The Chahine's Memoir
History of the War
(Civil War 1975 – 1991)
The war started in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon on April 1, 1975, when gunmen killed four Phalangists during an attempt on Pierre Jumayyil’s life. Perhaps believing the assassins to be Palestinian, the Phalangists retaliated later that day by attacking a bus carrying Palestinian passengers across a Christian neighborhood. The next day, the Civil War broke out and became sectarian conflict resulting in a bloody, devastating religious war between Christians and Muslims. The army disassembled. The Muslims joined the Muslims and the Christians joined the Christians. Lebanese fought with other fellow Lebanese and killed one another due to cultural differences. The war caused large-scale damage in all the cities in Lebanon. There was a great loss of people where as today, some dead bodies still hidden underground since the war. After 15 years and 6 months of war, Christian population went down due to migration to other countries. Muslim prime-ministerial powers strengthened. Syrian occupied most of Lebanon, while Israel occupied the south.
Estimates of deaths in the Lebanon civil war vary widely, but about 150,000 died and another 100,000 handicapped by injuries. 44,000 dead in the first year of the civil war 1975- 1976. Last but not least there are over 1 million Lebanese that got displaced out of Lebanon.
After interventions of many countries, Israel and Syria agreed to leave the country and the Lebanese reached an agreement called the Taif Agreement. This agreement allowed equitable participation in government. Lebanon today still has many unsolved issues, but many Lebanese feel at peace after 30 years of war.
Phalangists- Militian Maronite Christian
Pierre Jumayyil- was the leader of the Phalangists
“Think not of going back. There is nothing you can do over there (Richard Lebanese Memoir).”- This quote was his friend’s advice about how not to leave everything that he has worked hard for and go back to Lebanon. Instead stay in Canada and bring the entire family over to Canada where they can have a life in peace. This is when Richard decided to start the long process to bring everyone to Canada. This quote can be taken in many different aspects. Today, it is almost easier to help people that are displaced by sending them money instead of flying over there and giving them company. In this situation the quote effected Richard to make the executive decision of giving his entire family the chance of a life where they will be free and can pave their pathway to their own future.
“My mother is standing on the balcony rail and about to jump, few men friends grabbed her and pulled her down. And then this is when it hit me, she is crying about my father.(Norma Lebanese Memoir)”- In this quote, Norma talked about how once her mother found out about her husbands death, she lost all sense of control and all reason to live. The father of ten children, a wife, and a family that he supported was all gone now, and the weight was all on her shoulders now. And when she got this awful news she could not handle it at all.
The connection that I gain out of this quote is that when somebody loses someone who has impacted their life every single day, how can you sit down and think about tomorrow and even think about moving on in life. All you really want to do is cry and wish they could be back. You just want to slap yourself in the face and wake up in your bed.
“In our school we have Christians and Muslims in the same school so we knew our friends. And they attacked us. (Raymonda Lebanese Memoir).”- This quote said that right when the war started everyone split into Muslims and Christians. In Kobayat, where the Chahines were currently living, they were predominately Christians. And all their Muslim friends had left just because the civil war broke out and they were forced to leave. This is very shocking because your Muslim friend that you do homework with on Monday is now trying to kill you on Tuesday. And this occurs in all wars. These major impacts on a country and society cause friends to split apart and immediately start trying to kill you, whether they were your friend or not.
No matter what, war will always separate a society.
Even if you make it out of the dark, the bitter taste remains forever.
The first idea that passes through my head after listening to these memoirs is shocking. I never had any idea of what really happened to my family during the war, and now that I listened to their stories it opened my eyes to what my family really lived through. It is crazy how close it is to me because the aunts, uncles, grandmother, and mother that I love so much had to live through so much of the war. It also keeps me blessed at they all got out of Lebanon okay and can be with me today and that they all made something out of what they had. I am very thankful for my family and I am very thankful that they can still be with me today!
The stories that were told are the type of stories that I feel like I can watch in theaters, but instead the movie is being told to me through the voice of a relative, and they are the movie, and I am a viewer. Being the viewer of their movie was surreal, and with the information given to me I feel so much more connected to my family now. It is awesome that I received this information about my history line! I hope that one day I can go and visit Kobayat and get a whole new perspective of what my family lived through.
What crumbles from war
Will make me stronger inside
To see the end of night
The Memoirs & Biographies
Richard- “Okay I mean we were following the war like day by day on the news and everything, and there was no communication with the because the phone were off and mail was off and everything and you could hardly get a letter. If somebody left the country they might be able to send a letter to you or something. And I remember my father, when my father died I did not know at that time. He died in March and I only knew in June and if every body else knew and everybody like some people in Montreal even knew, but they never told me. They were waiting for my parents to tell me. I remember I was going to the dentist for a check up and at that time I get a notice in the mail. Just a letter, a letter you know you get at the office. So I did not have a car at that time so I went on a bicycle, then I first when to the post office. I got my letter and then I read it. It was from my brother telling me that my father had died. And like I did not react at all. It was like I didn’t accept it. So, sorry it was not the dentist it was the eye doctor, the Ophthalmologist. Then I sat there and he was checking my eyes and he said that there is something wrong. Your eyes a lot different from visible, they don’t know what is happening. And I told them that I had just found out that my father had died (gives giggle). They just said you need to go home, you cannot. Then I left the doctor’s office and I was cycling home and because it just start to hit me I just couldn’t pedal anymore. I got off my bicycle in the middle of the road and called one of my friends who picked me up. And it was like 3 or 4 days of really hell at that time. And then I was thinking should I go back there, what shall I do but then I had a really good friend who, he was up at University who made sure, “think not of going back. There is nothing you can do over there. You can probably help them from here.” And that’s when I decided that enough because I had the brother in the army and I had another brother studying in Belgium and other sort of things. And that was when it was time to get them out and get them all to come to Canada. And stay with us. And this is where it started. Filling out the paper work and preparation and those sorts of things. And this is how it started actually. It took about uh, I started the paperwork in June, July and I wasn’t done until September, October 5th actually. It was October 5th. And I think that concludes everything. And that was really the beginning of the things.”
Richard was born in Lebanon. He moved to Canada at the age of 18 to pursue engineering at University of Quebec. He currently lives in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada. He has his doctorate in Electrical Engineer and Computer Engineer. He is a chair holder in Industrial Research and Hydrogen Purification, Transport and Storage. He has a twin daughter’s age of 21 currently in University.
Robert- 66 and 77. “So it was periods one when we were actually in war, and actually our town was attacked. And then the other period was when we were surrounded, I mean when we were in the state of war but there was not actually a war going on. So in the actual day of war, we were kids. 15 and 16 years old. And we had to go get some military training and the army sent us some experts in training so they taught to defend the village. And then we had to take up arm and go to the front and do military activities defending the village. That one went on for several months and then I remember instead of going to school in the morning. We had to wake up and go to the front. We were kids we did not know what it means so we went to war. I mean it was game for us. We went to war it was hard. I lost my father I lost some friend it was really hard for us and then we actually realized what war was about. It was very hard on kids. And we were surround by the other parties and for 6-7 months and we had to go to the front and do our daily routine. After that when the Syrian army back in 77 the entered Lebanon entered, after a treaty with the UN, they entered the country and separated all the parties and then they stopped the war. In our village we stopped the war as well. And like I told you instead of going to school we went to the front and the Syrian army come back and instead of going to the front we go to school. And it was really I mean now you think of it back then we were kids we didn’t, life in general was kind of cheap for us we didn’t think about it we didn’t appreciate it, but now when you go back and think of it and think of what it meant for us as kids. I think the experience or the memories will haunt us forever.”
Robert was born in Lebanon. He moved to Canada at the age of 17 to attend college at the University of Quebec. He is currently an Electrical Engineer and manages large projects for a private American company located in the Middle East. He is married with two daughters and one son, all attending school in Montreal, Canada.
Ramzi- “Well one thing for sure it wasn’t easy. It was threatening it depends, I can… well you are always feeling for your life. When we were in our hometown, and we were attacked, that started from mortal shells, and they were everywhere and we were really scared. What we had done went in the house and went to the basement and we put on all the openings we put mattresses to prevent sharp metal from coming in. And two of my friends died. There were also funerals on the next day and that bombardment started again and people were just threat and uh after that well you go out and we started checking to see if people got hurt and nobody was hurt on that day. Our school took a direct hit but was not damaged. That was for the bombardment. And then we were feeling an attack and the attack would go in town and do whatever they do in war. Rob and kill. And the men had arms and they were on the hills protecting so and we boys, age 14, the women prepared meals, and the boys take the food to them. So they could eat, and it was at night. And I remember it was cold and the 14th of March and I had a coat for my father to take to him. I didn’t find my father. And we searched everywhere and we couldn’t find my father. And I started panicking and we just spent the night searching and in the morning we get really worried and started asking questions. And we heard that the was a big gun and he was hurting and we took 4 of our friends to get him out and his friends fled and they didn’t see. We ask one of them to show us where they went, he was too afraid. So we had to harass him by the pint of gun, “ you come with me or we have to shoot”. So he just told us where they went and we went there and Roger was with me. And we were with some soldiers, and we were searching. And he was lying there dead. It was very hard to find your father there dead. We had to grab him and take him to the doctor and the doctor said, “there is nothing we can do.” That day was very very hard. After that life went on and we had other attacks. Us boys had had to take arms as well and go into the hills as well. We spent a lot of days and nights, we had turns we would go up and come back and take rests and everything. As boys you worry a bit, but you get used to it. It was the parents that worried the most, and my mother was hysterical. She lost her husband, and she was afraid for the kids. It was a different time, now that I think about it we got threw it and life went on. We were surrounded for 6 months and we couldn’t go out, and what helped us was, first of all we were a village of Christians and surrounded by Muslims, we were surrounded. Kobayat is surrounded by mountains and we were in the center. We had to go to the hills to protect. Roger was in the Reserves and they had to come to help us. About 100 of them. They got in their jeeps and passed through we were very very happy to see them. I think it was the worst day of my life but after that it was usual.”
Ramzi pt. 2- “ At the time I was working in a garage. I was working with him and like a mechanic. And we had one Jeep with a gun on it and he just stalled on the hill. The guy on it was shooting and the jeep stalled. And I had to go jump start the jeep and people were like shooting at it! (Starts laughing). It was stressful because they put it on the top of the hill and it was exposed and when he finished shooting he started to back up and it stalled. He could not restart it. So they started shouting, and I had to go up and restart it. I opened the hood and told them to try again and try again. So it was very stressful.”
Ramzi was born in Lebanon. He moved to Canada at the age of 16 where he attended school. He is now an electrical engineer with Hydro Quebec. He is married with 3 boys all attending schools in Montreal, Canada.
Roger- “Well maybe I have different experience. I was in my early 20 years and I decided to join the army. And this was mandatory year that you had to serve in the army before you go up to University. So I joined the army and you have to go work and to the boot camp for training. So after 2-3 months of training we began to get some weird activity around the base of the army. We had some snipers shooting at us. The first time you hear the bomb and the fire come across the base there was some kind of panic. There were many students who had never engaged in battle before. This was the first time we had contact with someone, some aggressive behavior. There were for sure some people trying to attack the army for some reason. They ask us to go on some kind of arrangement to protect ourselves. We stay up all night, nothing happened. Then the next day we had little warning. They saw someone had arms in a building that faced the base then another 24 hours staying up. And then they ask us to move as an army. To separate to some village who was having problem. They told us the Palestinian they was attacking some Christian village and we had to stay between the two. So we went there in the night and that was some of the biggest fights I ever saw but we were not involved. It was two different religions. So we reply and the other day we come to just see what happened. There were many injured and dead. It was horrible as a young person to see all this. It was about 4 months and then we start to hear that something that was happening in my village. There are people attacking. And in the army, my duty was communications, and I was the person who received the news that they were attacking my village. So I went to the general and I told him what happened. It was some kind of panic because our army had lots of Christians from our village and we hear that something happened there and they were attacking our village so we wanted to go and attack back. So we form a convoy of army vehicles and arms and we just go to all this city and hunt for the enemy. As an army we try to tell him we are going to just maintain peace when in our mind we are going there to protect our family. So we came to the village around 2 in the morning. There was no fighting. The first thing I think about is to go home and say I’m here. So I call home and it was my mom to say that your father is up in the mountain and he went up there to protect some people and might be attacking some guns up hill. He has not returned and no one has any idea where he is. Now when you hear this kind of thing you are suppose to be the army guys with the army training, the special guys. I asked the official and we took two people with us and we went to find out what happened to my father. We were so motivated but we didn’t expect for something to happen. He usually knows what he is doing and doesn’t take any risk. Some people told me that my father put some type of operation together. This was the first time we asked them if they saw I father and they said no. So we asked them if he was part of the operation and they say yes. They were just on the other side of the mountain. So we asked them again and asked if they were part of the operation and they said yes, but they denied. And when they denied we noticed there were with it. We suspected something. So I took one of them and I put the gun on their head and I said look you are going to tell me exactly where was it when you see it or you will die. They were scared just to tell us they left him behind. Yes yes yes we got fire on us and we split and we all take different pathways. They never looked after. So we went with my brother and 6 or 7 people. We went to this region where the fighting happened just to see what happened. It was some kind of memory that didn’t leave your head long time that somebody shoot in the air and he here. We went there and he was there. He had no guns. They come and shoot him and take his guns. We took him and went into the village. This was a memory that was a very sad moment. The shooting in the sky that he was there. Many people come around and start yelling. The only thing you think about it is vengeance. You don’t want to let your father leave like this. So you decide the only thing you have to do is make operation against what attacked the village. Every night we tried to infiltrate some village just to find some person to shoot. Just only that. And then we had the peak attack on the village. Before this big attack we decide that there is some type of attack on a nearby village not far from us but she was already in the hand of the Muslim. We tried at midnight to go there and go up the bridge that divided this village from the Syrian border. Just 4 or 5 person. We were just motivated to just go there and make as much hell as possible. So they noticed us and started shooting at us. It was a big fight and we shoot out and went back away. Just before we come back to the village it was some type of gunfire and bomb that exploded and I got injured in the eye. So this was another panic day to home. They put some bandage on my eyes. And they tried for whatever means to send me to some hospital but there was no hospital nearby. So they asked for a helicopter from Beirut. Beirut was the main capital, the main large city. Then they tried to come pick me up but they shot at the helicopter. So there was no way to pick me up. So they said no and make it by yourself. Two days after they tried to send us some communication. Another mission. On the way to drop it off they called for me. If he is here we will pick him up if not we will leave with out him. So the other people were searching for me. So we arrived there and the helicopter had just left and we had to make it on our own. And as I remember two days after the big fighting broke up and everyone was there. Ramzi, Robert, they were all there. Even Raymonda was giving some help giving food and preparing meals for people just on the border between them and us. I remember one thing that my mom you know Robert was up there Ramzi was up there. Usually we had lot of communication between the upward hills and our village and it was broke and nobody said what happened and we heard lots of fighting. And I was sleeping with my sisters because I was injured and my mom come and said get up. Go find your brothers and bring them home. So I went there. It was scary moment because I heard people crying. It was a scary moment because my heart dropped. As the closer we got we didn’t know if they were alive or not and we see them and you here some noise and it was not crying it was song and they were celebrating because they stopped the fighting and the telecommunication line was broken but they were singing and I told them we were all worried about you guys and to at least give us a sign that you are still alive. It was some uh the next day we went up the hills when Robert he was part of the operation to take over the hills and they were all good and trained. And Robert was not one of them. And I said no no no you are not going up there and he said yes I am you are not telling me what to do you don’t go with them. So the officer said you don’t have to go but at least give us some help protecting from the people. Robert was so angry with me because he could not go up there and fight with them. He did not have much training and when you go and attack you need training to be able to defend yourself. So he was very upset and had that look that said I want to kill you! (Gives giggle). He felt betrayed by me. So that attack went okay and they regained the hills but it caused two deaths. From our people. And I think this was the moment they at least recuperated the weakest part and after that I think that we were okay for our village, but that moment was like no other. You walk away after it but you stay there in your hand thinking about how everything can go wrong quickly. God protects you. This was at least one kind of experience across two months of fighting where everything went okay, but I was still injured. I go by boat to Syria and stay there for two weeks. And I try to smuggle myself back to Beirut just to make some kind of attempt for my eyes. When I went there I stayed two or three days in the hospital and they had nothing to do with my eyes. They said it was already healed and one needed to be done had already been done. That it healed by itself. It was seen as a Christian miracle that his eyes were healed like it had an operation on them. I came back to the village and all the priests and everybody there saw it as an interesting story. How somebody got shot in the eyes and his eyes were healed. When the doctor saw it he had asked who had done the operation for you and I said nobody it is just like this. I go to the church and pray for Saint Mary. So the priest wrote it down in the miracles book. It was noted as one of the miracles done by Jesus. That also gives you the feeling even when we were out numbered and even when we were attacked and everything we still had some kind of protection for us. Just to think about this was great and just to feel this. This is my kind of story!”
Roger was born in Lebanon. Moved to Canada at the age of 18. He continued his studies in electrical engineering at the University of Quebec. He is currently the director of engineering at Hydro Quebec. He has 3 daughters all attending schools and colleges in Montreal, Canada.
Raymonda- “I can compete with my brother. When the started to attack us we did training to help protect ourselves. So the army guys came to our village and showed us hot to shoot and use some guns to protect us, as we knew when they attack certain village how to do the women. After that all the men are in the hills to protect our village and we wanted to bring them some food. So we did that training so we knew if we were attacked how to defend ourselves. So we had this training and at the same time the difficulty our village had no communication, food coming in, electricity, or nothing. So everything in the house was suppose to do like the old times. We didn’t have electricity or gas to make food. We don’t have some kind of thing to make what we needed to eat. The second thing was all my brothers. The time it happened my oldest brothers, Raymond, Richard, Rene. Richard was here in Canada and Raymond, Rene was in Belgium. Doing studies. And roger was still in the army so we had our two brothers. Robert and Ramzi in the hills. So the women were responsible for the house and I still had my little brother Romeo who was 3 or 4 years so he was baby. So when I brought my father dead in the house my mother lose her sense she got down and she couldn’t handle it. So I had other responsibilities. So when I lose my father I don’t see the time. We don’t have time to tell him good bye and when we arrive to the house the bombs started to come down on the village and the men wanted to put him in the church so we went to the church in the basement to protect ourselves and give your father to the church and put him in the church. So we don’t have the time. So after that we heard some bombs come down and took some yard of school and we knew that a little brother and a little cousin had died there so we knew the children play in the yard and the bomb fell there so some children were dead there. So after that you start every second with the death. So you live you life and know one second, two second, two day and maybe it is my turn. So you live your life and you live with the danger and it starts to be a part of your life. We had a trick. When we heard the bomb we count 1, 2, 3, 4 and we count. If the bar is far you open your mouth so you do not bust your ears. When we hear the bomb we went and protect ourselves and we count 1, 2, 3. After 3 if we do not hear a bomb we continue with ourselves. Say you live everyday I don’t know if my brother is alive or not and I have my little brother and suppose to protect my family and also feed my brother who is in the hill. It is very stressful. That is one thing you can never forget this moment. You see the people dead and we lived there so many weeks like that. You know maybe the night or the night after if we will have some attack on the village and now we prepare for the worst thing. In civil war it s very ugly thing that men can do. So we prepared for that. So thank god we lose some people but did not have the worst things like some of the other Christian villages. The thing that is very pitiful is that the people who attack us are our friends in school. The guy that shot my father, he knew him because my father repaired his car. In our school we have Christians and Muslims in the same school so we knew our friends. And they attacked us. That is the difficulty that we can’t understand. What! I know you! We go to the same bank and school! We play together and spend summer together and now you attack me why! Just because I am Christian and you are Muslim! What is this! So it was very difficult to understand why. Because our religion? Is that really the only thing? That’s the cause? That was very pitiful. But after that we returned to the normal and suppose to live with these people and you know that these people killed your father! They killed your father for nothing or because we are Christian. He killed father for nothing! Like my brother told me the revenge is there and you can’t forget him and you can’t forget so how do you live with that everyday and every night! We tried to understand some events but it is not the same. When we arrived here in Canada and told the people what we had gone through. They can’t understand what we passed through. I cant tell you enough what we live for. When you think about it the civil war in Lebanon, I think 30 years and now we are not finished yet. We have some people who are born in it and still don’t know anything about it and only know this thing. How are we supposed to work or live? So I don’t know how we are suppose to live after that, but the Lebanese people are very strong. The good thing in Lebanon as people is that when the shooting stop everybody goes out and starts to rebuild and start to have some fun and start to live! And when the attacking started the people go and hide in the basements. The moment it stops the people start to live and start to build and wherever the time start again and start again we don’t lose this thing. So I that the Lebanese that the force give him help a lot to go through this thing. And I look here and when I think about it and see how the people live I say thank god we have this quality in our culture. We don’t have this thing. We don’t ever can come out of this. And that is my story.”
Raymonda was born in Lebanon. She moved to Canada at the age of 15 where she continued schooling and graduated as an electrical engineer from the University of Quebec. She is an electrical engineer at Hydro Quebec in Montreal, Canada.
Norma- “We were kids, we knew that the country is at war. Our village had been surrounded by the Muslims for the past six month, and no travels to neighbor cities. We lived on little beef, and just grains, rice, bread and local fruits and vegetables. Oh did I mention no electricity? Yeah no electricity, were the nights are really dark, doing homework early or we ended up beside the oil lamp or a candle witch made it really hard to read and write. One morning we woke up to a couple of explosions followed by screaming and yelling to learn that a bomb had landed in our school’s yard. Luckily, it was early and no one was at school yet. Then shortly after we learn that a school bus driver was killed in front of the kids and his blood was rolling in the middle of the street in front of the kids to watch. All men assembled and were told that they needed to go to the mountains to secure the village. The shelling started shortly after this morning. Our house being on the second floor already go shelled, so we took shelter at the neighbors downstairs. Two days have past and we had not heard back from my father since the day he left to the mountains. Other fathers and brothers had come home to rest and shower, but not my father. I didn’t really understand all that, and was just hoping for all this to stop before my approaching birthday. At noon, I hear chaos and my mother screaming, I run upstairs to our house to find lot of people at our house, and my mother is standing on the balcony rail and about to jump, few men friends grabbed her and pulled her down. And then this is when it hit me, she is crying about my father. The house is now full of people, they are moving furniture around and my aunts grabbed my sisters and I to their house across the street for the afternoon. I said goodbye quickly to my father and did not even get to go to church or to the burial because of the heavy shelling. We managed for the next few months to get by with the help of family and friends, and now it was up to my older brothers to decide our faith. I knew then, that nothing would be the same! Soon we are saying goodbye to our friends and family forever.”
Norma was born in Lebanon, and migrated to Canada at the age of 13 where she went to school and graduated in Business Administration at the University of Quebec. She is married and lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband and 3 boys, all attending schools and colleges in engineering programs in Texas.