- Name: Dasha Said
- Age: 17
- Year: Senior
- Home Country: Syria
- Resident of KSA: 3 years
- Hobbies: Basketball and Swimming
- Favorite Foods: fruity yogurt and a Russian rice/chicken/carrots dish
- Dislikes: When people ask her what it feels like to be one of a quadruplet.
- Future Plans: To study architecture
Her whole face lights up when her home country of Syria is mentioned. “It’s such a beautiful place. The people are nice and help each other. Everyone is down to Earth. It’s Safe.” She bows her head, “But now it’s not safe.” Her fingers run across the table top as she formulates her words, “We got used to the war. Got used to the bombs. Got used to not going out on some days.” A pause. “But you can’t stop living, you know? You have to keep carrying on with your life. And if you get hit by a bomb, inshallah, then it was meant to be.”
During her first year in Saudi Arabia at a friend’s birthday celebration someone set off a Birthday Popper. She describes how it “freaked her out” and how scared she was just from the sound. She thought bombs were going off in Saudi Arabia too.
Her family left Syria after her father’s company suffered economic set-backs from the war. He moved his family to Jeddah in order to take a better job. “We didn’t want to come and we cried in the airplane the entire way here. People in the plane thought someone in our family had died.”
Despite the crises in Syria, Dasha and her family return to visit whenever they can. She mentions that they “are lucky” because they also have Russian passports so they can come and go as they please. Other Syrians are stuck and can’t leave. The good fortune of her Russian heritage partially protects her brothers from being taken forcefully into the military. However, her family is still afraid of this possibility. She says there was a time when there were check points, throughout Syria, even in the capital and all 17 and 18 year olds were captured. Even the husband of one of her mother’s friends was seized. The streets were void of men. “We’re Russians so we pass by easier but [there was a time] we were afraid my brothers would be taken.”
She says they “thank God every day” that they live in the capital because it is safer there than in the rest of Syria since that is where the President resides. She feels sorry for the people outside of Damascus because “those are the ones really suffering.” She says “those people feel bullets passing by their heads. They see blood and dead bodies in the street every day.”
When she visits Damascus she is shocked by the inflation. The price of a falafel has risen from 25 to 250 Syrian Pounds. Going out for drinks and food for 7 or 8 people costs 50,000 Pounds but the average monthly salary for a teacher is only 20,000 Pounds.
Why return to a country where there is inflation and war? Because of family and friends. Because of her childhood home. “And being able to go out without abayas. Because of the freedom.” But when I ask her about being afraid of the war, she reminds me again, “You can’t stop living.”
After University she wants to return to Syria. She thinks her generation can rebuild Syria. She thinks it will take 10 years to recover from the destruction. But “there is hope”, she says.
Note: both student and parents agreed to publishing of this post