Will I live another day to tell my story?

I want to share my voice today, because I don’t know if I’ll be alive another day to tell my story.

My name is Samah Atif, I’m 24 years old and I live in Gaza. I was studying English literature, but the war started, and life stopped. Between studying and working, I used to have a busy life, but now everything seems so far away, and reality feels empty.

I don’t have a place anymore. Bombs were dropped on the house of our neighbors that exploded and our apartment got fully destroyed in the impact. I’m now displaced living in a tent in Rafah, south of the Strip, close to the Egyptian border. I can’t take a shower when I want because there’s no water and I can’t eat what I want because there is basically nothing to eat here.

We used to live in the north, close to the Israeli border, when the ground invasion was imminent. On October 11th, I had to relocate to my relatives’ place. It sounds kind of naïve right now, but at the beginning we were thinking we could have gone back to our homes soon. I could have never imagined I will instead be displaced for other 3 times ending up in a tent. It’s no more about having a home, right now literally all buildings in Gaza are completely destroyed or heavily damaged.

I spent one month living with all my relatives, 9 people in one room. The situation got harder, so we had to leave, again. We went to the middle of Gaza, a place called Nuseirat, for 2 months. To move from the North to the middle of Gaza, we had no other choice but to walk, it’s about 3 hours. We took what they call the ‘safe path’. Well, it wasn’t safe at all. There were dead bodies, soldiers, tanks, and snipers all around us. It’s a terrible experience and I will never forget what I saw on that way.

My sister-in-law gave birth to her daughter while we were displaced in Nuseirat, it was a miracle, but celebrations could not last for long. The Israeli army started sending messages saying “this is a red zone”, calling us on the phone, sending flyers from the sky. That doesn’t mean they are going to drop a couple of bombs here and there; it means they are going to storm the area with rockets. Once again, we had to flee from the Israeli bombs following us wherever we go. The only option this time was Rafah.

When we moved was the last day of the year, the 31st of December 2023, when the whole world is celebrating with fireworks wishing for a better future to come. We arrived in Rafah and the place was empty. We arranged a tent and we had just one neighbor. It was very cold, no blankets, clothes, or food. Dust everywhere. Now Rafah is insanely overcrowded, there is not even space for the wind to bring the sand coming from the Siani desert nearby, while missiles are flying over our heads. Everyday we fear an Israeli ground invasion that could come at any moment.

I spent the New Year’s Eve looking at a palm tree, wondering what will be next in my life. I was supposed to spend that day with the person I love, that was supposed to be our first New Year’s Eve as wife and husband.

Our marriage was planned in November, but this truculent war started, and we haven’t seen each other in almost 200 days. This was supposed to be the year I would build my own family. A new start, for the sake of love. Our house was ready, we would have moved there after the marriage. The event was booked and arranged. We got a house for us, for our future. Our new furniture was there, my books, my dresses, my marriage dress. That new place where I was imagining my future no longer exists. It got burned. Humanitarian aid is nothing. Only if you have money you can survive here. Prices for every single thing you need to live are insane. To give just a small example, one egg costs 2.5 dollars. We are 16 people in a tent, for each one of us to be able to eat one single boiled egg that will make it up to 40 dollars. Yes, just for one single boiled egg per head.

My mind is full of questions with no answers. Will I survive? Will I see another day? Will I ever have a home again? Will I ever eat something different from canned food? Will I ever sleep in a bed protected by a ceiling and 4 walls? Will I ever not feel cold? I lost the ability to think for real about what is next to come. When I close my eyes, I see nothing. My future got destroyed. My ability to feel and have relations with everyone got destroyed. I became calm and cold. Like a machine, I don’t ask, I don’t answer. I do the things I’m supposed to do: wake up early, light up the fire, help cooking what we find to eat, wash dishes and clothes.

When I have internet I check the news, but I see nothing new. I lost hope of going back home and I’m afraid one day I will forget the meaning of what a home is.

There has been a shift. We are in surviving mode right now. Is not about missing home. Love, miss, appreciation. It feels like these things are too far away from me, my mind knows only surviving, my eyes see only surviving. If one day I will ever go back home, maybe I will have these feelings all at once, as if they were paused and finally unlocked after a long time passed waiting to be expressed.

I’m not depressed, this is the reality. During the day in the camp I play with kids, dance and laugh with them, I take pictures of people because I don’t want to forget their faces. No matter what is the definition of the life we are living, we are living, and we should say thanks God we are living.

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