When Olga Ladanova moved to Damascus 10 years ago to marry a Syrian citizen and start a family, she held on to her Kyrgyz citizenship. These days, her family credits her passport with saving their lives.
Prior to the outbreak of civil strife in Syria in early 2011, Ladanova and her husband, along with two sons, enjoyed a relatively comfortable life in the Syrian capital. She was a homemaker and he worked in a restaurant as a chef.
But even before warfare left their home destroyed, it imperiled their children’s innocence. “When there was shooting outside, my six-year-old son coldly told me which guns [the fighters] were using, and what kind of tanks were firing. When the children played in the streets, they collected bullets,” says Ladanova’s husband, Mohammed Nur Addin. “Is this a normal game?”
Amid a battle between government troops and the opposition near their home in March 2012, the family sought temporary refuge elsewhere. When they returned after the fighting had subsided, their apartment block had been decimated and they were forced to seek shelter with relatives elsewhere in the city. Ultimately, they opted to leave the country.
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Timur Toktonaliev is a Bishkek-based reporter.