Syrian Refugee Crisis: I focus on surviving

Syrian Refugee Crisis: I focus on surviving

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Rami, 17, is fleeing from Syria to Germany. In Serbia, he talked to CARE-staff Ninja Taprogge about his journey, the war in his home country and his hopes for the future.

My name is Rami. I am turning 18 years in four months from now. I am excited, although I will be without my family and friends. I am from Damascus, the capital of Syria. 18 days ago, I left my father, my mother and my siblings in order to start a new life. My whole family is counting on me. They packed my bags and sent me away with all their savings, more than 3,000 US-Dollar, on a long journey to Europe. My father works at a bank, my mother is the head teacher in a secondary school and my brother does shift-work in a hotel. All of them have been saving a big portion of their salaries over the past years to pay for my trip. They want me to have a future far away from war-torn Syria. More than eleven million people were forced to flee within almost five years.

A few weeks ago I was still in school but most of the chairs in my classroom had been empty for a long time. Many of my friends had left school from one day to another. Some had left Syria; others are internally displaced. Three weeks ago, my chair remained empty as well. I drove to the Syrian-Lebanese border by car. It was quite dangerous and expensive to cross the border but I managed to enter Turkey via Beirut. When I was in Turkey I had the feeling of being able to make my dream come true for the first time – my dream to reach the European Union and live a safe life in Germany. My friends, who have fled to Germany a while ago, told me how great life is over there. They are thankful for the hospitality and helpfulness of German people.

I took a boat to get from Turkey to Kos, one of the Greek islands. The boat was two meters long and built for five people – but we were more than 20. Most of us were from Syria, others from Iraq and Afghanistan. It took us over two hours to get to Kos. Apparently it normally only takes 30 minutes, but there were too many people on the boat and we were therefore very slow. There was a woman with a little baby on board, who cried throughout the entire trip. The sea was quite rough and a lot of us were frightened. But I felt quite okay. I am a good swimmer and was prepared to jump into the water at any point of time. I had put my money, passport and smartphone in a plastic bag – just in case. But we were lucky and arrived in Kos dry and safe. We stayed there for four days. It was expensive, but we definitely needed to rest. There were a lot of aid organizations supporting refugees. I helped distributing water, juice, milk and food to my fellow refugees. On one of the days we were sitting on a hill watching the coastline when we caught eye of a boat full of refugees being at risk of overturning. We called the Greek coast guards who finally could save all of them. I will never forget this scene.

Pictures from Macedonia are stuck in my head as well. We went through awful situations. We took the train to the Serbian border and had to endure for hours without moving. We were terribly afraid for our lives. We were locked up like animals. When we finally arrived at the border, there were more than 2,000 people waiting to get into Serbia. We joined them and could luckily enter Serbia immediately. But only a few minutes later, people panicked and started running. Everybody was afraid they could be left. During my flight, I joined a family I know from Syria. Amal, one of their little daughters got lost in the crowd and we could not see her anymore. People were pushing her down and she could barely breathe. Her grandfather started crying because he could not find her. Suddenly, I saw her, was able to pick her up and carried her across the border.

Today I arrived in Subotica, a town in northern Serbia. I do not know when or how to move on from here. All I am wishing for is to reach Germany and live in safety. Once I arrive I will make sure my family can join me there. But for now, I have to focus on getting to Hungary. I need help and I am very thankful for the support of aid organizations like CARE. I try to get information about the situation at the border. Friends of mine, who already entered the EU, keep updating me with important information they are seeing in the media. But for now, I do not even know if I can make it across the Serbian-Hungarian border at all. I had to switch off my phone in order to save battery life. I could charge it in a hotel in Belgrade but it was quite expensive. I paid more than 100 US-Dollar per night, but I desperately needed a proper rest and the chance to charge my phone. My phone is the most valuable thing I have left. I cannot lose it under any circumstances; otherwise I cannot keep in touch with my mother. I need to be able to text her on a daily basis about my whereabouts and my condition.

Almost every day I do wake up in different cities. I sleep at the roadside, under trees or in fields and often I am very exhausted. More than four years of war in Syria have left many invisible wounds. On my flight I had to experience situations I will never forget. A lot of people may wonder why I have even started this dangerous journey. But for me, it would have been more dangerous to stay in Syria. This flight is my only chance to not join the military service. As long as there will be war in Syria, nobody is safe. I do not want to shoot people and I do not want to be the reason why more grandparents, mothers and fathers have to suffer. I want to help people. This is why I need to stay alive.