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Millions Flee To Syria's Border As Government's Offensive Intensifies


There's intense fighting in northwest Syria as government troops backed by Russian air power continue their offensive against the last rebel strongholds. Aid groups warn of a humanitarian disaster, with nearly a million civilians fleeing to the Turkish border. We're joined now by a mother who arrived at the border town of Sarmada, Syria, with her young children and her husband four months ago. She is remaining anonymous for her safety. Ma'am, thank you very much for speaking with us.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Thank you very much for having me and making me talk on behalf of all the civilians here.

SIMON: I understand you've been lucky enough to get an apartment - rent an apartment. What's daily life like for you? Do you have food, water?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Life here is unprecedented. It's - the situation here is dire. There is food and water. But there is no electricity. Prices are crazy here because people here are only seeking safety now. And most of them are living on humanitarian aids.

SIMON: How are your children doing?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: They are well comparing with other children who are living in the camps. I managed to make them attend a school here. Maybe I thought it's a safe school on the border. But even here on the border, there is shelling.

SIMON: There's shelling? You can hear it?


SIMON: It's nearby?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yeah. We can hear it clearly. Yeah. And where I live now, it has been shelled twice during this month.

SIMON: Your apartment building?


SIMON: Are you able to talk to people back home?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: No. But I still have my parents, who are still living at their home near Ariha. The areas there are being bombed every single minute. I'm not exaggerate. Every single minute there is maybe a shell attack or an air raids.

SIMON: And what do you see of other people who have left your area?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: They are - up to a million since December have been fleeing near the Turkish border, seeking safety. In my floor, there are five apartments. And each apartment have three to five families living together. Can you imagine that?

SIMON: No. What are your plans for the future?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I hope that you will not ask me about the plans of the future. We live day by day. We try to stay safe and alive. That's our biggest goal and the dream now.

SIMON: Ma'am, what would you like people in the United States to know about what's going on? And what would you say to Americans who say, look - it sounds terrible, but what do you want me to do?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I just want the world to feel our crisis - just to imagine how much agony we live and feel. I wish if you could do anything to stop this suffering or to stop killing us, we welcome any action that could stop that.

SIMON: A mother of two in Idlib province, Syria, thank you so much for being with us. Hope you're able to stay safe.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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