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Yussef, 55 years old, from Aleppo, Syria

Part 1

Yussef was a shoemaker in Aleppo, and had a workshop where he would train apprentices to become shoemakers.

“I never went to school when I was a child. I never learned to read and write but I could make any shoe you dream of. I used to have a catalog in my shop, and people would point at the shoe they want, and I could make it - even if it was Made in Italy.”

Yussef likes to joke around with the volunteers at the camp and entertain his grandchildren by making silly faces. He seems to be able to turn even the most desperate circumstances into a laugh. While we are talking about the family being stranded in Greece and being unable to move on, he suddenly gets up, pretends to swing a backpack on his shoulder and walks off. “Let’s go to Germany,” he tells me, “let’s go right now.”

Photo: Shayanne Gal / Story: Voices of Refugees

Part 2

In 2014, when airplanes flew over their neighbourhood, the calm and peaceful life that Yussef’s family had been living came to an end. Yussef decided that it was time to get his family out, and so they fled to Turkey and then Greece, in the hope of reaching Germany, where he has cousins.

“Now we are living in a forest in the middle of nowhere, with rats and snakes,” says Yussef, describing life at the refugee camp. “It is not suitable for my family.”

“I want people in Europe to know that we are normal people, and just like them, we want our children to go to school, we want a place to live that is sheltered and warm, and we want our dignity back.”


Photo: Clara Veale / Story: Voices of Refugees

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