Stories imagine the life of a refugee

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AS the first Syrian families are finding refuge in Stratford-upon-Avon, the local Amnesty International group announces the winners in its schools writing prize competition.

The competition was open to all secondary school pupils, and entrants were asked to imagine the experience of being a refugee and to write a piece under the general title, In Search of Safety.

The winners, whose entries all evoked the loss, fear and uncertainty of being a refugee, were as follows:

14-16 age group — First: Sophie Fennelly of Stratford Girls’ Grammar School; Second: Tamara Power of St Benedict’s Catholic High School, Alcester.

11-13 age group — First: Umer Khattak, of King Edward VI School, Stratford; Second: Seb Mayo, of St Benedict’s Catholic High School, Alcester. Congratulations to all four of them.

Read the winning entries below…

In Search of Safety by Sophie Fennelly.

She fled to safety from lands of chaos and catastrophe, where she woke to the sounds of crashing and crying and blood-curdling screams; and she ran with bare-feet down blood-lined streets, overed in shards of shattered glass that sliced at her soles until they stung.

And still she ran.

Travelling over treacherous waters, journeys that lasted over a week, and countless nights spent praying you’d escape the ravenous jaws of the ocean, and waves that throw you about like a ball, tossing, turning, lurching, pulling you apart.

Seven people lost this week,you have to understand these dangerous conditions are the only ones safer than the land.

She travelled with children that were all on their own, their parents last hopes and dreams packed into a boat, with a goodbye kiss and tears streaming down their cheeks.

She too cried when she had to leave them, but these governments, they don’t care.

You’re not their problem, it’s not their issue, as long as you’re not theirs.

But they give help to the most vulnerable, so she left them on their own, and gave her last desperate hope that they would find a new home.

And after all this she was made to wait for months and weeks and days, until they gave her shelter, somewhere to live and food on her plate and colour returned to her young cheeks.

But she didn’t speak their language and she didn’t wear their clothes, so she was ridiculed and bullied; and after her search for safety and all her efforts to be free, they forced her to live in exile; couldn’t they just let her be?

Home (an extract) by  Umer Khattak, King Edward Sixth School

Home. A permanent place to stay: where families grow and share their lives; a safe haven where one sleeps soundly with a solid roof over one’s head. We take all the above for granted but, for refugees, they lost all this when they left their home. For them, there is no more comfort. There is only hardship.

It had been a week since they left the city. The rubble had consumed their old home. They thought they were safe. Before the bombing, their place was the only one still presentable on the street. Their traditional carpet was spread out onto the floor and their possessions neatly away in their place. Then that was it. To leave in the morning from a prized property and to come back to a bombed shell. That was the end of their lives and the start of a nightmare. The very next day, they packed what little possessions they had left and made their way out of the city.

It was 43 miles to the Turkish border and 14 hours walking, if they stuck to the main road. They had an advantage that not many other Syrians had; a phone. With this they could keep updated on crucial events through social media and use maps to navigate. Never was the mobile phone more needed than at these vital minutes.

As they walked towards destination, the sun beat down on them. Every time a car or truck rolled past, dust was kicked up and went in their eyes. The grit struck their eyes. As they trudged on, the distance slowly decreased and the time took its toll on their body.

After a day they had walked for 25 miles and their legs begged for mercy. They sat down and lit a fire. The burning embers illuminated their weary faces. A nearby creature howled. Its silhouette looked up at the moon in hope of relief.

In the morning a red sun rose around the burning clouds as the group carried on towards freedom. 10am and another check of Facebook:

“Up ahead, roadblocks in position. Show ID and you should be fine.”

They took out their documents and searched through them. So far, things had gone well. Through all their minds raced the same thought:

“Who will make it to safety?”

There was no certainty that they would all get through. For now they were all together but soon they would turn on each other. There was not a doubt about that, but the real question was when.