The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

We as a nation are currently going through a pandemic and COVID has meant our way of living has adjusted but close your eyes and imagine that your home is no longer your home. That the world you have always known is no longer that place. Imagine waking up one morning and not being able to walk safely down your street to get a pint of milk or a loaf of bread. Imagine your child not being able to play safely in their own back garden. Hard isn’t it?

That is the situation for Nuri and Afra. They have lived their lives in the city of Aleppo, Syria and over night the place they called home is now a war zone and they have two options. Stay and most likely be killed or flee and try to leave Syria without being killed. They choose to flee but this is no easy feat. Through the trauma Afra has experienced she is now blind so Nuri is her eyes and his job is to keep them safe whilst they embark on the most treacherous journey of their lives.

I cannot for one second imagine what they plus hundreds of other Syrian’s must go through when they chose to undergo this journey to get to safety. Someone once said to me you should never judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes and whilst I agree with this what I do know is it is easy to let our unconscious bias form an opinion of these people that have entered the UK or any other country for that matter. It is easy to look at these people with distaste rather than sympathy and overlook the journey they have had to take to simply live without the fear of constantly having to look over their shoulder. To want their children to grow up with options and the opportunity to have an education and live safely and freely.

In 1972 my dad was kicked out of the place he called home because a dictator woke up one morning and decided that all Indians need to leave the country. In this situation there was no option, if you didn’t leave you were brutally killed, your houses and businesses were set on fire and your wives and sisters were raped. Fortunately, as India was part of the British colony Indians were invited to live in England as British citizens but this came with its own obstacles. Firstly there was the colour of your skin which meant you stood out, secondly there was the language barrier and thirdly (but to name a few) there was the smell that wafted out of the kitchen window when the dinner was being made. And whilst I appreciate in 2020 most people love a good curry back in the 70’s curry was referred to as ‘foreign muck’.

But my family as most other Indian families set down their roots and made England their home. They worked hard, persevered with the taunts and name calling and even began to support the local football teams although I don’t think my brother has ever forgiven my dad for making him a Blackburn Rovers fan. And yes while my family was part of the stereotype of having the corner shop I am proud of my heritage. I am proud of my parents and the battles they have had to fight because of their colour of their skin. I am proud that they adapted and learnt the language. I am proud they gave me and my brother the opportunity to educate ourselves. But on the flip side of this I am also proud to be British. I am a firm believer in the saying when in Rome do as the Romans do so yes I celebrate the British festivals (and not just by watching the Royal Family on Christmas Day), I wear a Poppy proudly and teach my little girl that even though she is Indian by heritage she has every right to celebrate the British culture.

So yes it is easy to stand on the bylines and judge. It is easy to form an opinion of someone simply by looking at them or taking in their appearance but before you do take a step back and even if it just for a moment imagine what it is they may have gone through.

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