Aleppo – Thessaloniki, 2017

I am not from Syria and I was given a Syrian nickname – Lulu. I want to write from that name, not knowing how it is to be in Syria right now or to have family there. I have friends that gave me this name and asked me to pray for them. And today I pray.

I pray, after a long time. I do not know how to pray and to whom. I still want to try. I pray for the families that became friends. I do not know what to pray for. I do not know how to write about it. What kind of words that do justice to the trauma and not inflict it again?

What are the choices they/we have? Young people, old people talking, recording minute-by-minute their humanness in the dehumanizing conditions of Aleppo now. I pray for courage and leadership. The leadership they are giving to us and we are giving to each other. And I remember the words of a teacher cut short with the sound of bombs: There is nothing that you can do now. I want you to remember us as people who wanted freedom. I pray and remember.  And I remember his words: I love life, where he said them and to whom.

I pray for a pocket in history where we will make with this pain, nausea, agony, isolation and love something new. Where we can stay and listen to the stories narrated by their children and their grandchildren, the ordinary details of their lives. I pray for art, to create some kind of shared meaning through art that will make voices heard around the world, this heritage we are receiving now. I pray for strength to those on the front line, the organisations and the people on the ground with them and what it has taken to go there. I pray for moments of peace and clarity in the despair. I pray for a good internet connection that will allow people to speak with their families.

I pray for our friends and their families to build with this pain and the humiliation, to make new life with the love for their homeland which will be with them in history. I pray for us to reach out to each other when we don’t know what to say – especially then. When we ask: How can we do that to each other? And how we can do that again and again after living trauma and ethnic cleansing for thousands of year in history? I come from a lineage of people who were exterminated – it runs through generations in history. I pray for moments of making something new, something we don’t know with the pain of our histories.

I pray with them in silence. I might think and not have the guts to text, to ask how are you doing? To not bear, to want to freeze or to think something different.

And then I think of my grandmother. How she asked me to talk about both of us. And the families next to us, living in Europe while a part of their heart is in Syria.

Living and changing history.

Creating Community Across Borders, our series of performance, fundraising events took shape around that time. A coming together built with the pain and alienation of that time in history when Aleppo was seized. Our choice to use this pain to build community that is not depending on identity and location.

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