Growing up as a refugee in my own country, and raised on the stories of my people violently forced to leave their homes, the language, songs and poetry of the diaspora have always had such a profound effect on me. These stories tell of people who are always willing to go home—if only it was safe for them to do so; if only they were allowed to; if only it was possible.

As a Palestinian living among those displaced within our country, denied permission to return even to see their homes again, questions were seared into me… What did they leave behind? What did they manage to take?

I have borne witness to many stories from many people, many of them personal experiences and some built on the handed down memories of those long since passed. When woven together and bonded by the shared experiences of years of displacement and hardship, these stories take on different shapes. Pain and sorrow, joy and happiness…the mixture of emotions and sensations are unique.

When I first moved to Australia, I met lots of different people with so many varied faces, profiles, eyes, backgrounds, languages and colours. Each person had their own story, and each story was hidden behind the veneer presented in public. Increasingly my curiosity grew! My question was more than, “Where are you from?” I wanted to know what motivated people to move homes, lands, countries, and continents.

I love my homeland, and never contemplated leaving. But my life journey afforded me no other option. My Syrian partner is forbidden from living in my homeland, and I could not be with him in his. Our passports did not allow us to live in countries where we could easily settle. So we made Australia our home. A simple sentence, but the process was far more complicated. It was a long and arduous journey. As one who has suffered an uprooting and a journey of resettlement, I recognise the shared look in some of the eyes I see in the street. I am always curious to hear their story.