made the treacherous journey from Turkey to Greece with her three young children.
I’m 30 years old and come from the Damascus region. We left our home for another city in Syria when the war started. We returned to our area because the government said it was safe, but after 7 days we left because the bombing started again.
My story was really difficult. My son (age 2) had a twin sister who died when he was six months old. She died of a heart condition. The doctors told me she had a heart condition because I was so afraid of the situation and the war while I was pregnant.
When the bombs came, my oldest daughter would run to the bathroom because there was a roof and it was safer there.
The injury happened 7 months ago. I lost my hand. We were still in Syria and there was an explosion. I was resting on the sofa by the window when the rocket fell and the window frame fell on my hand.
I was trapped for about two hours. I didn’t know where my children were.
They started to take out the injured people and bring them to the hospital. I waited for half an hour and then a young doctor came. I was in surgery for 10 hours. The artery was severed, so the surgery was on the artery and the veins.The nerves in my arm died and they couldn’t fix it. I did not have full anaesthesia, it was only on my hand. So I was awake for the whole thing and I could see how they could take the arteries and cut things.
These fingers here, I don’t feel them at all. If I get injured here, it feels like I have anaesthesia here. (She only has feeling in her index finger and thumb
My three kids and I left Syria and went to Turkey, where we stayed for a month and a half. The day we wanted to leave Turkey for Greece, we waited from 5AM until 10 PM to get the boat. The first time we went to board the inflatable boat, it exploded. The people organising the boat tried to fix it, but it exploded a second time, so finally they brought us a new boat. We waited 17 hours before we could leave the shore. I don’t know why they didn’t get us a new boat in the first place.
Each time, we had to walk until we were up to our armpits in the water, just to board the boat. Why didn’t they bring us a new one? We paid a lot of money for the boat, it was not for free. They tell you there will only be 30 people, but there ended up being 50 on the boat.
When we reached Athens, immediately people welcomed us, clothed the children and gave us a map.
A few days from now, we will travel to the Netherlands. We are enrolled in a program, so we will fly directly there. I’m hoping to receive treatment for my hand there. Today they told me that the moment I arrive, they will examine me to tell me what is possible.
52, is the mother of Rahel*, 17, who has suffered from a form of spastic quadriplegia since birth. Rahel traveled with her mother, father, and brother from Syria to Greece.
We came from Syria, from Aleppo. We had so many friends. We were living all together and it was very nice, those days.
We did not come because we are refugees, because we are hungry or something. We came only for safety. We loved our country and we were not thinking to leave. It was the war that made us leave our country. A refugee does not come here with his will. He is forced to leave. Not even for a moment did we think we would leave Syria to live outside our country.
We were in a situation with the sea before and the enemy behind. So we chose the sea.
We had to pay 15,000 euro to get here because of Rahel’s situation with her wheelchair, but it was not a problem because we arrived safely. How much we suffered.
The hardest moment was when we were coming on the sea. During these 40 minutes I was thinking, that’s it — if anything happens, this is it. We are in the middle of the sea. We only had God to save us and protect us. When I was in the middle of the sea I was thinking, was it a good decision or a bad decision that I wanted to come here? I was worried so much because we had the responsibility of our children. Thank God we made it.
This is God’s will, maybe there is something else for us in this life. There is nothing left from the past — only the memories.
asks her mom to tell her stories of Aleppo, she misses Aleppo.
She reminds her mother of her friends and the community at “Faith and Life”, and how they would gather before the war.
There was an organisation in Syria called “Faith and Life” that took care of disabled people. Families with disabled people would gather together and go on trips together. We loved to go camping. People with this organisation would gather for one week every year, we would go outside for one week together.
If I did not have Rahel, I would not have met so many people and all of these friends through this organisation.
I bless God and thank him that I have Rahel, because without her, I would not be as happy as I am now. Even though she is disabled and she has a hard situation, we are happy, even with that.
We are going places with her, having fun. She shares a lot of stories, she knows the friends of mine, of her father, of her brother…
Rahel: “I love them all!”
*names changed to protect people’s privacy
I met Fatima and her children in Athens in February 2016, while the borders were still open. They were waiting for their relocation to the Netherlands to be finalised. Elia heard me knocking at Fatima’s door while she was away. She immediately invited me in and asked if she could tell me her story. / FROM NORTH TO SOUTH • Part 8
Photos and story by Talitha Brauer
In December 2015 I received a call from documentary filmmaker Tamara Park, asking me to accompany her on a three week trek from north to south, starting in Finland and ending in Greece. We met and interviewed Syrian and Iraqi refugees who had fled their homes in hopes of beginning a new life in Europe.