Hamda, 106, pictured in her son’s rented home in Bar Elias, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.
A lot has changed in the 45 years since Hamda, 106, was last in Lebanon. Her husband, whom she lived with prior to Lebanon’s civil war in the Bekaa Valley town of Bar Elias, has since passed away. She’s also lost her eyesight, and now she is a refugee.
‘Maybe it is a good thing that God took my eyesight before I saw the destruction of my country,’ says Hamda, from the small rented home she now shares with her youngest son and his family.
‘At first, we only heard bombing in the distance, but within a few weeks they were upon us. That is when we ran. They picked me up and put me in the car. I didn’t grasp what was happening: where they took me, how, why, I didn’t know anything.’
At 106, Hamda’s memories reach all the way back to the French administration in Syria. She recalls how French expatriates used to visit the Orontes River to swim, ‘I remember how they used to come as a large group, perhaps 40 to 50 people. They would sit in the shade, drink coffee, and swim all the day.’
When Hamda speaks she evokes a lost age when people were honest and loving, but now, she says, everything has changed, ‘even if the war ends and we rebuild our homes, there are many things that can never be rebuilt. Syrians were never divided.. alas, now they will never be the same.’