Gold-medal winning letter: Chara Phoka, 13, Cyprus

Letter to the United Nations

Afghanistan, February 2011


I'm a letter. Not just any letter but a widely-travelled letter both in space and time... My adventure started in 2011 in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Everything was peaceful and harmonious in the small town. I would spend my days carefree at a lonely office. I was a blank paper, impatiently waiting for some wishes and appointments to be written on me. But the next day, everything changed. Television stations stopped broadcasting, communications were interrupted and life entered an endless wait.

Suddenly, a Big Hand took me in order to write on me. At that moment, however, the sirens sounded. Cries and screams were heard everywhere. I felt that something bad was happening, but didn't know what. I had nothing to fear, though, because I was just a blank paper that no one would hurt.

While these thoughts were revolving in my mind, the Big Hand lifted me up and hurriedly put me in the pocket of its pants. A loud noise was then heard behind me, followed by shootings and cries. The Big Hand was holding me so tight that if it had held the world it would have utterly destroyed it. It was trying to save itself and I was listening to its panting. Its large drops of sweat were raining on me. 

When we finally got away from the cries, and nothing could be heard anymore, the Big Hand began to write while wetting me with its tears. It was 2011. It wrote down its most secret thoughts and fears, while it continued to smudge me with its hopes and dreams. After a while, it became tired of writing and fell asleep, holding me close to its heart. I listened to its heart-beats while feeling its fear and uncertainty about its life. Eventually, it put me in an envelope and it was then that I changed hands.

The Big Hand walked to a bus station. It handed me over to a fragile Little Hand. I burrowed in the inside pocket of its jacket. Then, the Big Hand lifted up the child with the Small Hands and put us on a bus along with other unaccompanied Little Hands. There, other Big Hands were trying to pass some Little Hands on the buses, even through the windows, to save them.

The Little Hand holding me left behind parents, brothers, sisters, friends, but also the terror from the Big Bloody Hands. It wanted to stop struggling to survive. It wanted an opportunity to a normal life; it wanted to stop fearing. 

At some point, the bus stopped. It arrived in Syria. From there, the Little Hand started walking to somewhere else. I shook every time it stumbled its feet on the hard stones. After many weeks, we finally reached Turkey. It was 2013…

There, the Little Hand searched for ways to secure what it could for its survival. Every day, it worked hard, so Big Hands gave it a few banknotes. From time to time the Little Hand was wetting me with the tears of a faded hope that better days would eventually come...

2015 arrived! The Little Hand gathered the money, gathered its hopes and started walking while I was deep inside its wool pocket. I realized that it gave money to devious Big Hands, human traffickers, who promised that a large ship would take it to Cyprus. From there, it would supposedly go to its relatives in Sweden. The Little Hand set out for a trip once again.

We walked all over Turkey, through valleys and deserts. Finally, we reached the coast. I had never seen so much water in my life. There, a small old boat, full of people, with Little and Big Hands who just wanted to stay alive, was waiting.

The Little Hand was squeezed amongst others and held firmly on the gunwale. The wild waves soaked and defaced me. The Little Hand felt my horror so it put me in a glass bottle. There, I was safe.

Days went by and all I could see was the endless blue. The Little Hand wrote with tears on my yellowed surface. It put me back in the bottle. The ship started leaking. I could feel the cold drops of water, passing inside the bottle. The Little Hand dove into the water so that it would not end up at the bottom of the sea. It swam with all its might, trying to save itself and reach the land. It didn't make it...

A few days later, the sea washed us up, on the Cypriot shores. Dozens of lifeless Little and Big Hands. Small children's hands like small shells were washed ashore by the wild waves. Luckily, I did not remain alone for long, since a Big, firm, fearless Hand lifted me out of the sand. When it read the contents, it said, "It must be delivered! Urgently!" I was pleased that I would finally give meaning and identity to the Little Hand and its short, invisible life.

The Big Hand put me in an envelope and sent me to a post office. From there, I travelled until a Big Hand tore the envelope and pulled me out. I was in Sweden.

I wanted to shout loudly that it was my honour to have lived all the things I had, having felt the pain and strength of the Little Hands. It was an honour for me. I was given the unique opportunity to appreciate the greatness of human life, through innocent and unaccompanied Little Hands which had to face the hard reality, at a time when they should've been laughing, carefree; Little Hands with Big moral Stature…

I'm just a simple letter that has travelled in time... Many other letters have done so. I only wish people would write on every piece of inanimate paper, feelings of joy, hope and love! I only wish!

With affection,

The letter of an Invisible Life