Syria’s civil war is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. The five-year-old war has claimed 470,000 lives, directly or indirectly, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research (SCPR). More than 4.8 million have been forced to leave the country. Over 428,000 Syrians fled to Germany in 2015. One of them is Rami. He arrived in Bonn last fall. He wrote this blog post about his journey to Germany for Collettivo Antigone, an intercultural blog co-created by Maria Grazia Patania.
This is Rami’s story.
I am Rami and I come from Syria. I met Maria at the public library in Bonn during the first Book Club meeting in April. On that occasion Larissa Bender introduced her book “Innenansichten aus Syrien”, a collection of stories, interviews and witness accounts about the Syrian war. Maria offered me some help to learn German and so we started to meet regularly. She also introduced me to this intercultural Collecttivo blog and suggested to write a post about my journey from Syria to Germany.
Syria used to be a very nice country before the war started, a peaceful and happy country. Suddenly, just out of the blue, we found ourselves in hell. We couldn’t believe that what was going on in Syria was real… At the beginning we thought it was just a matter of time before we could go back again to our normal life.
At that time I was working as an accountant for the Ministry of Finance in Syria while studying for a master’s degree in Banking & Finance. We have lived long in the hope that this war would end soon, but it kept going on and on.
Afterwards, I decided to flee my homeland with my older brother: we started from Lebanon and we had to take a boat from Lebanon to Turkey. In Tarablus harbour (Lebanon) there were more than 10.000 Syrians with many babies and it was so sad to look at those people who were just like me and had to leave their old life behind to start everything new in a country they have never seen before.
We waited 48 hours before the Lebanese police allowed us to get on board and while waiting I have met so many people there who shared plans and ideas. Most of the people wanted to reach Germany because Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that “Refugees from Syria are welcome to Germany”. Others wanted to go to England since they spoke English or to Sweden because other family members were already living there.
The ship started to move at 10 a.m. It was my first time on a ship. We arrived in Turkey at 4 p.m. The village was very small and from there we took a bus to Azmer, the journey has lasted 15 hours and then from Azmer we headed to a small nice city called Cesma. It was hard to communicate with people in Turkey since most of them don’t speak English and none of us knew Turkish. We booked a room in a hotel and finally after 4 exhausting days I could take a shower and sleep decently. After 3 days in Cesma we met a smuggler and headed to Greece. We started our journey at 5 p.m. and after 12 hours -at 5 a.m.- we arrived on a very beautiful island in Greece. Few hours later we took a ferry to Athens where we arrived at 1 p.m. and we decided to continue our journey with 2 guys from Syria.
We’ve spent 2 days in Athens and got ready for the second part of our journey: we had to buy jackets, clothes and food since we were forced by smugglers to leave all our belongings in Turkey. We took a bus to the Macedonian borders and we crossed them smoothly before taking a train to Serbia. There we had to walk more than 3 hours in the sun at midday so some people fainted while others got a sun stroke. Luckily enough our group was alright.
A bus drove us to Budapest where we realized that the Hungarian borders were closed so we had to stay there for a few days till Croatia opened its borders to refugees. As soon as we got there, we met people from numerous countries: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and of course Syria. In the early morning we took a train to Zagreb where we could rest for a while before leaving again to Austria. At that point I realised that the hardest part of our journey was over and it was just a matter of time till we reached our final destination: Germany.
As we arrived in Germany, we found so many people smiling and waving to us. The first sentence I have heard in Germany was: “Welcome to Germany. You are finally safe here“.