Photo: Agata Grzybowska

Chtaura, Lebanon, 2022

Hadia Jabali lives by herself in Chtaura, Lebanon. Given her advanced age and medical condition, she seeks to go to Vienna, where one of her daughters lives with her family. But she cannot. Although she has applied for a Schengen Visa multiple times, her application has been denied on account of her Palestinian passport, the only such document she possesses. “This is not a real passport,” she is told.

“I was born in 1948, the year of the Nakba. My homeland is Haifa in Palestine. When I was just forty days old, my parents took me to Syria. I once had a house. I worked for the UNRWA. I studied law. Now I am seventy-four years old. One day, I looked up and found I had nothing left.”

Hadia now lives in Lebanon. “Last summer I was alone,” she said. “I was very ill. I fell to the ground due to high blood pressure, losing my memory. I gave the keys to my house to the neighbor, just in case. If I were strong, or if my husband was with me, I would not have a problem, but I am old and weak. My children have gone. One daughter flew from Lebanon to Egypt, then made it across the water to Italy. It took six days. My second daughter, Suad, arranged transport for her from Italy to Austria. From Austria she went to Sweden, where she stayed. Their brother, Bassel, left the country by plane. He was arrested in the Netherlands. He was trying to reach his sister in Austria, but he did not succeed.”

Hadia’s family has attempted to get their mother out of Lebanon. They hired an expensive lawyer, but he only took their money without helping. Hadia applied for a Schengen Visa several times, but each time was refused on account of her Palestinian passport.

“My husband’s parents died at sea on a journey from Palestine to Jordan when he was three months old. Drowned. Many decades later, history came full circle. On September 6, 2014, my husband drowned in the Mediterranean Sea aboard a ship carrying 200 Palestinians. The sinking was apparently connected to a Mossad attack. The route of his journey was from Syria through Egypt to Gaza. That night he called me. It was our last conversation.”