The forgotten child of war

By Jael Ikinya


I had a name once, and I cherished it. Ayala, which means deer. In the embrace of my parents’ love, it was a name that danced on their lips like a prayer, a name that connected me to the innocence of childhood and the sacredness of our faith and moral commitment.

I grew up in a loving home, surrounded by the warmth of both parents who shared not just a roof but a love that I believed to be strong enough for the whole world. Our days were filled with hymns and the smell of baking bread which would flood out and fill the streets. Simple rituals that wove our family together. I was Ayala, the deer, in the sanctuary of a life sheltered by love, laughter and beautiful moments.

Then came the war.

The tranquility of our home shattered like glass as the echoes of distant gunfire grew louder, reverberating through the walls that once echoed with laughter. The haven of my childhood became a battleground, and the prayers that once filled the air were drowned out by the roar of cannons. I witnessed the erosion of our once-pure world, as the faces of those I loved contorted with fear, and the embrace of my parents could no longer shield me from the harsh realities of life. This was war. A concept that was unfamiliar to me, to us. On the radio, the relentless declaration echoed – we were labeled as the enemy. Yet, my family, who had never inflicted harm, had been givers of nothing but love and bread to all. Now deemed adversaries in a war we never sought nor wanted.

I remember the first time I held a gun. The weight of it felt foreign in my hands, a stark contrast to the innocence of the dolls I once played with. The morality my parents had instilled in me clashed violently with the survival instincts now demanded by the world outside our door. The desensitization was gradual, a slow descent into a darkness I couldn’t comprehend. I gazed at my Bible, worn out and soiled from frequent readings that once brought solace. Did the dirt on its pages somehow invite the terror that descended upon my family?

My mother, a beacon of love and faith, wept silently in the nights. My father, a pillar of strength, crumbled under the weight of decisions no parent should make. In the moral ambiguity of war, our family ties frayed, and my identity as Ayala began to unravel. War is no place for a deer. The once familiar cadence of hymns became drowned in the cacophony of explosions. The walls of our sacred home, once adorned with beautiful pictures of us and all the strangers that visited our bakery, now bore the scars of shrapnel and gunfire. Our faith, tested by the harsh realities of war, crumbled like ancient ruins.

One by one, the faces of my family disappeared. Their laughter, replaced by the haunting echoes of their last moments. My mother’s tear-streaked face, my father’s strained smile — these memories lingered as painful remnants of a world that no longer existed.

I am no longer Ayala. The name, once a melody, has faded into silence. I am a nobody, a forsaken soul, wandering through the remnants of a life that used to be mine. Belief, like the ruins of our home, lies in rubble around me. The smiles have left my face, replaced by the stoic expression of one who has seen too much. The Bible, once cradled in my hands, has been abandoned, and within me, a desire for vengeance festers. My mother taught me to love my enemies, yet how can I, when their explosives robbed her of a head?

As the gunshots draw nearer, I run. My 10 year old feet, once bare and innocent, are now calloused and weary. I run not toward anything but away from everything, away from the memories, away from the ghosts of my family, away from a war that has stolen everything from me. I am the last existing human of my bloodline, forgotten by a world too busy with its own turmoil to remember the name I once cherished. The gunshots keep getting closer, and as I run, I am not just fleeing the immediate danger but escaping a past that clings to me like a shadow, a past that has stripped me of my name, my beliefs, and the very essence of who I once was. Perhaps now just a scared but vengeful deer, sprinting from predators who I never truly comprehended, unsure of what I did to deserve this relentless pursuit.




Jael is a spirited International Relations master’s student, a thinker, and scholar. She is driven by a profound love for the intricacies of global affairs and politics which is only rivaled by her love for history and philosophy . Beyond the academic realms, she is an avid reader, always fueled by an insatiable curiosity to explore the depths of knowledge. She is passionate about women empowerment and women in leadership. Her ability to question and assess things critically not only defines her academic pursuits but also makes her a vibrant presence in academia and beyond.