Russians In Syria Speak About Weariness From War
The Russian diaspora in Syria, represented by several thousand citizens, has experienced all the hardship of the Syrian crisis, which will soon exceed the eight-year milestone
Representatives of the Russian diaspora told Sputnik about their most vivid memories of the war years and shared their thoughts on whether the crisis in the country is approaching the end.
There are several customers walking along the narrow aisles and choosing Syrian-made goods at a small store in the evening.
"There are no buckwheat and herring," he said as these products are the staples of the Russian cuisine.
"Because of the conflict, all these stores have been closed, but maybe someday they will be opened again," he said with a sight.
This is only one of the consequences of the protracted Syrian crisis. The bridge near the embassy was reopened for traffic only this year, while numerous checkpoints where each vehicle was searched are gradually disappearing.
However, the checkpoints at the entrances to the city are still in place, and the enhanced security of key facilities continues to exist. The guards armed with weapons on the streets of Damascus are still a norm for the residents. Nevertheless, security measures are justified: only in January, a mined car blew up, literally, 300 meters from the Russian Embassy.
At the same time, the streets were empty a year ago during the evenings, including near the embassy, which was regularly subjected to mortar attacks by terrorists.
Irina, who has been living in Damascus for more than 30 years, said that she had not left Syria during the conflict because of her Syrian husband, even though he did not mind her possible departure. A significant role was played by the fact that a plane was ready to evacuate the Russians at any time.
The situation worsened around 2014, when militants took control of the areas near the house of the pair.
At some point, she had to memorize the lineage of prophet Muhammad.
"Because you could go to a store or somewhere else, and suddenly a car stops you and they ask: who was the mother of prophet Muhammad? What was her name? And you need to answer immediately, without thinking twice: Aminah," the woman explained.
Even now, a few years later, she remembers this information by heart.
The terrorists, who were proud of their pseudo-religion, could ask about the Names of the prophet's wives, there were 16 of them, or about the number of children.
"You needed to answer immediately and then they would let you go. If you made some mistakes then this was the end," Irina says.
However, she noted that despite the difficult times, the diaspora had gathered for meetings and discussed latest events.
"Many people left. Some wives left and their husbands stayed," the woman said.
"The war is still going on, there are still these attacks in Homs, Aleppo, villages are being attacked, blown up. The war is not over yet, so we cannot say that the life is calm and there is no war. Everyone is alarmed, waiting that something else might happen, everyone feels the pressure," Irina stressed.
Actress Natalya Karesli, who has been living in Damascus for many years, said that "the war was scary not due to particular incidents, but in general, first of all, because of human losses, when someone is killed, while someone ceases to exist for you, revealing their true face at a difficult time."
Karesli shared notes from her diary, which she had been writing during the war. According to her diary, in January 2012, a young doctor told her how they had brought to the hospital wounded soldiers, policemen, civilians, who were attacked by militants.
"They took the bag from him and opened it. There was a severed head. Shouting, screaming ... The man, who had come, regained consciousness because of all these noises. It turned out that the bus in which he was going from one suburb to another was stopped by armed bandits. All passengers were killed, one head was cut off, put into the bag and given to the only person who was left alive. They told him to go to Damascus. An act of intimidation," Karesli wrote.
When asked about whether it is possible to say with confidence if the war was coming to an end, Karesli noted that "this is a place on earth where the temperature temporarily goes down by a few degrees."
According to Alexandra, teacher of Russian, the key to survival during the war was "not losing optimism."
"It is scary when people go to work and school and do not know whether they will return home safe and sound," Alexandra said, recalling the years of violent clashes.