Soltana and Dahbia: Our fathers are gone overseas
Soltana and Dahbia are half-sisters from the same father who immigrated to France. The youngest Soltana immigrated early to France while the illiterate Dahbia remained and married Djamel and has been behaving as a simple tail to her provider of a husband.
Dahbia followed the many relocation of Djamel to different cities and towns, along with her two kids, and she was never asked an opinion or any feedback: Dahbia thought that it was natural and normal to obey her husband. Dhabia thought it was her husband’s responsibility to be the provider and care for the family.
Soltana visited once her village (douar) during summer. She was single and was living in France and was welcomed as a lady. Soltana was apprehensive of meeting her married half-sister Dhabia and felt shy meeting the husband Djamel.
Dhabia felt restless and waited for the crowd to disperse in order to join Soltana and take her hand. The month vanished in a blink as in a dream for the two sisters. And Soltanan vanished back to France.
The day came when Djamel blurted out that the immigration of the family to France was imminent. Djamel has been visiting the French consulate and filling documents without ever thinking to ask Dahbia’s readiness for such a drastic move, as an exiled person.
This time her husband went overboard and Dhabia’s resentment exploded:
“If you want to leave, go. I’m staying with my kids. I live in my country and refuse to be an exiled person…”
Djamel is taken aback and tries to reason with his wife:
“What did your country offered to you since independence? After 50 years, we are still poor, vulnerable, despaired. Misery is growing steadily and injustice is flagrant. I feel totally powerless to overcome our situation. We lost courage to act. I’m like you: I dream to live in my country. If we stay we are as sure as dead…”
“I’m not dead and neither are the children. We are healthy and we are living together. I’m not about to repeat my father conduct. He preferred to immigrate and leave his family behind. Here I’m no stranger…”
“Without you I’d be a madman longtime ago. We have not yet finished our voyage together. We have endured and suffered for so long. And I refuse for my children to suffer as we did. Our children should not feel victims of unfair circumstances…”
The illiterate Dhabia relied on her young cousin Kaina to transcribe letters to Soltana: She needed badly to communicate to her sister her predicament and wanted Soltana’s counsel.
After a sustained correspondence, Djamel stumbled on the box of letters and got upset: What? His wife doesn’t feel close enough to him to express her emotions and her distraught state of spirit?
And Djamel ordered Dhabia to desist corresponding with her sister and summoned Kaina and the postman never to cooperate anymore.
The last letter of Dhabia to her sister was to inform Soltana of the impossibility to resume writing letters because she owes obedience to her husband.
What do you think could have been the last letter of Soltana if she could send it? Like:
“This correspondence showed me where are my roots. I lacked family. I’m no longer a free electron. I discovered the links that I missed. I rediscovered myself through your tenderness…I am no longer alone right now…?”
The follow-up post will present part of the main contents of these letters.
Note: Dalila Bellil lives in Parme and she is a kabileh ethnic of north Africa. The French book “Nos peres sont partis” is her first.