Cradled between Damascus and Lake Barada in Syria, there used to be the fertile land of Madaya. Small groups of families lived there, and sustained themselves through agriculture. Today, Madaya is barren and morose, with no life, merely silent cries. The Syrian War and its repercussions have taken a toll on the land and life since the city was besieged in July 2015. Today, Madaya is a symbol of destruction and everything evil in the war.
In the wake of such calamity, however, heroes emerge from unexpected quarters. Their tragedy gives them strength to emerge as leaders.
It was impossible to establish a contact in Madaya and the only available sources were the pictures posted by the activists in Syria. Journalists Xana Oneill and Rym Momtaz of ABC News struck up a conversation with a woman in Syria, from the long standing reliable network of sources and, in time, tried to win her trust. In an interview, Momtaz said, “She was understandably quite anxious, being a whistle-blower in a situation where she is besieged. We had to make sure that her identity would be protected and that her family would not be endangered in any way.”
The woman had to take care of her five children as well as her husband. She lived in fear every day, not knowing where her next meal would come from. Through text messages an honest relationship was established between her and the journalists. She would tell them what was happening in her household and Madaya.
Soon, the conversation transformed into a diary, titled 'Madaya Mom Diary', with quotes from the woman, along with pictures and videos of her daily household that were posted online by ABC News. Over the past one year, only five humanitarian aids have reached the people of Madaya. It was their only source of food and supplements. It was this need to reach out to a wider audience that led to the idea of collaborating with The Marvel Comics to make a graphic novel on 'Madaya Mom'. From the creators of the Avengers and Spiderman, a real life hero was born. The comic strip was created with brutal honesty and authenticity by artist Dalibor Talajic, the man behind Deadpool.
The comic version of the Madaya Mom is available online and the scenes are heart-wrenching. One such scene is narrated as, “Today, our one meal was rice and soup. Our bodies are no longer used to eating. My children are hungry but are getting sick, severe stomach pains from the food because our bodies aren’t able to digest and absorb the food because they were hungry for so long.”
They break their furniture to light fire to keep them warm in winter. There is no life in their eyes. They merely exist with no hope of redemption. The Madaya Mom weeps as the cold water hurts her fingers, preventing her from cleaning her clothes. She lies awake at night fearing for the safety of her family. She sometimes starves herself for the sustenance of her children. Everybody is slowly but surely withering away mentally and physically. With the war claiming many of her near and dear ones, she sees her life crumbling before her eyes.
But the 'Madaya Mom' fights for her children, she fights for their sustenance and well-being against all adversity. She triumphs like a real hero does. Fighting against all odds, she clings on to the narrow thread of hope for survival. Real heroes do exist. Madaya Mom does exist.
['Madaya Mom' can be read online at ABC News.]