Nematallah, Lesvos, Greece. Photo: Hannah Pruzinsky

Nematallah, Lesvos, Greece. Photo: Hannah Pruzinsky



is a face in Moria refugee camp that you will stumble across time and time again, and thank God each time that you do. I met him first during an English lesson at a refugee community center, when he showed up with his violin case in tow and a beaming smile. I saw him countless times after this first meeting, be it outside of Moria helping a family with directions, in Mytilini helping people at the banks, at the public hospital translating for people at doctor’s appointments. Nematallah has a face and heart you will not forget. He has been living in Lesvos, Greece for the past 4 months.

≈ Story by Hannah Pruzinsky


I cry a lot about this too. My mother, she saw me, and said she doesn’t know me. It’s very hard for me. After that, it was just me and Allah.

No one helps me [and] I don’t want people to help me. I am young, I am very strong. I am working for myself.

Everything is about money in Afghanistan. Every night was an attack on me. One euro is not enough for one person, but every night dangerous people who were smoking marijuana, cocaine, glass, attacked me. “Give me money! Give me money!”. I told them, “I don’t have any money. You want money? I can only give one euro to you. And then what can I do? I need food. I need water. I need clothes.

If you want my money?  Kill me.”’

‘I came to Lesvos because in Afghanistan, I worked in the streets my whole life. Sometimes, somebody gave me a job in the shops, but it was not for long, usually only for one month. I always worked for 1 euro a day.

Because I was working on the street, some mafia approached me and had me sell drugs for them. After I worked for them for one year, selling drugs, they changed my job and told me I should hunt and kill young babies, young girls for their hearts, their eyes. I said no, and they said that they will kill me. So I left Afghanistan. The Taliban killed my father, and my mother left me when I was 2 years old.’

‘I cry a lot about that. I don’t like my mother because she left me [while] I was young. She married again. I know about this. She said, “I do not have son by the name of Nematallah”.



Nematallah, tell me about your experiences with seeking mental help for the grievances you have experienced both in Afghanistan and here in Moria.

‘In Moria, I can’t enjoy my life. If I don’t smoke cigars, I would go crazy. I will fight with myself, with everybody. I will fight every day, every night, if I don’t have cigar. If I don’t smoke, some things will come into my mind about my past life, or I will think about my father and cry. I go out of Moria to the beach, just for shouting, just for crying, about my past.

I don’t know where I want to go, I just want to leave Moria. Every night there, there is shouting, fighting, somebody drinking wine.

I’m very sick now. I go to the doctor and they say, “Drink a lot of water”. Oh, water is not working for my headache, for my sore throat, for my nose.

Another time, I go to the doctor. I say, “I have a problem.” – “You don’t have a problem, you’re smiling”. “Oh, so I’m smiling, the same as you.  But not as good as you”.

No one sees me. I speak with EASO [European Asylum Support Office]. EASO told me, “If you want to go to a psychologist, go to [a community center] for sports. You will forget these things”.  I can’t do this.’

Is there anyone that you feel you can trust, or tell how you feel in Moria?

‘No. No... No.  Because no one understands my problems. People just ask me if I have money, so we can drink together. I don’t have money to drink wine. If I had money to do this, I would buy food and go to the sea and enjoy by myself. But if I have money, people will be the best friend to me, have a drink with me - until the wine is finished. Then, they all want to go.’



So, Nematallah. I notice that you help everyone, everywhere you go. Why? You just give, without ever taking.

‘In the past I was like this, I am like this now, and in the future I will be like this too. I don’t want to change my way.

I lived a hard life. I don’t want anyone to have a hard life like me. I want people to have a good life, that is why I help people.

I help you just for God.’

≈ July 2018 ≈ Lesvos, Greece


Hannah Pruzinsky lives in Brooklyn, New York and currently works as a Physician Assistant in Emergency Medicine. She is passionate about mental health awareness.




Refugee4Refugees is an organization in Lesvos established by Omar Alshakal, a former refugee, that involves asylum seekers in the process of providing and receiving relief.  

They provide swimming lessons, boat spotting, and educational and social services to adults and children.