The story follows Sami, a typical 13-year-old boy living life in a comfortable home in Damascus. Sami has no real worries, apart from whether he will get to play in the football trials with his friends or go to an ice skating party. Although the war has been going on for eight years, it feels unreal and is happening away from their neighbourhood.
The war enters Sami’s life abruptly when a school day is curtailed due to a bombing and all the children are sent home. This is not a drill.
For Sami, the realisation that the bomb is in a shopping mall, the one that his mum and sister were going to, turns an annoying event into a life-changing experience.
For Sami’s dad, this event is the final straw. As a doctor in the hospital, he has been on the front line, seeing the ravages of war. With his daughter so affected by the events in the shopping mall, he believes that there is no choice but to make their escape and leave all that they know.
The description of their journey, from a normal beginning – a plane to Turkey, then waiting for a place on a boat to make a perilous sea trip, then inside a lorry made the danger and worry clear to me. The time spent in the detention centre in the UK makes clear the frustrations of the system. Whilst everyone says that they are doing their best – and many are – for those navigating and living it, it feels totally bureaucratic and heartless.
As Sami learns to cope with life in the UK he realises that new friendships will help and make things bearable, time to look to the future.
This story will help children (and adults) see that refugees are not ‘other’.They are exactly the same as ‘us’. No-one would leave all that they know and risk their lives to make a safer life for themselves unless they truly believed it was the only way left open to them.
It also made me question my cosy reality when I visited a shopping mall. As I looked up at the glass structure, similar to the mall in Damascus, I thought about how we take our lives so much for granted and don’t realise how lucky we are.
Review by our director, Alison Palmer. Visit A. M. Dassu’s website to find out more about her and her work.