Family is a big word with a great meaning. Family, for me, used to mean grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts and siblings. Now my family is smaller. I only have my mom, my two sisters, and my little brother. Everyone else is far away.

I love to talk about my siblings. I’ll start with my sister Maya. She is one year younger than I am. We are very different, and we always fight. She’s studious and loves to read. She always has a book in her hand—at home, at school, even walking down the street. I think reading must be her escape from reality. Our circumstances haven’t stopped her from excelling at school. She’s up late every night, reading and studying by candlelight or with a flashlight. My mom asks her to take it easy because she fears for Maya’s eyesight.

Maya dreams of becoming a cardiologist, and I think that fits her, because she’s quiet and studious. But sometimes she speaks out. The day after our father was killed, she wrote a story about him that made everyone at school cry.

My youngest sister is very delicate. She resembles my mother in looks and personality. The conflict has affected her significantly. She is not doing well at school, and when our mom asks her to study, she cries and says that she can’t comprehend her lessons. She lives in her own world. Maybe it’s the world we had before the war. Our old, happy world. She’s very secretive and doesn’t like to open up. Even as a little girl, she refused to share her pain with anyone else.

She is too attached to my mother. When Mom gets sick, my littlest sister sleeps next to her, holding her hand and crying. My sister is scared of losing her mother. Shedoes not ask Mom for anything, because she is fully aware of the stress our mother is under, but Mom never forgets about her little girl, and the extra love and compassion she shows her doesn’t annoy the rest of us, because we know that her childhood was stolen by the crisis. Mom never pressures her about school or grades—I think she empathizes with her daughter. This sister dreams of working in an orphanage or a nursing home, because she’s got a deep affection and tenderness for others.

Then there’s my brother, the youngest member of our family and the only boy. He received a tremendous amount of love and attention from our father, who could never say no to him. Mom says that our father spoiled him. When Dad was alive, my brother was an innocent, energetic child who did nothing but play all day long. Now he has to fill the water tank, chop wood for the fireplace, and run errands. He has taken on the burden of responsibility too early in his life.

Mom tries to encourage my brother to study, but he does not care to do so. He takes out a lot of his anger and frustration chopping wood. He is always outside. My mom can’t keep him inside the house because there is nothing to distract or entertain him—no TV, no internet. We all love my brother and care for him because, like us, he has lost everything—especially his male role model. He is only 12 years old. It’s too much for someone so young to bear.

We gather sometimes just to talk, laugh, and cry together. My mom supports us and tries to help us forget reality, but this conflict has changed us. It has also brought us closer together. We love each other now, and we will love each other forever. ♦

Marah’s diary is produced in collaboration with Syria Deeply, a digital news outlet covering the Syrian crisis. It was translated from the Arabic by Mais Istanbelli.