Here is the voice of Hala.
In Germany, I have a new definition of what it means to be Syrian. I think Syrian people are very strong because we try to be happy no matter what our circumstances are. We take life as it comes and accept the life God gave us.
Syrians want to get to know everybody. I saw so many videos on Facebook about friendships between Germans and Syrians. I think they live very harmoniously.
Maybe I am a little biased, but I see that Syrians really want to get to know their neighbours.
My neighbour, Neil, is very helpful. When Mohammad had an injury, Neil took us to the hospital. My children are swimming right now with Neil. He is a good man and is teaching my children a lot.
I do want to say thank you to all the people who have helped me, and even those who haven’t helped me, but simply smiled at me.
A smile means so much to me, to us, as refugees.
At times I feel normal and other times I feel afraid when I go to social events. I’m afraid because I don’t have another country to go to. I don’t have many options. I am sad sometimes when I think about my future because I don’t know what will happen.
Sometimes I hate thinking of myself as a refugee. When I came to Europe, I was afraid that people would not treat me well, but I have gotten along with everybody in Germany.
When I talk to my German friend, Cristina, I tell her that she is just like my sister. She would help me with anything. Sometimes we don’t speak for a week, then I miss her so much. We have to know how each other is doing. When someone in Syria asks me how I am doing, I always say I am happy in Germany. I am happy when people like Cristina ask me if I need help.
But it is not always easy. When Zuckerfest [an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan] arrived, and I was in Germany, it was very difficult. I remembered all the beautiful memories I shared with my family in Syria. It was not the same in Germany.
It’s not just remembering the past. I am always thinking about where I will go in the future.
Will we have to go in the street? Will we have to go to a place that is not comfortable for my children?
I like being here because the people are very nice and international, but I feel like I don’t have the time to really get to know the place. I can’t play sports, I can’t enjoy life in Berlin…but I try to be strong for my children. I came here so that they can study and have a better life.
With my final thoughts, I want to say that, yes, I am a refugee, but mostly, I am a mother. I can instill morals in my children.
Being a mother is the same all over the world.
When hearing about the Syrian Civil War on the news and stories of refugees dying on their way to Europe with hopes of starting a new life, it became clear to me that this may be the worst humanitarian crisis of my time. At first, I planned on spending my summer with friends and working as a waitress as I normally do, but as my awareness of the refugee crisis grew, I could no longer stay in my small town doing nothing about it. Although I had no previous experience working with refugees, I felt that by doing nothing I was standing on the side of injustice.
I wanted to hear the stories of refugees, to know their pain, fears, hopes, and dreams. I spent my summer in Berlin, which has a high number of refugees, and I became friends with many Syrian women refugees. I asked my family and friends what they would ask a refugee if they could talk to one in person, and then I used a compilation of their questions to interview my new Syrian friends. I’m sharing their voices here in hopes that others can hear and begin to understand their stories.
Photos and story by Danica Simonet