“We were waiting for death,” says Asma, a 23-year-old nursing school graduate and the daughter of Khaled and Daniela. Reflecting on the past month in Gaza, she recounts the experiences of her family. Her father, a 60-year-old mechanical engineer, and her mother, a 54-year-old born and raised in Brașov, Romania, were part of the first group of evacuees from the Gaza Strip to arrive in Romania on November 8. Their large, close-knit family of 13 includes their 6-month-old granddaughter Hanan, whose name means compassion and affection.
After being picked up from the airport by Habitat for Humanity Romania’s team, the family was taken to a hotel where they were arranged to stay for four nights. In the hotel lobby, they recounted their experience.
“The bombings started while I was at home with my daughter. A neighboring house was hit by a rocket, causing part of our home to collapse. Fleeing in fear with my daughter in my arms, I soon realized that no place was safe, so I returned to our damaged home,” Asma.— Asma
The family later relocated to a UN-protected school, crowded with 7,000 people seeking safety. They slept in a classroom with around 100 other people, on just blankets and mattresses pulled from the ruins.
“With no electricity, food and water were scarce; I was only allowed to drink water in the morning, and sometimes I had to drink seawater out of sheer desperation,” Asma recalls.
On November 7, the family received news that they would be relocated to Romania. Before leaving, they returned to their destroyed home to salvage essential items like clothes, shoes and important documents. Just minutes after leaving, another rocket struck nearby, narrowly missing them.
The family was evacuated through the Rafah border in Egypt, then to Cairo, where they waited for 13 hours before arriving in Romania. Habitat for Humanity Romania’s team was there to welcome them as part of its partnership with the State Department for Emergency Situations. The organization’s support includes the provision of emergency shelter in hotels, cash assistance for rent, and a social rental program with ready-to-occupy apartments.
Now safe in Romania, Khaled and Asma are focused on building a new life. They are determined to find employment and enroll their children in schools, drawing strength and hope from the resilience and compassion that Hanan’s name represents.
More than 220 evacuees have been repatriated to Romania so far, many of whom have family in the country. Habitat Romania has been focusing on the most vulnerable groups, helping them secure temporary shelter, in line with Habitat for Humanity’s Pathways to Permanence approach.