Lost Birds

Nargis Attaiee


 The sun slipped below the horizon, leaving behind a reddish orange sky. I was sitting on a bench outside in the corner of our huge backyard. I was surrounded by grapevines and studying for my final exams. There was a knock at the door. It was Aziz Gull, our next-door neighbour. Her voice was shaking as she told us about a rumour that the Taliban might invade the city that night. She advised us to pack a bag of necessities: food and clothing. I wanted to avoid such bad news, so I ignored her. I put on my headphones and played classical music while I continued studying. But there was no avoiding this bitter reality. 

The next day, we were all in the midst of writing our exam at school when the principal rushed into our class and told us to leave immediately because the Taliban were at the edge of Kabul. Everyone in the class leapt up and rushed home, leaving the white exam papers behind. They were flying around the room like lost birds. Leaving the school was particularly difficult because we knew the doors of education would slam shut as soon as the Taliban took power. That day the streets of Kabul were different from any other normal Tuesday. Instead of car horns and the shouts of snake sellers and drivers calling out for customers, the air was filled with the sound of gunfire and children crying. People were running around frantically, trying to escape, but they had nowhere to go. 

After four hours of walking, I arrived home. I kept calling my siblings to find out if they were okay, but all methods of communication had broken down. The educational institutions and foreign organizations where my family members worked were threatened by the Taliban. I was about to faint from worrying by the time they all finally arrived home. Everyone was in despair. What did the future hold? None of us was sure if we would ever again tighten the laces of our shoes in the morning in order to step confidently toward realizing our dreams. 

Baqer, my elder brother who was the head of our family now that my parents were deceased, told us to get ready for a journey to Pakistan with forty other families. I had to decide what to take with me. I removed all the books from my backpack and kept only my diary. I packed two sets of clothes and put on a pair of shoes that had belonged to my mom who had passed away two weeks before the fall of Kabul. In a matter of hours, I had to say goodbye to my family, friends, hometown and all my memories. 

I was only sixteen. My heart was overwhelmed with sadness. I felt too weak to carry the burden of guilt about escaping and leaving everyone behind. Five days later we left for Pakistan. Wearing my mother’s shoes during this long journey kept me connected to her. I felt safe, as if she were with me in every step, continuously murmuring in my ear that I could make it. I did make it, along with 180 other people who spent six months together in Pakistan, waiting for news about our immigration. We became like a large family, sharing our joys and sorrows.

 I arrived in Canada on January 11, 2022. Now I live with two of my brothers, and I’m in my final year of high school. Every morning I lace up my shoes and step confidently toward the dreams that will be realized here in Canada.

Nargis Attaiee arrived in Canada on January 11th 2022 with seven of her family members. Currently she is in her last year of high school and planning to become a doctor in the future. This was a dream she shared with two of her best friends Hangama and Asma, who were killed in a terrorist attack on the Kaj Educational Centre in Kabul.

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