The Refugee Mother

I wake to another day of anguish. Not knowing where my child is. The last touch of her fingers on mine as her grip slipped away from me off the side of the boat. Too crowded to manage to leap after her – the last I saw of her little red jacket being borne away by the burly man who was trying to rescue us all.
By the time I fell out of the boat into the churning waves, fighting to avoid being caught in the jagged rocks I had lost sight of her. Finally I reached the beach – where was my child? Frantic running hampered by my long black robe, wet and dragging around me. Up and down the beach – calling, pleading with each person I met – to no avail – no one understands me – no words the same, my language from another land, my cries for my baby not understood.

Now panting with fright and fear – trying desperately to hold back the panic which is bubbling from within – the days the hours, the weeks of struggle to reach this haven.. what haven?.. . A rocky beach, discarded life jackets littering the shore – wet bedraggled distraught companions most in shock struggling with the reality which faces them now.
And my reality – my baby – she is lost … me – also lost. Cold seeping into my bones and my awareness, wet and sodden, and now a figure moving toward me holding out a blanket. She moves in next to me.. murmuring words I don’t understand but which bring with them comfort and warmth. She wraps me in the dry blanket – and leads me further up the beach toward a small group huddled now around a fire the flames reflecting off faces worn and bleak.

Days pass – merge into each other – tears drain away – as the possibility of finding my baby appears more and more distant. I am shuffled along with the group first met by that fireside on the beach – into a makeshift hut – still unable to communicate until finally here is someone who speaks a little of my tongue.
She is dark skinned – no burkha but she is respectful – she takes my hands in hers – weather worn hands – hands used to hard work – but hands that speak to mine. Haltingly she asks me – “What do you need – how can I help you?”
Relief floods my being but in the rush of the possibility my words tumble out fast and incomprehensible to this woman. Slow .. slow .. be slow, I breathe and begin again –

“My baby – my girl, my baby – I have lost her .. red jacket – so high – black curls, black dancing eyes, my baby – lost – from the boat – 5 days ago.”

My baby.

“Ah…” the eyes of the woman of the kind hands fill with tears and understanding. “Ah – the orphans – they are in another camp – some way away – perhaps she is there – but we must get a permit to move there to search for her.” And the waiting began again.

The hope – the wait – again the hope and the sense of deep never ending loss. Two days – three days – where is she the woman of the kind hands? Has she forgotten me? Is all again lost?

And on the fourth day she returns – seeking me out, finding me huddled in the corner of the tent – waiting.
She has the paper – we can go together – “Are you strong enough to walk?” she asks as she helps me up and down the road past the old olive trees entwined together on the rocky hillsides. “It is far but we can be there by sunset.”

We walk – my heart is lifting again – in hope – not quite daring to imagine that at the end of this road I might yet again feel my daughter’s hand in mine. Her heart beating next to my heart – but as we come closer to the ‘orphans camp’ I begin to sense that the nightmare is coming near to the dawn.

There is a makeshift gate and a ‘guard’, a rough fellow in worn clothes – and beyond tents, and children – and children .. and children. Where is my girl? Is she here? Can I dare to hope for her being – please – please- oh Allah be merciful.. then a glimpse – a flash of red in the arms of a tall and ragged figure of a young man.. her jacket .. is it? .. Can I hope this time?

Oh my God .. the rush the anguish of gratitude deep cutting into my heart.. it is Zanubiya – my princess, my beloved, my joy of my heart .. it is she.. no words now possible – my baby in my arms, my beloved one. The tears stream unchecked – the waves wash once more over me but waves of love and gratitude and joy.

All else is fallen behind .. all else matters not –
Zanubiya is found.


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