Two schools, in two small towns in Syria and Italy. Two groups of kids of the same age, similar in their enthusiasm and spontaneity yet with different sensitivity and habits.
The first ones, students of an English school in the city of Qamishli, smile at us, proud in their simple room – aware of being part of a unique project, that will allow them to broaden their horizons.
The second ones, students of a junior high school in Domodossola, constantly absorbed in a communication network in which it is not easy to orient oneself, are discovering what it means to have their same age and live in a country that is at war.
These kids began to reflect. What is the past? Why should someone study it? What does "past" mean for us, which are the traditions that keeps us bound to previous generations? And why is it important to protect these tradition together with the territory where they originated?
They are pondering, and writing. They are exchanging their thoughts, finding out together with their educators how different their sensitivities are.
Here are some excerpts from the essays written by the Syrian students in these first months. Their profundity is truly impressive and touching. And this is just the beginning..
"My name is Diana Housein Khalil. I am in the 9th grade, in Zaki Arsouzi School in Qamishli. I live in Qamishli, but originally I am from Habbo Village where my grandparents live.
I love my family so much, and I could never live far away from them because I would miss them so much. I feel that I belong to my family just like I belong to my country where the culture, friends and memories unite us all. (…)
In my village, there is an archaeological Tell and my father says that archaeologist, both Syrians and international, wanted to excavate in it. And in our area, there are many archaeological sites like Tell Beydar, Tell Mozan, Tell Halaf and Tell Leilan. My father said that there are archaeological Tells in almost every village, which is a sign of a great civilization that thrived in the area thousands of years ago, And this makes my area a very important area from the historical aspect, even if currently it does not have a the most beautiful landscapes..."
"My name is Soline Abdel baset Oso. I am 14 years old. I live in Qamishli, and my village's name is Sofia. I live with my Mon, dad, brother and sister. My small family means a lot to me, and we all stand together in hard time. (…)
I think it is very important to preserve the traditions that express our authenticity and our identity. And I feel very proud when I learn about the innovations of our ancestors, and advanced level of culture, industry, agriculture and craftsmanship they had. (…)
In my area, we still do somethings like we they did in the past. Such as wool knitting, and making stuffed toys, handmade carpets and embroidery. We also celebrate the Nowruz day. (…)
I consider my area a beautiful one, full of archaeological monuments. And my village is very close to these sites. Every archaeological site in my country have a special place in my heart. And this is the only way we can learn about our history which is very important to know about in order to advance..."
"There are two "types" of things that make me feel at home, but they are two opposite poles and it seems really strange to me!
For sure I love the sea, and sunrises and sunsets, especially bathing in salt water. (...) Since I was a child, I've always gone to the beach and it reminds me of happy moments of my childhood. (...)
But I could not imagine living at the sea if in winter there is no snow (absurd!), sand and snow are two opposite things.. (...)
There is another thing that I really like and makes me feel at home: sunflowers. This is because when I went to the beach I always saw them. My dad, then, stopped the car and we stopped there, looking at them, simple, so simple that they remind you how you can be happy with little. (...)
But I still have a doubt: whether these are "things" that make me feel at home, or if they are just the things that remind me of good times..." [Isabella, 13 years old]
"What makes me feel at home? In my opinion, the thing that makes me feel at home the most is certainly the dialect of my grandparents, precisely that of Val Formazza, honestly, who has never heard at least one sentence in dialect pronounced by his grandparents? ..When perhaps your grandparents were talking to you in some strange dialect, and you did not understand anything and you just nodded with your head.. The only regret that I have is that dialect is not as widespread as it was once, and that young people today do not know it (including me), because it would be nice to delete some of the words that we say and use, instead, some of the expressions that recall the dialect of our grandparents. I also think that this is a good way to let people know where we come from..." [Davide, 13 years old]