Huda stares at the three photographs hanging on her living room wall.
“The loss has torn my heart apart,” she says to me.
Huda’s husband Abdul Karim al-Suwaid and her two eldest sons, Mohammed and Jumaa, were killed on August 28, 2012 in government airstrikes on the local Kfar Nabel marketplace where they worked.
Huda’s husband owned a butcher’s shop in the market, which he ran with his 20 and 19 years old sons.
“The regime’s air force destroyed my life. I am now a widow, and my remaining children are now orphans,” said 45-year-old Huda.
“As if the government air strikes weren’t enough, we now have Russian planes terrorising us night and day,” she added.
Not only did Huda lose her husband and two sons that day, she also lost her only source of income and her husband’s savings.
Abdul Karim had been storing 600,000 Syrian pounds (2,700 US dollars) in his shop to buy sheep from the village of Jbala. The money was lost during the attack.
Huda suddenly found herself responsible for six children: three girls and three boys.
Her son Ahmad was now the eldest, and at the age of 17 he became the family breadwinner.
“For a year, I worked at a factory that makes plastic,” Ahmad told me. “But then it closed down so I joined an opposition militia. I left them a short while ago and am currently looking for a job.”
Around a year ago, Huda’s youngest child, 9-year-old Asma, was diagnosed with intestinal cancer.
“My daughter suffers acute stomach pain, nausea and diarrhoea,” said Huda, “I too am ill with a kidney problem.”
Huda sought help from Kfar Nabel’s local council, which offers support to widows of martyrs and wives of defectors.
“They advised me to approach humanitarian agencies and ask them for help,” she said.
As we sat in Huda’s house talking, one of her daughters who had been making us a cup of coffee approached her mother.
“We just ran out of cooking fuel,” she said.
Huda was visibly upset.
“A cylinder of gas costs 7,500 pounds ($34). When the one I have runs out I remain terribly anxious until we manage to buy a new one.
“Each time we run out of something in the house, I feel myself age a little more. My life is a story of grief, poverty and pain.”
This poverty is apparent from the state of Huda’s house. The walls are damaged, the furniture is very basic, and there is no proper heating.
But despite all the hardship, Huda holds on to her dreams.
“I dream of my daughter’s recovery, of rebuilding my house and of obtaining some fuel to keep my family warm during the freezing weather,” she said.
Hiba al-Aboud is the pseudonym of a Damascus Bureau contributor. The 24-year-old was forced to abandon her Arabic literature course at Damascus University when the revolution started. She now works at the Radio Fresh station.
This article was republished in The Syrian Observer at a special agreement with Damascus Bureau.