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A Letter From Lebanon

by Angella Bourudjian

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The stories of those fleeing turmoil in the Middle East — first-person accounts of people from all walks of life, lay and religious — help chronicle the volatile times in which we live. How do these suddenly homeless people cope? Where can they turn? In Lebanon, one place offering care and support is the Howard Karagheusian Center — a kind of refuge CNEWA proudly supports. In this letter, a Syrian wife and mother adds her voice to this ongoing story.

My name is Angella Bourudjian. I used to live in Aleppo, Syria, with my husband and two young boys.

Before the outbreak of the war, my life was so peaceful in Aleppo. We lived in an Armenian neighborhood, where everyone knew each other and our social relations were more than perfect. We had a lovely apartment — very well furnished — and we enjoyed our family life to the maximum. My husband owned a shop for car electronics, and his income was enough to feed the family as well as to have surplus for leisure-time activities.

Weekends were special for us — hanging around, witnessing the joy of our children. We spent a lot of time at the parks, taking our children out to enjoy nature. We attended musical events that took place around the country.

In my own spare time, I used to go to ladies’ outings, and attend lectures and social events organized by Armenian organizations. I also volunteered in activities supporting the elderly and orphan children.

After the war began, all of this disappeared.

One day we realized that our neighborhood had become one of the most dangerous zones in the country. The area was subjected to siege and constant bombardment. Gunmen and military troops took control of different parts.

I really do not know how we came to the decision to leave Syria, because everything happened so quickly. There was neither time to think about it, nor any second choice. Leaving our country and our beautiful home became an imperative if we wanted to survive, and that’s exactly what we did. We left everything behind and took the path of uncertainty, of ambiguity.

As a consequence, we lost all our property, my husband lost his shop and we lost our home, and became homeless. We couldn’t find any shelter to protect our children. We had only one choice to save our lives: finding refuge in Lebanon.

The move to Lebanon was another terrifying experience. The road from Aleppo to Lebanon was controlled by unknown terrorists. We were interrogated and hunted at several stops. We were threatened with death. I lost my hope to survive. Horrifying thoughts accompanied me all through the way. I felt death was so near to us, and I could imagine seeing my children being taken away from me.

Finally, we arrived in Lebanon through the Arida border, safe and sound. I consider this a miracle granted from God, for which I thank him every single day!

Now that we are living in Lebanon, we are indeed safe. But the economic difficulties — unemployment and inflation — are hindering our normal pace.

Our life in Lebanon is very tough. Being a Syrian refugee, my husband has difficulty finding any fixed job to support our children. He works part time, making minimum wage. He tries so hard to find another job, but he is always rejected.

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