Summer is spilling out her last wave of heat for the day. It is nearly six in the evening, and I am enjoying the brimming energy and joy of a two-year-old boy, running amongst the planted cabbage and not-yet ripe tomatoes in the community garden at One Happy Family, a refugee-run community center in the hills of Lesvos, Greece. I am joined by the mother of this boy, sitting on one of the palates serving as a bench in the garden.
Ezin* is a young mother from Afghanistan, who has been living in Moria refugee camp for two months. She is cradling a baby girl, eight months old at most. Her husband, Aarash, is seated nearby, eyes filled with waiting and empathy. A translator sits across from us.
≈ Story by Hannah Pruzinsky
WHY WE LEFT
Aarash: One time Ezin wanted to die. She wanted to kill her body.
Ezin: My mother and my father were killed and after that I lived with my uncle. Every day I stayed in the house, nobody except me in the house everyday.
My uncle chose someone for me to marry, and I told him, “If I have to marry him, I want to die. It’s not love, to marry this way. I want to be able to choose”.
“It’s not your choice, it’s my choice,” he replied, “I want you married. I need the money”. In Afghanistan, every problem is connected to money.
Ezin: I left Afghanistan with the man I loved, because we were not married — and nobody understands that. No one said “this is a good choice”.
We went to Iran and got married there, but it was not good for us. We needed a paper for us to start a life in Iran.
Sometimes, the police came to our house and said, “If you have an ID card you can stay here, otherwise you have to leave Iran”.
I just want to be relaxed. I have things in my past I want to forget about — I want to speak with somebody to help me move forward in the future.
LIVING IN MORIA
And so, Ezin and her husband Aarash* made their way to Europe, the final leg of their journey bringing them to Moria camp in Lesvos, Greece.
Ezin: I come here and nobody knows about me. Nobody understands me.
If I want to go out of my tent, there are dangerous men in Moria. I come in and out of Moria only with my husband. If I go alone, I think that someone will look at me and want to say something wrong about me.
I don’t want to go by myself. We’ve had a lot of crime that I can’t even speak about.
Before two weeks, someone attacked us on our way to this community center and said,
“I want your phone. Give me your money and everything that you have that is expensive.
And they put a knife to the neck of my baby.
So now, I don’t have a phone for protecting my baby’s life.
HOW WE CARRY THE STORIES
Ezin: [I am] crying, not for the past, but crying for the future - about my babies and their new life.
I believe in my God to help me, nobody else.
I don’t want my family in Moria, because they will tell my uncle. My uncle wants to come here to find me.
Everyday, there are new people coming from Afghanistan. But, I watch that my uncle will not be in these gates.
I am happy to enjoy my life and know that my family doesn’t know about me and that I’m living in Greece.
I am happy to speak with you.
Everything I have in my body, in my mind, is empty now that I am able to speak with you.
Today, I forgot my stress. Today is the first day I speak very strongly, with you. Before, I didn’t feel like this, I didn’t speak strongly with people. This is the first day.
≈July 2018 ≈ Lesvos, Greece
* Names changed for reasons of security
Hannah Pruzinsky lives in Brooklyn, New York and currently works as a Physician Assistant in Emergency Medicine. She is passionate about mental health awareness.
Gateways 2 Life is an organization that provides free shower and laundry services in an aim to reestablish the inherent dignity of the women and children living in Moria.