A Syrian Journal

Olga Kravets

Published on 16/02/15

© Olga Kravets

A sol­dier was proudly accom­pa­ny­ing me, the holder of the “friendly” Rus­sian press-card in the Dam­as­cus sub­urb of Sayy­idah Zaynab that hosts one of the most import­ant Shia shrines. He told me over lunch he was very happy about Rus­sia becom­ing “a great, mighty coun­try again”. I replied that in my opin­ion, no coun­try could be con­sidered mighty as long as it was sus­pec­ted of killing civil­ians. “Why so?!”, a minder, provided to me by the Syr­ian Inform­a­tion Min­istry, exclaimed emo­tion­ally. That very moment, the con­ver­sa­tion was over before it star­ted. The sol­dier turned away from me and star­ted to tell my driver how he had almost died in a car crash the day before. This was by far not the first time when Syr­i­ans chose not to have uncom­fort­able con­ver­sa­tions with me dur­ing my time “on the Assad side” of the war-torn country.

After more than 2 months of wait­ing I was gran­ted the regime per­mis­sion to come to Syria for two weeks in Septem­ber 2014  and was able to visit Dam­as­cus, Homs, Maaloula and Krak de Che­va­liers. From the very first day I couldn’t escape the sur­real feel­ing of being inside John Steinbeck’s 1948 A Rus­sian Journal pro­duced in col­lab­or­a­tion with Robert Capa. A minder, a feel­ing of loneli­ness inside a lux­uri­ous hotel, ruins of Homs instead of ruins of Stal­in­grad – there were just too many coin­cid­ences. I pho­to­graphed days and nights, know­ing what a rare chance I got and also kept a diary which I used as a basis for this short story.

Text by Olga Kravets. Full ver­sion is avail­able upon request.


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