I was approx. 12 years old when I learned we as a family had to flee, my parents realized that if we stayed any longer we would be killed. Our home had already been bombed at least 3 times now, my fathers business burned to the ground, our windows constantly broken, shots fired through our windows and the verbal daily treats to our lives became unbearable.
I along with one of my sisters and I don’t remember which one where sent to stay with our grandparents (they lived in a very rural part of Ireland). I was so happy as I loved to spend time with Granda.
I was not told what was happening and to be truthful I did not ask I was feeling safe if only for a few weeks.
I arrived back to my parents new home the night right before I was to start school again. I was now living in a different part of town (Belfast) and was told by my grandparents that it was safe.
I remembering being wakened the next morning to attend school. This school was close to this new home so I could walk there, my parents did not have the money to buy me a new school uniform so I had to wear the one from my previous school.
I walked into the school and went to the main office and the principle came out to greet me and ask me to fill to out some paperwork. I answered the first question on the paperwork which was my name, Adrienne Ward, the next line asked for my address and I suddenly realized I did not know it, I had not idea where I was. I had a left my home, my belongings, my school, and arrived at my grandparents then to return to a different house with no carpet, newspaper on the windows, a family room with a old TV mismatching chairs and beds in our rooms.
I suddenly realized my parents had to leave with nothing and I started to panic, my mind racing looking for something familiar, someone who could explain any of this to me and of course they did not because they could not.
I held on to the words that I was now safe however the tears had leaked out of my eyes onto this paper, I was trying to breath, the principle looked kindly at me and told me that the paperwork could wait for another day and she would walk me to my home room.
I entered the room red eyed and scared, the principle introduced me and I was directed to my seat and I don’t remember much more about that day.
When I arrived home I learned that we were squatters in this new home, and because of this some of the neighbors where very upset.
When we fled from home we had nowhere to go so my parents had to find a place to move into quickly and because they where casualties of war they could claim squatters rights.
Pretty soon I realized instead of being welcomed into this new neighborhood my family were now "the refugees", other children would tell me what their parents were saying about us, that we were beggars, we were bringing down the neighborhood, that they wished we would move out, when was I going to get a proper uniform etc. For me all of sudden safety did not look so safe and the war in Northern Ireland escalated with nightly bombings, murders, threats however at least this time the bombs where not directed at my home. War was now just a way of life.
Peace missions would come and go, never staying enough to effect any real change. Mostly they felt pity for us and pity never changed anything and to be frank most of them where caring yet clueless.
I learned not to be a follower, that fearful hurt people hurt people. That people are neither bad or good they are whatever they feel, so if they feel scared they will act scared and if they feel hopeful they will allow hopeful steps.
As I watch the Syrian refugees today I feel their hopeful steps, I see their fear and I see their possibilities, I see their strength, and their love for their children as they hand them over to strangers.
Maybe a young girl will wake up in a new home tomorrow and realize she does not know her address and what I would tell her; it does not matter. What will matter is the love inside and the love around her.
What will matter is what she knows about herself, that she is an infinite being, a global citizen, she is a treasure not just another refugee