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Stephanie Saldaña
The Things They Carry: On Refugees and Relics with Stephanie Saldaña
September 07, 2023
What do people bring with them when forced out of their homes, perhaps never to return? Stephanie Saldaña set out to answer this question.
The Things They Carry September 08, 2023
In 2016, journalist Stephanie Saldaña set out to interview people fleeing wars in Iraq and Syria. What, she wondered, did people bring with them when forced out of their homes, perhaps never to return? In conversation with producer Kimberly Winston, Saldana shares what she learned during five years following six men, women, and their families as they tried to hang on to their old lives, neighborhoods, and faiths through things both tangible and intangible. She also shares how carrying their stories changed her and why she, an American-born Catholic, now calls the Middle East home.

Hana’s Dress
When Hana, a Syriac Catholic, and her family fled ISIS in Iraq, they had moments to depart. From the relative safety of Jordan, Hana began embroidering a traditional dress called a “shal” with what she wanted to remember of her village, Qaraqosh. Saldaňa describes the churches, the festivals, the people and the food all captured in thread, and her eventual use of the dress as a kind of road map back to the actual Qaraqosh where all those things were gone.

Munir’s Candle
Still on the trail of six different refugees, Saldaňa recounts multiple visits to the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, where, among the wretched and filthy conditions, she found Munir, an Iraqi Muslim hanging on to his humanity through small acts of kindness.

Qassem’s Mountain
Following stories of families fleeing violence takes Saldana on a journey thousands of miles across the globe. In this final segment, she shares the story of Qassem, a young Yazidi man who, with 35 members of his extended family, was herded onto their sacred Mount Sinjar by ISIS in an attempted genocide.  As she gathers his account, she reflects on the toll hearing his story, and others like them took on her personally, and the sacred responsibility she feels to pass those stories on.

Stephanie Saldaňa, Author, most recently of What We Remember Will Be Saved
A Story of Refugees and the Things They Carry
, and founder of Mosaic Stories, a project to preserve the threatened cultural heritage of the Middle East through research and storytelling. 

What We Rember Will Be Saved, by Stephanie Saldana, Broadleaf Books
What We Rember Will Be Saved
Broadleaf Books

Special music in this episode included pieces from refugees held in detention in Calais, France in 2014, recorded by the SOAS Ceilidh Band, traditional Iraqi oud music played by Sulaf Huseyni, pieces from the band Turku, and our closing music, New Hope, by Audiobingerall used under a Creative Commons By Attribution 4.0 license.

Other music by Blue Dot Session.

Remixes, beats, and sound design by Dissimilation Heavy Industries.