Juliet Ibrahim in a chat with Ariyike Akinbobola talks about her career, motherhood and one thing many people don’t know about her – she has survived three civil wars in three different countries.
On her civil wars experience she said:
“People don’t know but I’ve experienced three civil wars; Liberia civil war, Lebanon civil war and Ivory Coast war. With my family, we were in Liberia, my dad is a Lebanese and he was a business man, so, he used to run a supermarket in Liberia and that was where he met my mum. We were there for a while and then in 1990, the first war broke out and its just like having a supermarket, and because of the war in that area, you have to leave everything in it, and take your family out of the country.
“We went to Lebanon and Lebanon’s war started in 1992, and because I’m the first born of my family, even though I was still a kid, I saw everything and it made me grow up so fast because I was the first born, I had to help my mum.
“My dad went to work one morning, only for us to see that the story building before us just dropped. There was a bomb that was sent to it and it just fell down. And then I shouted and my mum asked us to run.
“So, how they built their houses in Lebanon, they always have an underground, under the very last floor, like a basement. Everybody in the building had to go down there. We were on the ninth floor and I remembered my mum carried my little brother and I carried my sister Sonia, and then we ran downstairs. We can’t go through the elevator, we had to go through the stairs, nine floors…
“Because there can be bombings, so that you don’t get stucked. Everybody ran to the basement and I remembered when my dad came back, he had a discussion with my mum and we had to go back to Liberia, because then, Liberia’s war had ceased.
“We were in Liberia in 1992 again, escaped the war in Lebanon and then in 1994, the civil war broke out in Liberia and this time around it happened when we were only warned in the middle of the night. Somebody just came to tell my parents that you need to leave because tomorrow, they are striking. So, that’s how we called every family member, everybody that we had to go. So, once again, everybody just had a backpack because there was no time to pack anything. So we left everything. We’ve lost every single thing we had each time and started all over again.
“I saw them try to shoot my dad and my mum will stand in front of them and will be like, kill me, if you want to kill my husband, you kill me first. I saw them shoot between my mum’s legs at one point. I experienced a whole lot when I was a kid. I even saw them try to [email protected] one of my cousins who was with us, my mum had to fight, and what saved us that day was the jet bombers flying that day, so the rebels had to take cover. That was how we escaped and once we escaped, we were at the Ivory Coast border already, so we just used canoes.
“The guys couldn’t be on the canoes, so they put the ladies and the guys had to paddle and swim us across. I lost a cousin, my mum’s sister’s son drowned in that process. I’ve gone through a whole lot in my life, but we got to Ivory Coast and we were alive. That was the most important thing. We started sleeping on the ground because we had nothing. So, we slept on the floor for weeks till our dad could get money from his Lebanese friends to buy things. So, we got a place, rented like two bedroom apartment and we were like seven to eight people in the house.
“People don’t really understand because I have actually stayed in mud houses before. So, I’ve had my experiences. I’ve had to live as a refugee and it was crazy because we lived like 10 years in Ivory Coast and that’s why I speak very good french, people don’t know, I read and write good french.
“And then, a war broke out in Ivory Coast and my dad wasn’t around then. He was working in Lebanon or somewhere, so, he had to call my mum that ‘leave the supermarket like that, take the kids and leave to Ghana.’ And that was how we went by road to Ghana. But when we were going, the car that took my mum and little brother didn’t have space for me and my sister, so, we had to separate as a family. I and my sister went on a public transport while my mum and my little brother went with her friend’s family in their car.
“I remembered when the rebels stopped the bus my sister and I were in, and asked everybody to get down, we got lucky again because they were trying to harass us, when they got a phone call and left. So, my family finally reunited at the border in Ghana and as soon as we crossed the border, I fainted and was at the hospital for four weeks. We came with a bag but today, I am where I am. I look at people complain and I’m like, No, God always has a reason.
“I remember when we were growing up and my dad was fighting for us to go and live in the states, and they will deny us visa 100 times. And the first time I went to apply as an actress, my mum asked if they were not going to deny us again. We were all given 5 years visa and that was it.
“You don’t need to be there that is why God doesn’t put you there so you can try so hard, pray so hard and do everything to make everything work and if it doesn’t work for you, ,maybe its because that’s not your calling or where you’re supposed to be. So, focus on something else. Let everything happen the way its supposed to happen because if everything had gone so right for me back then and my family, I wont be where I am today. So that’s why I always believe I’m put in this position for a purpose, for a particular reason so I can make use of it. If you follow me on social media, you’ll see I’m always talking inspirational stuffs because I know where I’ve come from and this is just my family story.”