I flick the fly from my face and arms. Its incessant unhygienic search for moisture irritates and repulses me.

She does not flinch as flies crawl along her dry lips and tiptoe through her eyelashes.

I wish I’d managed to lose that excess weight.

She wishes she had enough food to fill her breasts with milk for her baby.

I wonder if I will ever have a child of my own.

She wonders if her child will live till tomorrow.

I wonder if I will ever have a man to share my life.

She wonders if a man would protect her from other men.

I wish my period wasn’t so heavy, worried the blood might spoil my new clothes.

She wishes she had sanitary towels; worried that she will be shunned as unclean when the blood soaks through the rags and spoils the cast-off clothes from the charity bags.

I wonder how I will pay for my parents’ care as they age.

She wonders, in her damp shelter, under grey skies, how to dry her parent’s urine soaked mattress and shame drenched eyes.

I wish she had a home like mine: cosy and safe, with nice things and friendly neighbours.

She wishes she was back in the home she left, with a roof and a floor and a kitchen and a bathroom, with her own country safe enough to live in.

I wonder what her job had been; if she had been like me once upon a time: educated, qualified, responsible, respected.

She wonders if anyone will ever recognise her worth and skills again.

I know I will never forget her face.

She knows she will never remember mine.

She is a mirror. Not because she looks like me, but because she makes me see myself: not as I want to be, but as I am: well-meaning, self-centred, pampered, rich, safe, ignorant, born in the right place at the right time. Taking my life for granted.


Here is a link to a charity which helps women in refugee camps set up and operate machines to make sanitary towels, nappies (diapers) and incontinence pads. Please check it out and if you know another charity you think is worth mentioning, let me know.

Words and photograph copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission

7 thoughts on “Refugee

    1. I sat down to write something lighthearted but I couldn’t. It just seems that while our politicians posture and drive divisions and we sit back and read the news over a glass of wine or cup of coffee, someone who should be as ordinary as me is living in a misery I wouldn’t want an insect to live in. I sat down to write and a fly kept landing on my face, which was so irritating. But then an image of someone popped into my head in so much despair that a fly wouldn’t bother her. I’d also been reading a post from someone who was trying to find a charity or someone to take elder care items since her mother had died and had read recently about the trauma of being a woman or girl in a refugee camp on your period or with incontinent parents, the sort of thing you don’t think about.

  1. I love the contrast in every line. It’s a sad story – for both women, but a different kind of sadness for each.
    I must say your piece is truly one of the best reflections of refugees, even if it is merely from the news we read and see every day.

    10 stars to this piece.
    I want to say I love it without appearing to be heartless. I love the work, the words, and the effort.

    Keep on writing Paula
    Thank you for sharing this!

Leave a Reply