Hidden Faith - A breathtaking tale of escape to a new life in Ireland.
2017-09-15 04:45:01 -

Metro Éireann-Kenan Institute for Ethics Intercultural Writing Competition: The Winners

A breathtaking tale of escape to a new life in Ireland from this 16-year-old McKenna Whitfield from Carrickmacross, who took second place in the 14-17 category.


When the bombs began to fall, my whole life shattered into pieces. All of a sudden, my brother’s sweet sound of laughter and the vanilla scented hugs of my mother — gone — as if none of it ever existed. That’s the thing with war. It doesn’t impact the people who initiated it, it effects the people who didn’t. The innocent souls.


After falling into cold water, I gasp uncontrollably. My limbs thrash violently, trying to get to the surface. I remember an advertisement I saw. Float to the surface and the cold water shock will wear off. I fight against my basic human extinct and still my body. Before I know it, the sky reappears and its home of a million stars. My breath is pouring out in bursts of white fog while my eyes feel heavy. If I just fall asleep, I could sleep forever. No more tears, no more pain, no more suffering. In the distance, the raft slowly drifts away. If I don’t get back on it, I will die. But maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.


I hear myself choking out: ”.انتظر.“


It seems that the raft drifts further away and I feel myself slipping into a dark abyss of nothingness. My lips tremble so fiercely, I can’t shout anything else. A pair of eyes, belonging to an older woman I was sitting close to on the raft, land on me.


“.بنت يسقط خارج ال ّسفينة!“ she screams “,استوقف!“


The men paddling the boat glance over at me and mumble something inaudible to the woman. She nods.


They order: “أنت يضط ّر سبحت.“


My arms automatically comply with their command and I start to breaststroke towards them. Every push burns my arms to the core. Salty tears stream down my face and after what feels like an eternity of my personal hell, the rubber of the raft greets me. Strong arms pull me back onboard as I stare at the vast expanse of the ocean. Corpses of people who didn’t have the same lucky fate as I after the tall waves threw us off, drift on top of the water. If that woman hadn’t seen me, I would have been one of them in just a matter of minutes. Many of us die during the dangerous passage from hyperthermia or drowning.


I whisper to her: “.شكرت أنت.“


She nods, giving me a small smile and the deathly journey to a peaceful country continues.

After arriving in Munich, the exhaustion finally hits me. Blisters have been plaguing my feet and tear open; a pool of blood soaks into the soft leather of my flimsy shoes. Conversations that I don’t understand zoom around in the air, but they are different from what I’m used to. There are no screams of terror. No gunshots. No explosions. 


Even though it’s so loud here in the train station, it’s the quietest it has been for me in a very long time. I draw in a deep breath and take out the paper my father gave me before he put me onto the raft. It’s torn and nearly falling apart, the number on it barely legible. It belongs to my aunt in Ireland. He said to call her when I’m safe. The pay phone demands one euro, money I don’t have. My eyes scan the station and fall on a woman sitting on one of the benches. She is wearing a hijab and I’m drawn to her.


“Excuse me,” I say in heavily accented English.


Her head whips up and she stares at me. Her glare is unnerving and I feel my heart thumping in my chest, quickening with every passing second.


“Could I please have a euro?” I cup my hand out, a pleading gaze meeting her hard face.


She rolls her eyes and heaves out a sigh, rummaging in her bag. She passes me a coin so roughly, she might as well have thrown it.


“Thank you so much,” I say with a grateful tremble in my voice.


She completely ignores me after that and continues using her phone. Back at the pay phone, I toss the coin in. The line rings so often, I’m scared my aunt won’t pick up and the euro will have been completely wasted. Finally, her voice drifts through the receiver.




I let out a breath of relief.


“Hello. My name is Amira. My father’s name is Hamza.”


I hear a gasp on the other end. “Amira,” she says softly. “Oh my goodness, I’m so glad you made it. I was beginning to think something happened to you.” The words are so quick and with such a different accent, I struggle to follow their meaning.


Yes.” I mutter in the hopes that it’s the right thing to say.

“Where are you honey?” she asks.


“Okay, no worries. I will get on a plane as soon as I can. Do you know where you are in Munich?”


I look around for any signs. I’m at a train station, I know that for sure. München Flughafen-Airport, one sign says.

“I’m at the airport train station.”

“Brilliant. I’ll get there as soon as I can. Stay safe, Amira, and don’t go anywhere. I’ll see you—”


The line cuts off. I groan. My time is up. I use an escalator to get to the airport section and sit at the departure gate. The seat is hard and uncomfortable, the metal digging into my shoulder. Nevertheless, my eyelids turn heavy and I soon drift into a dreamless sleep, all the while praying that my aunt will find me and that my father is all right.


“Amira,” a voice echoes in my mind, waking me up. A hand is on my shoulder and I yawn involuntarily, my vision unfocused at first. A woman is grinning down at me, her appearance similar to my father’s. Aunt Daneen. The airport lights are blinding and the windows are exposing a crisp night setting.


“Hello,” I say and get up, my legs wobbly.


Aunt Daneen steadies me before tears spring down her face. “I’m so sorry,” she whispers and envelopes me into a hug. “I heard about your mother and brother. Is your father all right?”


I shrug because I honestly have no idea.


Her arms release me, her features expressing a look of sympathy. “Nobody should have to go through that.”

“At least I survived to here.”

She smiles. “Let me take you to your new home.”

Ireland is green. Different shades of the colour pop out, complementing with the other earthy tones. The sun is high in the sky, emitting a soft, comforting glow. It’s breathtakingly beautiful.


“The weather isn’t normally this good,” Aunt Daneen chuckles. “It rains most of the time.”

“I love the rain.” A warm day can be relaxing, but there is something about rain that gives me peace.

“That’s interesting.”


The rest of the car ride is littered with small talk and silence.


My house back home could fit into Aunt Daneen’s house at least ten times. The garden surrounding the estate is even more massive. I’m left speechless. Horses graze in the fields, accompanied by the bleating of white, woolly sheep. Cows, chickens and pigs join in on the animalistic orchestra while strutting around the place.


Daneen smiles. “Welcome home.”


I force a smile in return. For now, I can’t consider this my home. Until my father gets here, this will be nothing but a safe haven.

The uniform is itchy on my skin. Three weeks have passed, and my aunt and uncle think it’s a good idea for me to go to school. They have explained my situation to the principal and he believes I would be a great asset to the school. Everyone has been labelling me as a refugee, but I don’t take it as an insult. The insignia tells that I’ve overcome a lot of hardships and I’m stronger because of them.


As I’m roaming the halls of Faraday Community School, I can’t help but feel like a black swan. Gazes linger on me and whispers instigate shortly after. I’m the only girl in a hijab and all the other students aren’t Muslim.


My first class is Science. I sit at my assigned desk and wait for class to commence. I divert my view from the staring pupils and keep to myself. A vile feeling of home sickness overcomes me. I’m petrified that I’m going to start sobbing.

“Hey, I’m Emma.”

I peer to my right and a girl has now settled beside me. Her hair reminds me of strawberries. I shake her hand.

“Hello, I’m Amira.”

She beams at me.

“It’s nice to meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you, too.”


When the crumpled piece of paper lands on my desk at the same time the teacher walks in, I know it was targeted at me and not the bin. Emma eyes it as I unfold it. Terrorist. A feeling of nausea stings my throat and my whole body freezes. I hear snickering at the back. How can someone be so cruel? Emma snatches the note and stands in front of the class. The whole room silences in an instant.


“Sit down,” the teacher orders.

“Ms Murphy, I’m sorry but I can’t,” she apologises and straightens herself. “How can a person write something like this?” She holds up the note. “Just because she’s Muslim doesn’t mean she’s a terrorist. That’s like saying, oh that kid’s dad used to be in the IRA, so she has to be one of them.” She stays quiet for a second. “It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. Amira has gone through stuff we couldn’t even dream off. While we were thinking about who to shift at the club on Friday, she was fighting for her life. So how dare you make things harder on her than they already are. All we do is judge and it’s absolutely hypocritical because all we want is acceptance. Whether it be from strangers, our friends, or our family. Take social media, for example. The whole thing exists to connect with the world. To get ‘likes’ from everyone. It’s so awfully pathetic. While we are fat shaming, bullying in general, we want acceptance. Just remember that the next time you judge someone. Treat others the way you want to be treated. That’s all I have to say.”


Everyone is totally stunned. Ms Murphy regains her composure first.


“Emma, take a seat please,” she says quietly, but it sounds like a scream in the stillness. Emma sits back down and I know right then and there that we are going to be friends. “Thank you,” I say with a small smile.


She squeezes my hand under the desk and class begins. Ms Murphy stumbles over her words and looks flustered. Emma’s words seemed to have left an impression not only on me. 


When the school day ends, I finally realise that I might not get the happy ending I’ve always dreamed of. The transition into this new country will be difficult. Even if I’ll never see my father again, I know I’m going to be okay. Sometimes, that’s all one needs. I won’t feel like a foreigner forever and if there is one thing I’ve learned since coming to Ireland, it’s that your biggest downfalls can become your greatest strengths. No matter what, the bombs of my past will not destroy my future. 

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