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Passage to Europe

I come from the city of Qamishli, where I spent the best days of my life.  Despite the variety of accents and faiths, it was a safe city. I had never even thought of emigrating to Europe. But after the outbreak of the war, my security deteriorated and I was unable to finish my college studies.

I decided to emigrate, because however hard I tried I would not have been able to make my dreams come true if I stayed in my homeland.

My parents disapproved of my idea, but I insisted. I left the home where I had spent my happy childhood. As I said goodbye to my parents and friends, tears bled from my eyes. It was a dark day.

Adeyjordan Creative Commons

I fled to Turkey. The distance between Qamishli and Turkey is short, but it was a horrifying journey because the Turkish gendarmerie were shooting at everyone trying to cross.

Thanks be to God, I was able to cross. I stayed in Turkey for two weeks. I was impressed by its beauty and the classy architecture. But wherever I went I found my countrymen overwhelmed by the life’s daily burdens and the dilemma of whether to leave Turkey or soldier on.


For me, Turkey was a temporary station. I knew I faced a lack of job opportunities and high prices. Syrians sought refuge there with their life savings, but these soon disappeared – forcing them to return or seek a passage to Europe.

I spent long days and cold nights looking for a safe route to Europe. Each morning, my friend and I went to the famous Aksaray area in Istanbul in order to meet the people smugglers. Their numbers are large, for smuggling has become the trade of the tradeless. To them, we were merely a moving bag of money – they didn’t care about what happened to us along the road.

Some smugglers suggested to us that we ride in trucks from Turkey to Austria,  provided that we didn’t get out, no matter what, even if it cost us our lives. Some suggested sailing on a cruise boat from Turkey to Italy.

I ended up with a deal to go from Turkey to Greece by bus, inside the driver’s cabin. I thought I’d be alone. But when the time came, I was shocked because even with the huge amount of money I’d paid the smuggler, there were three men and a middle-aged woman with me, all of us crammed in a tiny, dark room meant for only one person.

We talked in low voices, frightened some passenger might hear us. After we entered Greece, the driver pulled over demanding more money to take us to the designated point, so we had to pay just to continue on our journey. After 10 hours, we reached Greece or as we call it now, The Graveyard of the Syrians.

Close up of barbed wire by Charles Roffey Creative Commons

After my arrival, I handed myself in to the police in order to get my papers. I had to wait in custody for three days. It was my first time inside a prison. I stayed in Greece for three months in a state of psychological exhaustion.

But I also met some guys there who were, as we used to say, “the best brothers who haven’t come from your mother”. I also got to know a Spaniard, Juan delGado. He was like a big brother to us and gave us a huge dose of optimism at that difficult time.

Days flew by while I tried  to find a smuggler with even a little bit of honesty. Unfortunately, when I did meet one, he turned out to be the worst person I’d ever met. I won’t mention his name out of fear for my life, and in order not to burn bridges for whoever is still desperate to get out. What’s important is that after three months I was able to leave Greece.

I couldn’t quite believe I was sitting on the plane. I started recalling the past three months. And thank God, after all that agony, I  finally reached Germany.

I got my residency permit and started a new chapter of my life, one that’s filled with excitement and challenges. First  I’m going to learn the language, and then I’ll continue my college studies.

Despite all the ways I have been blessed, nothing is harder than living away from your family and friends. I pray that one day I will meet my parents again, and they will be healthy and well. I pray for my country to find peace, so I can return there with live out my days with comfort and serenity with my family.

Neal Jennings Creative Commons



Plane by Neal Jennings / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Other images Nikos Koutoulas, Charles Roffey via Creative Commons

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