Andrew McConnell, Photojournalist
Saada is 102 years old and without a home. But surrounded by her family and neighbours, you can easily tell why everyone enjoys her company as she recalls her earlier days in Syria: “Nobody had time to make wars back then,” she told an interviewer recently. “We used to wake up before the sun and go work in the fields. By the end of the day I used to be so exhausted that I’d fall asleep on the donkey’s back on my way back home” she laughs.
Saada is a resilient woman. She lost seven of her ten children at a young age, her husband thirteen years ago and now, her country. She was reluctant to leave at first. Even when the bombing started in her home region, she just continued with her daily routine: “I was sitting outside, sorting the olives and the plane was above me. They called and yelled from the house for me to come inside, but I told them ‘why? The plane doesn’t want anything from me; I am not going to fight it with olives!’”
Eventually, her 21-year-old grandson, her favourite in the family, persuaded her to flee but only after promising that he would carry her body back to Syria and bury her next to her brother when her time comes.
“If I had a car, I would have never left Syria,” she says.” I would just drive around in it all day. I wouldn’t care where I went as long as I was still in Syria… I’d rather live in a pile of rocks in my home country than be a refugee in someone else’s.”
Abandoning home has been difficult. “You know, without the help of UNHCR (the United Nations Refugee Agency) most of us would starve here,” she says. “But you need more than just a box of food: you also need interaction with other people so you know you are still a human being and not just a number.”