How did the journey start for you?
The whole thing started in 2014. I guess when the war started in my country and it was no longer safe to live there. I don’t remember how it exactly started though. They started to kidnap young people who were at my age, I was 15. Once my father told me “you got to be careful on the streets, you can get kidnapped, from now it is just home to school and from school to back home, that’s it.” And I was like yes, no problem. Once, men came to me, they asked me where I was going, I said to school, and they tried to force me to go with them. I ran. After that, I called my dad, he came and picked me up. That was my first incident. The second one, they came to our school, they were looking for someone but couldn’t find the person. Again, I told my father about that, he told me that I had to stay in the school for a few days, I did. A week later we left the country. Me and my dad, we flew to Adana, Turkey and stayed there for a week. My dad stayed there, and I continued to İzmir, I stayed there for a month. My journey started from İzmir. We got on a small boat, we were 80 people and it was a really dangerous situation. We had to travel in the midnight and it was in winter, it was very difficult, but we had to take the risk, and we went to Greece. There we stayed for 2 or 3 weeks then travelled to Serbia on foot. It took us around a week. From Serbia to Hungary it took us another few days. From there I came to Austria. It took me two months altogether. It was the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015, November to January to be exact… When I came to Austria, the police took me to Tirol at first. There I stayed with an organization called SOS Kinderdorf and they helped me a lot. I went to school, and I played for their football team.
And how was the first year in Austria?
The first day at school was really difficult. I went to school and I had no idea what was happening. I only spoke a little German. In the class I was lonely at the beginning, because of what they hear and know about our situations, they didn’t know how to react to me. But going to school listening to German daily really helped me with my language. That was in Tirol; in Vienna people in general are kind of friendlier and there are also a lot of Arabic speakers, so It was easier for me here. I went to a few German courses as well. It was hard, yes, although you are not alone, it feels like you are, but somehow, I managed to learn German and get used to life here, so now it’s fine.
My family came to Vienna a year after I did. First year, we had a lot to handle. We had to go to a lot of places, do a lot of things. We couldn’t speak enough German in the beginning but somehow, we managed it. In the beginning, when my family came, the biggest struggle was they were told “you are in Tirol and you have to stay and live there, you can’t change cities.” That didn’t make sense to me as my family was in Vienna, I obviously wanted to live with them. At first, they refused but finally they accepted that, and I moved in with my family. Eight months after, we got an ‘Asylbescheid’. For that, they had an interview with my parents about our reasons to come to Vienna and wanted them to explain the living situations back home. It could have been a negative decision, but we were lucky to get a positive one. It is a stressful process. As we were waiting, we were hearing about people getting negative decisions, but luckily that didn’t happen to us.
What was the hardest thing you had to go through in this journey?
I came here alone before my family, I was by myself. I was 15. That was the hardest part. There was a man with his daughters that tried to help me along the way. Still, it was a stressful situation. You cannot really trust anyone. You can get your money stolen and everything. You can get killed. That was the hardest thing to see. It was when we were walking, it was in Serbia. I saw dead bodies on the side of the road, there were also people like us, from the groups that passed there before, but they were already gone.
Although it was 4 years ago, what people have been through… these moments are hard to erase.
After a while I decided to close my recording device, we went for a long walk. We talked. As I was listening to him, I admired the strength and courage he had more and more, with every word.
No act is too small and words have power. Every year since 2001, the United Nations observes World Refugee Day to honor the strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced the flee their homeland. It’s a reminder to connect for once, to give ourselves time to read and listen and do what we can to remain aware and speak about it, act on it and vote in ways that will help us progress toward a future where all people can live in peace and security.