My dad is holding my hands (7y) and those of my sister (5y), while my mom walks behind him with my baby brother (2y). It’s so dark outside, and I’m still not sure what’s happening. I can feel the rush in their walks and the firmness of my dad’s hands.
We left our home. Our family. Our dreams. Our…. really, everything that we ever knew.
We get into a car and I fall asleep right away. I don’t feel I have the energy to ask questions. Or maybe because I know my questions won’t be answered.
When I wake up, we’ve somehow gotten in a bus. And it’s not just us five anymore. I see several families, kids, grandparents… all having this empty look in their face. We find a place in the back and my mom tells me go back asleep. And sleep as long as I possibly can.
We leave Kabul. Good bye dear Kabul.
After over 10 hours of driving, we’re getting close to Mazar-e-Sharif, in the north of Afghanistan, as suddenly the bus brakes. I hear loud noises from outside. Gun shots. A group of men jump into the bus. Mujahideen.
I see all women around me hiding deeply in their veils and their husbands jumping in front of them. My sister starts crying, and because of her loud voice, more children start to panic.
“Everyone… get out of the bus..!”
I feel my mom’s arms even tighter around me, while I hold my sister as firm as I can. Other women are crying. “Please, please..”
As the panic starts to spread out, a few men stand up and walk towards the front of the bus. I’m not sure what’s happening, but I see them walking outside and discussing loudly. “Please, let us go. We’ll give you all we have.”
What feels like ages later, the men outside walk away and bus seems to be moving again. I’m not sure what happened but I can see that every single person in the bus is wounded – not physically, no physically we’re all okay. But we’re starting to get wounded with memories that hurt much deeper.
And then, for the first time of my life, at the age of seven – I understand what it means to feel safe.
About the photo
This photos was taken when I visited Afghanistan in 2010. This was in a small village hours, Lollenge, where my mom’s family is from – hours outside of Kabul. Colorful mountains, green fields, blue skies. Standing there on the roof, with the wind in my hair, it felt like we never left.