“I couldn't believe what I heard at the beginning. My father and grandmother were talking about sending me to SOS Children’s Village. I had no idea about the place they wanted to send me. I remember myself trying hard to hide my tears and pretending that I was asleep” that is how Dania, a 17 year old young girl living in SOS Qudsaya started her story.
Dania’s parents divorced. Her father was suffering from bad health condition, and her mother left the country to live abroad, leaving her only daughter behind when she was only 7 years old. “I remember myself sitting on a couch looking at my mother who got close and kissed me before leaving in a hurry. I ran to the window to see her for the last time. Last time indeed” said Dania sadly. After that day, Dania moved to live in her father’s and grandmother house where she felt lonely, despite her grandmother's good treatment and care.
Because of Dania’s mother absence and her father bad financial & health conditions, her biological family decided to put her in SOS Children’s Village in Aleppo after her 8th birthday. They promised her that they will always come for a visit, but that happened rarely. Dania have lived in Aleppo Village for four years. There, she found a beautiful home, family and lovely mother who have become her role model in life. “She was talking to me as a young lady, even when I was a little girl and that made me a confident person” said Dania.
With the start of the violence and clashes in Aleppo city in 2012 during the Syrian crisis, Dania and all the children were evacuated with their SOS mothers to SOS Qudsaya Village in Damascus. In the beginning, everyone thought that it was a temporary solution that will last only for few days until the security situation improve in the Khan Al Asal area where Aleppo village is located. During the first few weeks, Dania found it difficult to cope with the new situation, because she and her SOS family lived with another family from Qudsaya village in the same house. Dania’s main concern was about being in a city that is very far from Aleppo where her father lives, and from the northern borders with Turkey where her mother went. She also was worried about her house in Aleppo village especially when she heard about the news of clashes that have started inside the village between the armed groups and the army.
As the days passed, Dania and her SOS family had their own house, which helped her to adapt to the new life in Qudsaya village. Since her move to Damascus, Dania has not seen her parents but has received few calls from her mother on occasions, “How could a mother leave her only little daughter, I will never do such a thing to my children.” said Dania bitterly.
In Syria, you always hear the news of many people’s death because of clashes or shells, which often makes you feel sad and scared. But when you receive the news of your own father’s death, the feeling is indescribably devastating. For years, Dania thought that her saddest memory in life is when she was abandoned by her parents, that moment filled her heart with grief she had never felt before. She got very angry and cried bitterly when she knew that her father died not because of his bad health condition but because of the heavy bombing in Aleppo. Her only wish at that time was to have had a chance to see him at least once before he passed away.
The saying goes that beautiful moments help to overcome sad memories. But in Dania’s case what made her forget a little bit the tragic death of her father, was the outbreak of clashes in the area around Qudsaya village where she lived with the rest of SOS children. The sounds of Bullets and shells, has reminded her about Aleppo village, especially, when she started doing the evacuation tests with SOS children and mothers. On 27 September 2016, Dania and her SOS family were having breakfast when the security officer came and asked them to leave the house immediately and go to the buses. Despite that she received training many times on the evacuation procedure, she felt that she is helpless, she spent more than 5 minutes before finding her previously prepared bag. Fortunately, all the children and SOS mothers moved to a safe place within 1 hour. For a moment, Dania felt that she was reliving the same moments when she heard that two shells hit the village of Qudsaya.
One month passed till the security situation improved after reaching a ceasefire and a conciliation agreement between the conflict parties in Qudsaya district which allowed the families of the village to return safely to their homes. Happily, they found no serious damage affected the village. “I was very happy when I went back to the village. My mother promised me on the way home that we will have the breakfast on the grass once we arrive, and that's what happened. She kept her promise and made us the most delicious breakfast we have ever had.” said Dania proudly. In 2017, Dania moved to one of the SOS youth houses, and for the first time in her life she didn’t only accept the change but also wanted it. The new house is out of the village, which gave Dania the opportunity to be engaged in the community and to make new friendships. Although she left the village, she still goes there every week to visit her mother and spend the day talking and playing with her little SOS brothers and sisters. Today, Dania is 17 years old in the last grade of high school. She is a very good student. She aspires to become a lawyer. When looking at her, you can see a little bit of sadness in her eyes but also hope for a better future, the future that will be full of happiness, success and strength to overcome any sadness or flash backs.