“I wanted to let go of what I was holding in my heart”.
So said nine-year-old Jana Karkar when asked why she wrote a poem about her brother, who passed away when he was just a few days old.
This morning at a ceremony at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Jana was named the Primary School winner of the Red Room Poetry Object competition.
The Wollongong West Public School student’s poem titled ‘a picture of my brother’ was a popular winner in the Australasian-based competition which received over 2500 entries.
Syrian-born Jana was living as a refugee in Egypt when her brother passed away.
Jana told the Mercury she remembers the tears her father shed when he told her that her brother Mohammed had died.
“He came back from the hospital crying. My mum was crying and I started crying. It was a very sad day,” she said.
“The hospital he was in was a very good hospital but my brother's heart just stopped.”
Jana, whose family moved to Australia in December 2015, said she was surprised but very happy when informed her poem had won.
“I was originally going to write a happy poem but I’m so glad I decided to write about my brother,” Jana said.
“It helped me and made me feel better. My parents were also happy when I told them who my poem was about.”
They were also “over the moon” when Jana won.
“Everyone was excited. They were proud of me. They bought me presents,” she said.
But her “biggest present” is due next year – a little sister. “I’m so lucky.”
Jana and a number of other students with refugee backgrounds at Wollongong West Public School, were mentored by Kirli Saunders who worked with the children to create poetry about their experiences.
Saunders recently worked with local Indigenous students to produce poetry which was put onto the backs of buses, and she has just had her first book The Incredible Freedom Machines, published.
Jana and other Red Room Poetry Object competition winners, will have their poems brought to life in a specially-commissioned animated short film, which will be screened in selected cinemas across Australia later this year.