Inviting eight Syrians for Christmas

Hania Hakiel, the project manager of our GSBTB Open Art Shelter, invited Syrian friends back to her homeland for Christmas

What happens when eight Syrian people spend Christmas Eve in Krakow, a historic Polish town? They feel like they are back in Damascus, where each stone tells a story…

Anas and Mohammad are welcomed by their host family with a sign “now it is your house too” written in Arabic and later they play chess with the father. Mohamad wins. No doubt – he was once a champion of Aleppo.

Within one day Saleh turns from a person afraid of dogs into a dog whisperer.

Many things happen for the first time… Eating potatoes with butter or drinking “weird” juice of dried plums and apples.

Mallake, who never eats fish, just because she purely and deeply dislikes it (and says “NO!” even to her mum’s meal), eats two pieces of traditional karp baked by my mum with almonds and a soft touch.

Kaja, Saleh’s host, writes: “You have to know that Saleh not only did the men’s job and wonderfully decorated the Christmas tree, but he also made pierogi z kapustą i grzybami, uszka, sałatkę jarzynowa and kutię”. The last few names are our traditional Polish dishes – without them, there is no Christmas Eve!

On a table in my house there are delicious Arabic sweets (surprise presents from Nebras and Saleh) next to typical Polish cookies called “pierniki”. The sweet coexistence of two traditions.

Polish tradition says that you need to leave an empty plate at the Christmas Eve table for an unexpected guest or a lost wanderer… It is the first time in my life that we do not have an empty plate on our table. Thank you my Syrian friends for taking the emptiness out of this time.

We have extremely warm Christmas this year, in both the heart and the weather. 12 degrees is not a typical December feeling. I am sure you brought the warmth and sun with you from the faraway South, from Syria.