shop and sit with my father. There I sing or I bring my books and study. I also ask him questions about his work.
But still, I miss my friend. I do not know where she is now. I wish I could play with her again.
Certificate of Appreciation
When the shelling was heavy, our neighbour took us to his house. We stayed there for two days. Then, we joined my grandfather in a camp in Lebanon. Now, we live in a tent.
This is the first Certificate of Appreciation that I have ever received. I got it after midterms because I had good grades. It’s such an important thing to me. My little brother ripped it. When I told my teacher about what happened, she gave me a new certificate.
I like the teachers in my school because they are nice, and the school is very colourful.
Whenever I needed to feel proud or to encourage myself to do something difficult, I would just take the certificate out of my drawer and look at it. It gave me strength.
When my mother decided that we should leave Homs, I went to the market with my cousin to buy three pairs of earrings. We split them amongst ourselves to have as a reminder. There were 12 Syrian pounds left over. They remind me of everything beautiful because they smell of Homs.
Looking back, life in war-torn Syria was like a horror movie.
In Lebanon, I participated in a photography and filmmaking workshop. I used one of the cameras that we had at our disposal to film some scenes for the documentary that I am making. It will be called “A Refugee’s Scream.” Now I need a laptop to finish the film.
Set of Drawers
I bought this small set of drawers when I was a young girl, around the same time that I bought a doll. I used to keep the doll’s clothes in it. After a heavy shelling, my parents decided that we should flee from our home. There was so much dust everywhere. I couldn’t see my doll, so I left her behind. All I could spot was this set of drawers.
My father went to buy us bread and never came back. At least, he hasn’t returned yet.
This lightbulb brings me light because I always had light in my town even when there was no electricity. The electricity used to go off a lot there. I brought it here with me, together with my clothes. Now I use it when the electricity goes off in the camp.
I wish I had all the gifts my friends gave me before I left Syria. I could not bring them because we didn’t have enough room in the bags. I feel pain because of that, especially because I left the bracelet Israa gave me. She is in Syria now, and you cannot imagine how I miss her.
Before the war, I used to wake up and visit my friends. The weather there was so amazing and nice. We would gather in the nearby eld at sunset. After the war started, everything changed, and we had to leave. That was ve years ago. Here in Lebanon you feel like a stranger. We do not live next to our relatives and the people we know.
In an arts workshop, I met Ms Ghiwa. She loved me so much and helped me improve my handcrafting skills. She taught me how to make forms from colourful paper. I feel happy because I can make shapes from scratch. It is like you are creating something. One time I made this kite. I used to put it in a folder, so that it wouldn’t get ruined.
Now, Ms Ghiwa is gone. She travelled somewhere. I wish to have a home and live a safe life.
Staff training, online English classes and activity packs are just some of the initiatives we have planned this Refugee Week – to find out more check out the #KirkleesWelcomes blog.
Solar-Powered Transistor Radio
My mom, sister, and I were probably among the few heading to Sarajevo from abroad that year. We returned from the refugee camp in Croatia in 1994, bringing this solar-powered transistor radio with us.
Our reasoning was that it ran on light rather than batteries, so it would come in handy in a city under siege. And it did. It was particularly valuable to me, since I didn’t have many people to play with, so I’d spend much of my time in search of interesting radio stations. Those who were older than me used it to listen to more serious news.
My “Made-Up“ Passport
I remember that April morning when I saw a soldier parked in a tank outside my window. At home, our parents decided on an emergency evacuation of the children from Dobrinja IV. Our neighbours left in their own car and brought me along, hidden in the backseat.
We spent some time as refugees in Croatia, and when tensions continued to rise there we headed to Germany. Despite everyone’s kindness toward me, I was incredibly sad and thought endlessly about whether my parents and older brother were alive. I missed them intensely and wanted to go home, regardless of the fact that there was a war going on there.
Unfortunately, I needed a passport to return. Not only did I not have a passport, but I did not have a single form of identification because in their state of panic my parents had forgotten to pack them. Luckily, some kind strangers were able to help: they added zeros to my date of birth to arrive at an identification number and we invented a new address.
I returned to besieged Sarajevo by way of the tunnel in 1994.
I was a refugee, too
They were already shooting on the city… One night, dad came home and said, “Tomorrow you are going to the seaside!”
I packed my suitcase: bathing suit, sandals, and diary. We are going to the seaside! In the morning my brother, mom, aunt, and I joined the convoy that was leaving the city. We are going to the seaside…
Men with black masks stopped the convoy. They held us hostage for three days. Would I ever see the sea again?
Two months later, I arrived in the Netherlands, where I have remained.
All of my memories are in this suitcase.
A Country for Playing Football
I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. Since 2015, when we left, we have crossed Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, and now we are in Serbia. My father used to be a police officer and the Taliban wanted him to join them.
There was never peace in Afghanistan. I spent a lot of time at home, because my mother was afraid that the Taliban might come to recruit boys. When I could go out, I liked to ride my bike in the park and play football or any kind of game.
We always played close to home, so that we could run if the Taliban came. I went to a private school and finished four grades. Just as I started the 5th grade, we left the country. I liked going to school. We all wore uniforms and had very short hair. I was a very good student. I understood things quickly. Now, I have forgotten a lot. Sometimes I can’t remember how something is said in Farsi. I’m in 6th grade now.
I’m so busy in Serbia that I don’t even have enough time to sleep. After school, I take part in many different activities. I play football, go to workshops, learn crafts, play outside…
I would like to live in Germany. I heard it was a good country for playing football.
I made this necklace while I was living in Greece, in camp Elliniko which is close to Greece’s capital, Athens. Life there was hard, but we had some workshops for women and girls. I wore it often. It is nice when you have some jewellery to wear. We don’t really have nice clothes, but when we have nice jewellery, we feel more beautiful.
I can’t recall a time when there was no conflict going on in Kunduz (Afghanistan), but, in 2014, a much greater conflict broke out. The whole city was controlled by the Taliban.
There were periods of time when we had no food whatsoever. No one dared to leave home. We stocked up on food, so that we’d have it when we needed it.
People fled. Buildings were destroyed, my home was destroyed. Some of my friends left, and then we had to leave too. I left the country together with mother, father, and the rest of the family. We travelled to Pakistan on foot, with the help of human smugglers. From there we went to Iran, and then to Turkey where we spent the next six months.
We arrived in Greece by boat. After nine months, we left for Albania, and from there to Serbia. We’ve been in Serbia for the last two years. We had many problems on our way. We were hungry and had no water. We saw dead people. We met a family whose child froze to death. They buried him in the woods and continued onward. Faith in God and my parents help me feel safe.
Girl in a Wedding Dress
The war in Baghlan has been going on forever. There is always some shooting. I spent most of my time at home, outside was too unsafe. I would study, knit and embroider together with mom.
Food and clothes were always lacking. We ate rice most of the time, and we wore old clothes. Unlike in Serbia, nobody was helping us in Afghanistan, there were no such organizations there. We didn’t even have toys. I played with mom’s needles. Candles and lamps were our lighting. We would collect water.
When the shooting got very intense, we didn’t go out at all, we didn’t go to school. I was always afraid to go to school. One day, during intense fighting with the Taliban, my brother got shot in the leg. He was 10 years old. He didn’t go to a hospital, so he still feels the consequences of it.
When I was 12 years old, my sister got married. I was very sad because she was young, much too young for marriage. She had been going to school, but then my father decided that she was ready to become somebody’s wife. Whenever I see a girl in a wedding dress and whenever somebody talks about weddings or simply mentions Afghanistan, I remember my sister. Whenever I’m knitting, I remember how we used to do it together.
Thank you for viewing this virtual exhibition on the stories of children who have sadly had their lives impacted by war. Don’t forget you can keep up with other Refugee Week Activities by checking out the #KirkleesWelcomes blog.
We would like to thank the War Childhood Museum for sharing this wonderful exhibition with us and for providing us the opportunity to share it with the people of Kirklees.