Dania's responsibility toward her young siblings has not deterred her from ambitions to learn and to improve after losing her parents — Dania, 13, is an exceptional case among children who have lost their parents over the years of the Syrian revolution. She is not the only one, as her case is similar to that of many Syrian children, but she stands out in her determination.
Dania, a child from the town of Al-Rastan, north of Homs in central Syria, lost her father in 2013 to Syrian regime forces’ bullets, which created a large hole in her life along with her five younger siblings, the youngest of them 8 years old. Before the wounds of losing their father had healed, their mother left, abandoning her children two years after the death of the father, leaving Dania to raise her siblings and to take care of them along with her aunt, who tried to compensate the children for some of the love they had lost with the loss of their parents.
Dania and her five siblings live in their 75-year-old grandmother’s house. Dania told Samarit: “My father was very tender with us and tended to all our needs. I was really spoiled by him, and he would work to give us everything, and we didn’t need anything when he was there.” The death of her aunt increased her suffering, as she was killed by a regime sniper’s bullets on the roof of their home about two months ago.
Dania said that her aunt was helping her raise her siblings and helping her bear the responsibility and helping deal with them. By helping care for the siblings, the aunt left Dania a great deal of room for study, but now, Dania says, "everything has fallen on my shoulders. I lost hope with her martyrdom.”
Regarding the daily life she leads, Dania told us that she wakes up early every morning and works to prepare food for her siblings and then on arranging the house, dressing her siblings in school clothes and feeding them. After they go to school she buys the house’s needs from the market and then washes her siblings' dirty clothes, taking advantage of them not being in the house, and when they return she feeds them and then goes to her school.
Dania continued that after she comes back from school, she starts to teach her siblings as best she can and prepares dinner for them. After they go to sleep, she finishes her studies and duties. “This is my life — split between my ambition to continue my studies and my siblings, who are all that are left to me in this life.”
One of Dania’s teachers — who asked not to be named for security reasons — said that Dania loved school and excelled. She said that her studies declined after her aunt died, but that she quickly overcame this stage. She is considered a good student with ambitions to continue her education and improve. She noted that Dania remained on her own and did not mix much with the other students as a result of the conditions she has endured.
The teacher said that Dania was excited to study, and at school they were always trying to encourage her to continue her studies and develop. She said that she had a “major burden” on her shoulders as she was acting as the mother for five children who needed “love, attention, care and school”. She said that despite all the difficulties, Dania insisted on continuing her education.
Dania is not the only child who has become mother to five children overnight. There are hundreds of children in the northern Homs countryside who have lost their mother, father or both in recent years. Some of them have been forced to leave their studies and work to secure a living, and others have continued to struggle and resist the harsh circumstances and continue their education, while others have found relatives to help reduce the pain of losing their parents.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.