I was reunited with my cousin in Canada. But knowing I may never see my family in Damascus again hurts

I would have to wait more than a decade to see my cousin Lujain again. That last time, we were teenagers; I was 16 and she was 19. It was the Easter holidays in 2010 and I was in Syria on holiday with my mum, dad and brother. My dad is Syrian and every few years we would go to Damascus to visit my grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. I looked forward to seeing them and we were always able to just pick up where we left off. After the war began in 2011, my Syrian family became displaced around the world.

Lujain and I began reconnecting online in 2020 during the pandemic. She now lives in Canada with her husband, Hasan, and their two little boys. Together, we began to explore our differing memories of Syria – mine full of nostalgia and Lujain’s fragmented and painful. A lot of families go through a natural separation over time; people emigrate in pursuit of a career or different lifestyle. The difference with our family is that this physical distance was never a choice – the decision to leave Syria was based on an instinct for survival.

Laura Wadha is a Scottish/Syrian documentary film-maker and graduate of the National Film and Television School. Her film Born in Damascus was commissioned by the Scottish Documentary Institute and Screen Scotland and won the Berlinale Crystal Bear for best short film 2022

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