‘I left a part of myself behind in Syria’

Day Three in Jordan – Jaz’s Diary – Za’atari Refugee Camp

Back in Za’atari camp, home to 85,000 Syrian refugees today, we interviewed an old man for our documentary. He had fled Syria with his children and grandchildren three years ago and spoke about the journey so emotionally. He told us that when he knew he had to leave,he spent days looking at each precious item in his house thinking ‘should I bring that or should I just leave it behind?’ Eventually he realised that there was nothing that he could bring, just his family and his hope, and he left with just the clothes on his back. He described the moment where he crossed the border into Jordan, atop of a hill. He looked back and his village was burning; he knew he has left just in time.

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Three years later and he has a new grandson who has been born in the camp…he proudly showed me pictures. His family wait in this limbo until they can return home to Syria, but he knows if / when that happens, life will be hard. He had owned a farm, and previous to them leaving, his animals had been killed (even his beloved horse) and his land bombed. He explained it would take him a few years to get the land back to how it was, but he dreamt about how he would do so often. He can’t wait for this day. ‘I left a part of myself behind in Syria,’ he told us, ‘and everything I know and love. My whole life.’

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He passes the time teaching handicrafts to the kids in the education centre. He makes giant models of everyday items used in Syria, to remind the children of the culture and keep it alive, things like the pestle and mortar used for grinding corn. He had also been shocked by the violence prevalent in the drawings of the children and had made a giant gun which when triggered, fired out sweets.

We spent the afternoon documenting the art project we are working on, which saw the kids moving on from pencils to paint and getting very expressive!

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On our way back to the city, we were behind a truck that somehow swerved off the road and into the staircase of a bridge, knocking it over and taking the entire staircase with it. Petrol poured out on top the dusty road as we braked in shock, but before we knew it people were running from every car towards the accident. A bus on the opposite side of the road stopped and about 20 men ran across, climbing onto the upside down cab of the truck to help the guys inside it. In the space of a few seconds, there was more people there than I could believe, making our efforts redundant and we continued, the fate of the driver still unknown. It reminded me of the complete fragility of life, the randomness, the unpredictability, but also the beauty, kindness, love and compassion we all have inside of us.

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