As I sit in my comfortable home in Montreal and watch the news of refugees and their flight from terror, I can’t help but think about when we were forced to leave Beirut in search of a safer and more stable place.
I may have mentioned earlier that both my late husband and I were born in Lebanon to Armenian refugee parents, and we grew up there. When the civil war started we were both students, he was a sophomore in university and I was still in high school. The situation was terrible. There was danger everywhere.
The year was 1984. Nine years into the civil war, the situation was getting worse and terror lurked in every corner. It was a time when different militias fought against each other. The capital Beirut was divided into two parts, East and West. We were married and had rented a tiny studio in West Beirut so we could be close to his workplace. I wasn’t working that year.
Fighting escalated between the two sectors. Bombs fell around us on a daily basis. I was so paranoid that I could even hear the bombs sent our way the moment they were launched from the East. I would wake up in the middle of the night, wake my husband and we would cower in a corner of our room and wait for a bomb to fall on us or somewhere nearby.
Some nights the bombing would be so intense that we would seek refuge in the basement of the building, situated under the parking lot, with a huge gas tank in the corner. The advertising company where my husband worked at the time as a graphic artist decided to close its offices in Beirut. Who had money to spend on advertising when survival was the main priority of the people living there? We wanted to leave the country to escape the danger but didn’t have the means, since he was the only one working, and with rent and other bills and expenses to pay we couldn’t afford to travel.
I prayed and prayed for a safe way out. And soon our luck changed and my prayers were answered when the company offered to transfer him to their Dubai office. For us it was a blessing. That’s when we became refugees too, but refugees with a privilege.
We made it out of there and Dubai became our home away from home. It was hard leaving everyone behind though.
I remember our first Christmas in Dubai, away from our families and friends. I remember looking for a Christmas tree. The only shop that sold trees (artificial ones) and ornaments was a shop called Habitat. We didn’t have much choice in decorating the tree. I remember buying artificial Christmas flowers made of white cloth as there were no red ones, and my husband hand-painted them red so we could put them on the tree. It felt good trying to start a new life in a new place we could call home.
Christmas has passed and New Year is just hours away, and with all the trouble around the world, with millions of people trying to flee their homes in search of a safer place, I truly understand their situation. I just pray and hope that somehow peace returns to the world so people can live with some dignity.
As for me I can say it has been a good year even though I had some major challenges to face, and I haven’t been able to post frequently. I am not much of a fan of resolutions but this year I am up for a new challenge and a new page, a new year. And as a promise to myself I will try to be more present on my page.
I wish for some peace and stability in the world, a happy and healthy and successful year to all, and to my fellow bloggers and writers I wish that the writing bug catches you all!
Happy New Year!