Wool dress – the warmest memory

The journey took Lina and her family from Afghanistan through Turkey and Bulgaria to Serbia. She remembers the cold weather and the big, endless dark forest they were going through.

Vladimir Banic
Lina, aged 9, with a dress she got from her grandma
UNICEF Serbia/2018/Vas

18 December 2018

Lina is nine years old and was born in Laghman in Afghanistan.

She is proudly describing her house with blue walls, several rooms and a small yard that she was not allowed to go out to play in.

Her parents explained to her that dangerous things were happening in their town and that she was not safe even in her own yard.

She remembers a wicker basket full of toys she used to play with. The dearest one was a small green teddy bear.

“I couldn't take it with me. My four brothers, my sister and I had many toys, but we brought just the most essential things with us to this journey,” explains the nine-year-old girl in a serious voice and a somewhat absent look on her face.

Then she adds: “Still, I am sorry that I didn’t bring this teddy bear with me".

The journey took Lina and her family from Afghanistan through Turkey and Bulgaria to Serbia. She remembers the cold weather and the big, endless dark forest they were going through.

They have been waiting for two years now at the Krnjaca Asylum Centre in Belgrade, Serbia, for the opportunity to be granted the asylum in one of the countries where they will be able to build a better and more secure future than the one they had in Afghanistan.

The dress, gift from her grandma, that she always keeps with her.
UNICEF Serbia/2018/Vas
The dress, gift from her grandma, that she always keeps with her.

Lina goes to school in Belgrade and speaks some Serbian.

She has friends both in the school and at the asylum centre, and she can now freely play outside whenever she wants to.

But her favourite place to play in is the UNICEF-supported Child-Friendly Space at the Centre. In there she draws, writes and reads books.

While correctly writing her name on a blank piece of paper in a language that is new to her, a pink wool dress with grey sleeves placed in the corner of the desk is keeping her company. It is warm and long. It can be worn as a daily casual dress, but also on special occasions.

“My grandma gave me this dress as a gift,” explains Lina. “She knew the journey from Afghanistan would be difficult and that it would be cold, the reason why she bought it for me."

Lina is looking wistfully at the dress and caresses it with her hands as if she were caressing her grandma.

“I miss my grandma,” Lina says quietly.

“I miss my house in Laghman. I miss my teddy bear. But most of all, I miss my grandma.”

Lina wants to return to Afghanistan someday.

She hopes that her house, her teddy bear, her grandma would be waiting for her then...

For now, her only connection to her early childhood is this pink and grey dress while she gently caresses the embroidery on it.