Екатерина Кравчук

Страна : Беларусь

Родилась и живу в Минске. Считаю себя творческой натурой. Участница и победительница многочисленных конкурсов перевода.

Country : Belarus









Alisa Chopchyk


I was happy before the war although I didn’t realize it. We had family dinners, days when we did cleaning together, holidays, ordinary weekdays and extraordinary weekdays when I couldn’t get to sleep overwhelmed by emotions and memories. We had plans and hopes and we felt confident about the future. We went to our grandmother in Damascus each summer, we visited our friends and were a part of the hustle and bustle of the city. We grew up, unnoticeably for our parents and ourselves, and didn’t know real sorrows and didn’t have any idea of what the future held for us. War seemed to be something distant that existed only in books and in breaking news tickers.

Our family lived in a world so familiar for us as thousands of other families did, we had a peaceful and regular life, we didn’t commit iniquity that would deserve such a punishment. Sometimes I thought with anger that decisions of others shouldn’t influence lives of millions people. Someone wanted blood, money, achievement of vested interests and children suffer and die because of this. Children are pure that’s why Allah takes them first.

We didn’t realize right away what was going on. It took time until the war started to pick up stream, it was like a snowball, it broke out and calmed down in one region, then in another one. Armed militants appeared on the streets and from time to time attacked and killed people, which was like Barbarian raids in Rome. It seemed nothing serious, but Rome fell to Barbarians, and Aleppo was destined to share the same fate.

At first I didn’t care about some conflicts. I just heard endless conversations and arguments about it which unnoticeably replaced all usual topics for discussion. Our neighbor called on us more and more often, he and my father sat in the hall and talked and talked about rebels, revolutions, sieges of cities. Mom asked us not to disturb them and left them too letting the men talk.

We felt first inconvenience when my father forbade Iffa, my sister, to ride the bicycle in the evening, and me to go alone to the market. He knew that I like going there on my own, and Iffa, who repeats this ritual for years, can’t get to sleep without a walk, and yet he prohibited it, and we did not dare to contradict him.

The war came unnoticed, as a thief comes to someone else’s house; meanwhile, the life changed its usual course overnight. One morning when I was awakened by the noise of helicopters that was strengthening more and more and causing anxiety and discomfort, which the nail scrape on the board brings, I suddenly realized that from now on everything will be only getting worse.

I went to the window, pulled the curtains aside and saw black thick smoke rising and swirling somewhere in the distance and a helicopter circling around and then flying off like a wasp that was chased away.

“Are we going to die?” Jundub, my five-year-old brother, was sitting on the bed curling up in a small ball and looked at me and Iffa with his big, frightened eyes, ready to burst into tears at any moment. I approached im, and he immediately snuggled to me and gave me a hug.

“Maybe,” Iffa said to herself, but I made it out. I was afraid that Jundub also heard this and gave my sister an angry look.

“Do not look at me like that,” said Iffa calmly, looking again out of the window. Now I did not see her face because of the curtains.

“I have the same dream for a third night,” said Iffa after a pause. “That I’m standing on the roof of a building and looking down at the ruins. I can’t recognize Aleppo in them, but I know somehow that it’s the remains of our city,” Iffa sighed sadly. “I looked at the wreckage of the city and suddenly heard a click of cameras and turned around. There was a crowd of Europeans behind me. They looked at what was left of Aleppo, took photos and videos, resented and cried sympathetically shaking their heads. But when I made a step toward them, a fence with barbed wire appeared from somewhere. I gripped the sharp rods sobbing for help,” – Iffa grinned, as if now, in real life, considered it stupid and useless.

“And this faceless crowd on the other side,” she continued with dislike for the heroes of her dream, “was looking at me with pity, but continued to watch idly as I was trying hysterically to get to the other side of the fence”.

Effa looked at her hands as if expecting to see wounds from the barbed wire.

“When I woke up today, I thought that everything will be different from now on. And we will never, never again, Janan, never,” her voice faltered, as if she wanted to cry, “we’ll never be as happy as we used to be before”.

She shivered and wrapped her arms around herself. Jundub ran to her to give a hug.

Iffa lowered her head, looking puzzled at her brother’s head, pressed to her waist.

“Dad will protect us,” muttered Jundub, “our dad will save us.”

Iffa looked at me and smiled. I quietly smiled back to her.

Raging shooting, at first so deafening and frightening, with time became simply a background to which I hardly paid attention. Soon the whole family began to follow the news, the father became more serious and strict, meals became meager and any extra expenses were out of the question. Now quiet talks behind the door made me and Iffa listen intensely, as if our future fate depended on these conversations.

Once a tank passed by our house, and this clanking sound of spinning metal caterpillars aroused such fright in me that I froze sensing the icy breath of death. Suddenly I felt deeply that death lived behind the door, that it was real, it can be touched and it can be called. And yet I did not know what war is at that time.

It is difficult for me to describe what I felt when passed by ruined buildings, walls riddled from shell fragments and bullets; when I felt under my feet how broken glass crackles suffocating from ubiquitous risen dust. There lay cobblestones, clothes and things that turned into practically nothing under feet, wires and iron pieces were sticking out from everywhere, there were wheels, broken ladders and lives. Seeing how the war destroys your homeland is like seeing that your child feels worse and worse, and you can’t help him, you can’t tell the sickness to leave him, and all that is left  is to watch how he is dying and to pray for his salvation.

Maybe that’s why my mother began to pray more often and even harder than usually. She prayed frenziedly, suffocating, raising her voice from the emotions that filled her, then lowering it to a barely audible whisper, and her hands were shaking, and her voice trembled like a tightened string ready to break.

Then it got worse: the tanks fired at houses, blew up buildings, hospitals, schools; rebels organized terrorist attacks and endless fights destroying everything around, the whole history of our country, destroying the soul of the city. We have become impoverished, weakened, we were stuck in constant fear. Like beggars we were queuing for bread, water and other supplies. And still I did not understand what war is …


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