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Alia, 53 years old, from Aleppo, Syria

Part 1

“The word ‘refugee’ is a terrible word. I am so sad that now I am a refugee. I used to live a normal life, and now I live in a tent, and I am forced to ask for food and clothes from the NGOs. Europe has forced us to become beggars. It is so humiliating.”

Alia has been stranded in Greece for 7 months now, with her husband, three children, two grandchildren and her daughter’s husband. When she talks about the camp, her eyes fill with tears of anger. “There are rats that come into the tents, at night there is no light and we cannot see them. The children are terrified of them. We don’t have enough space and closed bags to protect our food and our belongings from the rats, because all of our things lie on the floor of the tent. The winter is here now and it is so cold and windy at night, I am sometimes worried that the tent will blow away. But the worst thing of all is how the managers of the camp lie to us, and promise things that never happen. It’s enraging.”

Alia misses the food in Syria. “I was a good cook, and famous for my ‘Safar Jalieh’ and ‘Kibbeh’. They are small balls of minced meat and burghul. If I was in Syria, I could make you the best kibbeh you have ever tasted.”


Photo: Clara Veale / Story: Voices of Refugees

Part 2

When the war started, Alia says they started to slowly die inside. Bombs were falling near the house, and when her 13 year old nephew died in a bombing, they knew they had to leave. They travelled to Turkey where they lived for 18 months. Alia recalls that life in Turkey was hard. In Turkey, “They don’t like Syrians, they treated us like animals.”

Now, the family is waiting for their asylum interview, in a bit more than one month. Then, they will be applying for the relocation programme, and hope to go to Germany. “I will tell them everything they ask me in the interview, and inshallah they will let us go to Germany.” In Germany, Alia’s son-in-law, Salim, has family, which they hope to be united with.

“You know,” Alia tells me, “I had a visa to go to Germany back in 1991. My husband’s nephews had work for us and we were going to move to Germany then. I was pregnant with Mounya, my first child. But then my mother fell ill, and I asked my husband if we could stay.”


Photo: Shayanne Gal / Story: Voices of Refugees

Part 3

Mohammed, Alia’s youngest child and only son, is 13, and started going to Greek school only a couple of days ago. “I am happy he is going to school, because with the war he has already missed three years. He is a smart boy, and learns languages very fast. He learnt Turkish when we were living in Istanbul, and now he is learning English and even Kurdish with the other children! When we are in Germany, I will be happy when he goes to a proper school and finishes his education. I will also try my best to learn German, but at the beginning Mohammed can help me.” 

“I hope that the war in Syria ends, so that we can go back. But in the meantime, I ask Europe to make our lives here a little easier, and help us to live normally again. All I want is find a place to sit and rest, and live in peace.”


Photo: Shayanne Gal / Story: Voices of Refugees

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