Published: 03/09/2017 09:09 - Updated: 07/09/2017 08:58

Angela's Aleppo diary is bitter-sweet

Angela HilalA WOMAN who has made Moray her second home after war in Syria forced her to leave her husband behind has published a book detailing her experiences in the troubled country. 

Angela Hilal left Syria three years ago, after she and husband Hassan decided it would be safer for her to do so. 

Mrs Hilal lived in the Middle Eastern Country with her family for more than 40 years before being displaced for her own safety as violence escalated and she ended up back in the UK. 

Hailing originally from Lancashire, the 73-year-old has now settled in Elgin, where she has made many friends. However, her heart remains in Syria. 

Fortunately, the situation is Aleppo has settled enough to allow her to return, at least temporarily, and she was reunited with her Syrian family for three months between April and June this year. 

While there, electricity and internet connection permitting, she wrote a blog which she posted on Facebook. 

These entries have now been combined for the publication of her third book, which is entitled Aleppo Diary. 

Mrs Hilal (73), who writes under the name Angela Formby, was born in Sefton and was educated at Seafield Convent Grammar School and Manchester University. 

It was while studying that she met her future husband, and they married in 1965, before going to live in Syria in 1971 with their first two children. 

When their children were young, she would return to England for three months of the year, but her trips to the UK became less frequent as her family grew up. 

For many years, Mrs Hilal taught English in Syria, both privately and in schools. She also coached Syrian doctors, who were keen to specialise in the UK, on how to pass their English exam. 

Mrs Hilal is currently in Elgin with her son and his wife. 

Between the time she left Aleppo three years ago, and her return for a three-month visit this year, Mrs Hilal said a lot had changed. 

"I had been away from Aleppo for three and a half years, so I missed most of the trials faced by the residents of the western side of the city when the moderate opposition – largely ISIS and al Qaeda – was attempting to starve and blast them into submission," she wrote. 

Mrs Hilal admitted that her new book had taken a lot of work to be transformed from online words to the written page. 

"It took a fair bit of tidying up once I had stopped writing it as a diary," she said. 

She also said she hopes to return to Aleppo in the not too distant future. 

"My husband said it was not safe for me and so I left, but it is much better now. He said he could not protect me because it looked like insurgents were taking over the city," she said. 

"I am a female and a Christian and I was not safe." 

Despite yearning for Syria, Mrs Hilal, who is a member of the Elgin Writers Club, said she is enjoying life in Elgin. 

"I can see myself being between there and here for the time being," she said. 

"It (Aleppo) is improving every day and every day it gets a bit better. They had tens of thousands of people who went back as soon as it was safe. 

"I do love it here – it really is a home from home. I have had such good experiences here with the church, and the writers’ group and with people being so nice." 

Mrs Hilal will stage a signing of her new book in Crafted, on South Street in Elgin, from 10am-3pm on Saturday, September 9. She has previously written the books Syrian Coffee and Two’s Company

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