The Scent of Lemon Blossoms

 This is a story about Vera, who is a 40-year-old woman who found refuge Turkey.  She is a single mother of four children. Her three elder children were separated from her, now living in Lebanon with their father. Her youngest is only a few months old.  Vera suffers from the traumatic experiences she had to endure during and after her flight from Syria and has been struggling with psychological problems ever since.


Vera carrying her little baby. She lives now in Mardin separated from her other three children.

© Welthungerhilfe. Mardin City, Turkey, January 2020





"I'm fighting to reach my right to get well, we're fighting together, side by side"

Vera stood before me on June 16; she was the incarnation of fear, terror and despair. She only spoke a few words, then drowned in her thoughts and fell silent for a while. When Vera spoke, her thoughts spilled out of her. Often without a starting point or end, or any connection between her words. She just looked into my eyes into the depths of my soul as if she was looking for compassion. Maybe she was trying to hold on to me. I understood that she has to spit out all the words that trigger her painful flashbacks to get rid of them.

So I just kept on listening and listening and listening while paying full attention to her every word and gesture.

“Something broke inside me, spilled, scattered all over me ...”

Trauma is a hidden well that only the living can know how deep it can be. Vera's well had filled over the years with painful memories of torture and sexual trauma she had experienced during her escape. Years passed, but the darkness of her experiences did not dissipate, on the contrary, the weight on her shoulders grew heavier with each passing day.

Now in this difficult Corona pandemic, which posed great challenges in our lives and confronted us with the cracks in our souls, a breaking point also arose for Vera. Something has surfaced from those cracks, sneaking around all over her.

From her memories have sweep into her consciousness, she had made a decision a for herself, when nightmares, screams and mental pain surround her, and she begins her own healing process. I remember the day, a June morning, when on the other end of the phone, a thin, uncertain and frantic voice answers, explaining that she wants psychological support and thus takes the first step towards recovery.

In the early days Vera and I met two days a week for the psychological session. We were taking small steps but slowly moving forward with safe and firm steps. Some days it felt we got nowhere, like we drifted apart, and sometimes we lost each other. Until the day I called Vera for the next session, when she answered, "I've been waiting for the day of my session." A warm feeling surrounded me, the fog lifted and we both gave each other trust

"Why is that?

How can human beings do this?

Those who do this must be punished."


Those words were Vera's silent cries, accompanied by a few warm tears that spilled out now and then after a deep breath.

For Vera, I can't say this process has been easy, I wouldn't say she's at the end of her recovery process. Who can say that this recovery will be easy for Vera, who had lost all trust in people, had no hope for the future, and whose heart was beating as if the end of the world would come at any moment?  But time passed, and something began to change in Vera's life.

Now, she feeds dogs on the street, goes to the park, watches children play and dreams of raising her own children abroad one day, so that they have a better and safer future and are spared all the suffering she has experienced.

''I swing on the swing under the lemon tree in the courtyard of our house, the scent of lemon blossoms surrounding the whole garden, I remember the noise of the cars outside and the shouts of the children. Thinking about it now, I feel safest in this image.", she smiled while recounting the memory of her happy childhood. Vera's mental condition is steadily improving, and her wounds are beginning to heal, and the more time passes, the more she can imagine herself smiling again.

Of course, there were other circumstances that helped support Vera's healing process: having a warm and safe home, having a familiar voice on the other end of the phone, having someone trusted to accompany her on the way to the doctor's office, and knowing there is always someone she can reach if she needs to.

Looking back, what do you want to say, Vera? one day I asked; "What we talked about convinced me, I can better understand what I went through and my present. With psychological support I received, I can sense again that I live, think, and feel. I would say to women who are like me or even have other problems, do this and get psychological support.” Vera said.  I was seeing a stronger woman who can think of the well-being of others when I was ending the process.

"Why is that?

How can human beings do this?

Those who do this must be punished."


 Those words were Vera's silent cries, accompanied by a few warm tears that spilled out now and then after a deep breath, never knowing when she will find answers to these questions.


Gülbahar and Vera during one of their psychological sessions. Gülbahar is a Psychologist working for Welthungerhilfe and supporting people in need of psychosocial support. © Welthungerhilfe.  Mardin city, Turkey, January 2020

After traumatic experiences, we look for a reason, a meaning, to hold on to life, to be able to smile again. Vera also had hope to hold on to life. Vera's greatest wish is to be reunited with her three children living in Lebanon and to never have to let go of her babies' tiny hands. Deep inside, she waits for the day she finds the justice she deserves for what she has been through and can never forget....



I am Gülbahar, I work with people who have been uprooted from their country and their roots. As someone who has witnessed hundreds of stories, I would like to take a piece from each story to create a mosaic of memories, like these colorful covers, “yamalı bohça”, in those we use to carry our most precious belonging, so I can always have these with me. I wish it was such an enoumous “yamalı bohça” in which all the colors, sounds, tastes would come together and thus become a part of the whole and complete each other. And that every time someone opens the “yamalı bohça”, they will find their history, remembered and captured for eternity.