It’s been years since your war… A Syrian Ukrainian conversation

Friday 22 July 202210:30 am
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"مضت على حربكم سنوات طويلة. أنا غادرت بلادي منذ شهرين فقط"... حوار لأوكراني وسوري

“Cheers… Fuck the War”.

The first man, with Arab features, a wide forehead, and a coastal accent that has bled through to his English, all suggest that he is from the Syrian coast.

The second man, with his unmistakable Ukrainian features, is wearing a bracelet bearing the colors of his country’s flag and the word “Kiev” written on it in Ukrainian.

He isn’t some foreigner who has decided to side with the Ukrainians, but rather the son of that land.

What kind of gathering is this? Two sons of war have joined one another to drink a toast to curse war’s filth and wretchedness.

It is not my sense of journalism that prompted me to listen in on them, but what pushed me to do so is the curiosity of any passerby who knows he will not come across a chance meeting such as this one every day.

Many a time, Syrians have met with Ukrainians, but today’s meeting is a special one, witnessed by the present half of the minds of these two war brothers, while the other half has disappeared in the equal drunken haze of wine and grievance.

Blessed are the displaced

On the shores of Lake Balaton in Hungary, the biggest summer holiday destination for those living in the Central European country, the Syrian invites his Ukrainian counterpart in their shared displacement to drink the final glass that brings their night of drinking to an end.

I sit next to them, eavesdropping, without involving myself in this little sit-down, without trying to get to know them for fear that I’d disrupt the purity of their drunkenness, and in order to make sure they fully unleash their disclosures without having to bother with breaking the ice with a new companion.

So I content myself with my auditory monitoring and writing down the course of events of this small gathering.

Looking across the surface of the lake, the Ukrainian asks, “It’s my son’s birthday in a month. Will we spend it here or celebrate it in Kiev?”

The Syrian replies, “The important thing is that you are all well. You will celebrate in Kiev, God willing, as long as this is what you wish for.”

 “To wish for the end of the war in your country, that is obvious, as to going back... you should seriously reconsider such decision”. A Syrian man tells a Ukrainian

The Ukrainian: “Of course that is what I wish for! Should I wish to remain a refugee instead?”

The Syrian: “To wish for an end to the war in your country, that is obvious, but to go back.. You should think about that more.”

This somewhat provokes the Ukrainian, who then takes his cigarette from his mouth, turns to his companion, and says, “Is there a refugee on this earth who does not dream of returning to his home?”

The Syrian: “Yes, when you know that you’re returning and you won’t find that home, it’s just better to not go back. And when I say this I don’t mean the walls and ceilings. I mean the homeland, home, and safe haven.”

 “Is there a refugee on this earth who does not dream of going back to his home?” A Ukrainian refugee asked a Syrian.

A short moment of silence, then the conversation resumes between the two twenty-something young men.

“We Syrians have woken up from the dream of returning, and when it comes to us during a fleeting nap, we wake up in a panic, for returning to Syria has become a tragic adversity.”

The Ukrainian counters with, “Because you are still under Russian occupation! We will not go back to the way we were until we get the Russians out of Ukraine!”

The Syrian then firmly interrupts him, “The Russians are not an occupier in my country. They came by invitation and at the behest of the state, and fought with us against ISIS.”

Then silence, followed by a yellow (fake) laugh from the Ukrainian.

The Syrian goes on to state, “Bro, I’m not stupid, I know that the Russians have interests in Syria. But they stood with us in the war the world had waged against us.”

The Ukrainian replies, seemingly fed up, “You might as well go ahead and tell me that Putin entered Ukraine to defend himself too!”

The word “yes” faltered on the lips of the Syrian, drowned out by a  new sip of vodka, thus he decided to swallow it down with a second sip to avoid a clash with his drinking companion for the evening.

“Cheersss... Fuck the War”.

“Cheers.. Fuck the War”.

With this drunken diplomacy, the Russian disagreement ends. Then breaking through the monotony of the evening appears a dancer on her way to do her number. Her features appear to be Ukrainian.

“She’s Ukrainian right!?” The Syrian asks.

“Yes,” replies the Ukrainian, and continues with a sad tone, “They make them work in prostitution in Sweden!”

The alcohol alleviates the darkness of the scene.

The Syrian then adds, “All jokes aside now, go to Western Europe and begin a new life and a new future. The countries emerging from war need an eternity to get back on their feet, you will waste your years and your youth.”

The Ukrainian adamantly replies, “The issue is not that simple, it has been many years since your war (began). As for me, I left my country only two months ago, and I still do not understand what happened!”

The Syrian proposes to his comrade to visit Ukraine for a short period of time to see for himself if he is right and see what has become of the country, and then he will most probably refrain from wanting to settle inside the war ravaged Ukraine.

The foolishness of nationalism

The Syrian carries on, seemingly completely absorbed in his own memories, “This beach reminds me of my city of Tartus, yet I do not yearn for it, because I know how its beaches have become now. Rather, I will find neither time nor the right mood to sit down and contemplate on its seashore if I do return, because the misery of living in Syria does not leave any room for such quiet, beautiful moments. Perhaps I feel nostalgia for that beach from my childhood before the war. For that era I yearn, yes, but it will never return.”

The Ukrainian points out to him that, “It cannot return if you all leave.”

That’s when the Syrian’s tone changes to an offensive one and his voice turns gruff, “Enough patriotic speeches. People have the right to look for a better future. So I will travel as far as possible from this cursed geographical region. I will go to Australia. Even this land — Europe — has been invaded by Arabs and is afflicted with wars. I will live there, far from all this mayhem!”.

The Ukrainian asserts, “As for me, I will stay here next to my land and provide relief to its people when they come. You can call me poetic, dramatic, or a romantic, but I will stay here, breathing in the smell of Ukraine and breathing the air that its winds carry here, and I will go back to it soon, no matter what state it’ll be in.”

The Syrian decides to shut him up with, “Cheersss... Fuck the war and fuck you also.”

The Ukrainian laughs, “I’ve awakened your patriotism, right?”

The Syrian answers with a laugh of his own, “You didn’t wake anything up! You reminded me of my foolishness at the beginning of the war, when I refused to leave. If only I wasn’t such a fool as you are now. I would have already been Swedish or German by now.”

The Ukrainian bursts into laughter, “Here’s to my foolishness”.

The Syrian: “And here’s to my impertinence”.

Cheers.

The final scene

The two sons of war were only able to agree upon cursing it in all its wretchedness, and to exaggerate in expressing. The first, a war veteran, is almost on the verge of feeling gratitude to it for the chance of asylum it had brought him, and the second man’s poeticism cannot be forgiven because he is just a novice when it comes to war.

The waiter comes with the bill for the table, with it, lowering the final curtain on the show that I will never forget. I go on my way while thanking “the fate that made me stumble across this little get together.” And I say, “To hell with the war, not only for those people — for those have survived — but for those who are still being lashed every hour under its unforgiving whips to this very moment, both Ukrainians and Syrians alike.”

 

* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Raseef22

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