I went north after the agreement between Faylaq al-Raḥman and the Russians. Our trip was tiring and long, it took 8 hours on the road, and more than 30 hours of waiting and inspecting.
We arrived at Qalaat al-Madiq, in Hama countryside and were welcomed there. Someone got on the bus and told us that we reached the liberated areas. Then several people came and began distributing cola, juice and biscuits.
Most of us were tired, unable to speak as a result of the trauma, leaving our lands and homes, and the separation from the people we had left in the ground, whose souls headed to heaven before us. I was so depressed at that time, and nothing could make me happy. We left without knowing the fate awaiting us. None of us has a plan of where to go and what to do.
We got off the buses, it was dawn. Members of the Civil Defense and other organizations received us, and ambulances were waiting for the wounded. Those who knew people from Idlib called them to come.
I did not know anyone. There were small busses and microbuses to transport people to the places they want. I saw a microbus, and got on it with my mother, wife and children. I told the driver to take us to a place where there was no bombing. He laughed and said I was right. He told us that we would go to Maarrat al-Nu’man, and that its people were good. The road was long, but it was beautiful with the wide green areas. I was sitting next to the driver. He asked me how the situation in Ghouta was, and how things happened. I asked him not to talk about it, because I decided to forget all what happened in Ghouta. Whenever I talk about the matter I cry, I cry for our people, and our friends who were martyred, and those who were wounded, for our houses and the houses of many people that were destroyed. There was nothing good in Ghouta to remember. He said “as you like”, and we continued our way.
We arrived in Maarrat al-Nu’man. The driver told me that he would take us to a family who had a house that we can stay in, and we went there. The roads were empty, because it was too early, but you could feel there was life, there were people, unlike Ghouta
We arrived, and those people welcomed us very well. I felt they were my family. They did not let us pay the driver of the microbus, they did. We entered a house with two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom, the house was simple and empty.
The people who hosted us were very nice. They told me not to worry about the house, and that I could stay here at the moment, and rest a bit. After about two hours, they came with mattresses, blankets and some kitchen utensils. They also brought breakfast; labaneh, olive, martadella, halvah, cheese, jam, bread and some vegetables. They left us to eat and sleep, and said they would come back at the evening. When we sat down to eat, my children were astonished, and told me that this food was too expensive. I told them to eat even if it was expensive. I did not want to tell them that it was from those people. For more than three years ago, we did not eat such a breakfast. I did not expect there were still such good people. Since that day, they visit us daily and we became more than a family.
I go out every day with my family to walk in the markets, to compensate for the years of tiredness. My psychological state improved after I saw life again. People in Maarrat al-Nu’man treated us very well, we felt like we were in our city and our home. I tried to go to Sarmada once, the road was very beautiful and all lands were green. The long distances make one feel safe. When I arrived in Sarmada, I felt that I was in the free zone with all those large shops.
Currently, I’m exploring the areas of Idlib and Aleppo, and see the people and their lives. Then I will decide what I can do. I think I will return to my old profession in aluminum carpentry, and I will open a shop and settle down.
Khaled from Arbin, 27 years old.
Photo by: Abdulmonam Eassa / AFP