The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri, Ballantine Books, 2020

Ms. Lefteri is currently a lecturer in creative writing at Brunel University in the UK.  Her parents fled Cyprus during the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island and, during a period in 2016, she became a volunteer worker at a UNICEF-supported refugee center in Athens.  This was the period in which Afghans were fleeing the Taliban and masses of refugees from war-torn Syria were overwhelming Europe.  Lefteri has crafted a novel out of her experiences working with these refugees.

Nuri, a beekeeper from Syria and his wife Afra, an artist, lose their young son, their home and their livelihoods during the thwarted attempt to challenge the Russian supported Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad.  Like many others in Syria, the two are caught between the indiscriminate killings waged by both factions.  Faced with death from both sides, the only option for the couple is to leave Syria and seek safety in Europe. 

Lefteri is not so much interested in the politics of the situation as she is with the tragedies of the refugees.   She puts a human face on the grim realities of the refugee experience as her characters worm their way through Turkey into the refugee camps of Greece.  They struggle with their own mental anguish as they face the indifference or hostility meted out to refugees.  Even when they finally achieve their goal, they must begin the long and difficult task of convincing the British government of their legitimate need for asylum.

As scarred as they are, Nuri and Afra emerge from their ordeal as winners in the refugee experience.  The Beekeeper of Allepo is an absorbing tale that illuminates Lefteri’s empathy for the thousands of refugees that can spend most o their lives languishing in camps where appalling conditions are the norm. 

It’s a timely message as we watch hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians becoming refugees. 

TL:DR –  It’s not the refugees that supported and armed the Putins of this world.

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