I started collecting personal stories of elderly refugees and former political prisoners while volunteering in a refugee camp there.
I wanted to know what it means to lose everything; how could someone shoulder such a burden and accept the idea of permanent exile.
Hoping to be able to spread empathy for a human condition that could belong to any of us through these tales.
In February 2013 I visited an area of Lebanon near the Syrian border, where thousands of Syrians seek refuge every day. They are escaping a conflict that has been raging over three years (since March 2011) and has caused the death and mass exhodus of over half of the population.
Thanks to the NGO “Terres des Hommes”, I was able to reach Arsaal, a village in the Beqqa Valley, where I collected the stories of those who left everything behind in Syria.
All these stories are unique but tied by a single thread: the longing to return home; the endless wait; and final resignation.
Comparing these life experiences, I began to realise how much this condition can change people both mentally and physically. Those who have only just managed to escape, still have enough hope and energy to believe in a better future, even though the horrors of the war are imprinted on their minds. They leave the country with a few belongings and the illusion that they will be back soon. They are psychologically exhausted, but they manage to hang on to their hope, which keeps them alive and active as they face the changes that life imposes on them.
Those who now live permanently in their hos country often chose to become “full time” refugees. Often they do not integrate with the laws of the country that shelters them, forced to live without rights and duties.
Resigned to a life of donations and handouts, bereft of hope for a better future for their children, they wait for a return home that for most of them will not happen.