War stories are often about men with guns taking strategic cities by storm. When I met Dima Haj Darwish, a Syrian refugee living in Turkey, she had a different kind of war story. She told me about women who were forced to bundle up their wailing children and leave everything they knew behind.
Darwish brought me to Ulfah House, a weathered old building tucked away on a narrow street in Gaziantep, a large bustling Turkish city near the Syrian border. Ulfah is an Arabic word that has no direct equivalent in English but means something close to "the comfortable feeling you have when you're among familiar people." At Ulfah House, a group of Syrian refugees, mostly widows, have come together to help one another while they wait for the violence in their country to end.
I spent a day with the women of Ulfah House in their newly built kitchen and lively courtyard. Over cups of coffee, they described how airstrikes and firefights were destroying beautiful ancient cities and small rural communities in Syria. They explained the feeling of terror and the urgent responsibility to get their children to safety. I was moved by their strength and resilience. While these women were angry about what is happening, they were also hopeful. Together they were caring for one another’s children, learning entrepreneurial skills and praying that they eventually will be able to return home and rebuild their lives in Syria.