She pretended to be a Muslim, covered her hair, learned everything else that was required, to pray, to wash herself in the right way. She had one goal: to save lives, Christian and Muslim. She could have fled, she could have hidden, but she decided on the opposite. She worked as a nurse in one of the hospitals that the terrorists had taken over in Aleppo, Syria, and every day she came in contact with wounded people who needed to be saved.
At a coffee shop in Södertälje, south of Stockholm, Sweden’s capital, I met ”Eymen”, a young Assyrian/Syriac man, whom she had saved.
Eymen told me that he had been brought to the Aleppo hospital without the Islamist terrorists knowing that he was a Christian. He was on his way to Turkey, had paid a smuggler, and had to go through the militants’ stronghold in Aleppo to get out of the city. But he didn’t get far. In a neighborhood occupied by extreme Islamists he was hit by one of the regime’s rockets. The terrorists took him to the hospital that they had taken over by force. For many of us it is known as the hospital where they have killed two doctors (one of them was the cousin of my sister-in-law) as well as several nurses and patients, simply because they were Christians.
The extremists, who had no idea that he was a Christian, wrapped Eymen in a blanket for lack of stretchers and carried him to the hospital. When he woke up a nurse was leaning over him. He thought his heart would stop. He recognized her, and he thought she had converted to Islam and would expose him, revealing that he was not a Muslim. She whispered in his ear that he shouldn’t be afraid. Nine days later, when he was able to walk, she helped him out of the hospital without anyone noticing. She saved his life. But he was not the only one, she has saved many more.
On 27 March 2016, Aleppo and the hospital were liberated. I called a distant relative and asked her if she knew of the nurse. She was alive?
My relative said she thought the nurse was dead and that she was unaware of her heroism. I got a phone number to a person who is related to the nurse. But he didn’t know either whether she was alive.
I didn’t give up, this was an Irena Sendler-story. Thirteen years ago Piotr Zettinger told me about a Christian woman who had saved over two thousand Jewish children from the gas chambers, and he was one of them. Irena Sendler was almost entirely unknown. I took with me my friend Leo Kantor, also a survivor of the Holocaust, and flew to Warsaw.
She lived in an old people’s home, the door to her room was broken and a senile man went in and out. The home didn’t have money for heating, so she was cold a lot of the time. My feature about her was translated and published in several countries. She then became, among other things, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Irena Sendler was also a nurse.
The nurse in Aleppo is my new heroine. Her cover was blown a few months ago. She carried a child on her back when the terrorists realized that she was not one of them and shot at her. Rumors say that she is alive and in Turkey. Her story has to be told, I hope to find her soon.