The war goes on and the firing of bombs hitting the buildings and people hear gun fire all night long, but they are still trying to live what can be called normal lives. I talked to my cousin today to see how they were doing and how they were handling the cold weather that was coming in. He says the fuel oil used to be 110 Syrian pounds a liter and now it is 2,000 to 3,000 a liter, if you can even find it. So they are spending a lot of time in bed, so I made a joke and said ” are we expecting any little ones” like the black out in New York years ago – nine months later we got a surge of new babies! He says “no Rita, we are pretty much all sleeping in one room to keep the body heat around us to keep warm”. I asked him what they are doing everyday locked up in the houses and not able to leave due to the fighting – he says we play cards, backgammon, play games, read and talk. He is working on a book on the family history and trying to do some research when he can get internet connections. People even come over to visit when things get quiet- but these are neighbors that are very close by. The people have moved from the old city of Aleppo and move up to the modern quarters where there is still electricity and water. He says that people keep moving from one area to the other so they might be with friends and other relatives if there is space, if not then they sleep in the corridors of the big apartment buildings and share the food with the other residents.
Each time I talk to him I ask why he is still there and why can’t they leave and he says there are two reasons: if we leave our home it will be confiscated by the government and occupied by military forces; and where do they go that will be secure. There is nowhere to go- they would run out of money and they do not want to live in the camps, his mother would not be able to survive the trip out of the country and if they did get out they do not have their papers or even visas to get to another country that would take them for long periods of time.
These are middle class families that we are talking about, and they have been living on whatever money they had at home for the last 20 months- that is fading away and the prices are getting higher and higher for everyday items. Even the bread which is the staple was 8 loaves for 15 Syrian pounds has now gone up to 7 loaves for 100 Syrian pounds and the bread is smaller in size. Each time you leave the house you are risking your life to get this basic staple.
I worry so much about them now as the cold weather is coming in. The homes are all made out of stone and in Aleppo in the winter it gets very cold- it is a bone chilling cold that gets to you and even layer upon layer of clothing still does not work well. You even light candles to try and get some warmth.
Even with everything that is going on, he is also asking how I am doing and my daughter and family members that are here- I wonder can I be like that under the sounds of gunfire and bombs- do we get so used to this that we are not affected by it? What happens to the young kids? How are they able to survive sitting at home day in and day out and seeing the rest of the family like this and hearing them talk to friends about who just died and how friends and family were blown up – you can’t keep this from them- they see it in your eyes and in your face. This is the life in Aleppo and this is a family that has it better than other families in that they still have a roof over their heads and each other. I just do not know what to do but let people know about their life and how they are surviving.