The Life Of Refugee

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This is my story. I am Syrian refugee in Belgium. My trip from Turkey to Belgium by foot. hope you enjoy reading it

Submitted: April 22, 2017

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Submitted: April 22, 2017



The Life of Refugee

By: Mahmoud Qeshreh


Syria is the country where I was born and spent all my amazing moments in my life before the stupid war started.

The life in Syria like a spring day, lovely sun with soft rain. You can feel the smell of the flowers, of the rain and of the jasmine. It is a night of clear moon with warm air playing with your hair.

This was the life in Syria before 2011 before every bad thing happened and happening nowadays.

I graduated from the Faculty of Economics – Management Information System department, I had been a teacher at the university for project management classes before I left Syria.

Before that I went to the university of my dreams and wanted to be computer engineer and to have my own company specializing in robots and artificial intelligence, but I could not do it because I did not get enough good marks in the secondary school to get in computer engineering college.

The life at the university was very nice and I met a lot of great people and people who shared my dream. So we decided to work towards our dream after graduation.

I studied networks, database and hacking in a private technology school and I got many certificates in technology and management from Microsoft and Google.

2011 was the moment of forgetting dreams, forgetting all my plans for future. This year was the last year for me in the university but because of the military service I could not finish and I had to keep some classes to stay at the university because when I finished the university, they would have taken me to do the military service.

I wished that the war would have finished soon so I could start my project, but it did not and it lasts till now. The difference now is that I wish to stop the blood and deaths of people.

The war in Syria let all young and educated people to run away from it to other countries like Lebanon, whereas young people who could not leave Syria had been taken to the military service by force.

2013 was the year of my graduation because. If I waited more, maybe it would have been harder for me to finish the university. So I finished it and started to work in one educational organization part-time while I was working as teacher at university.

The May of 2014 was the moment to leave Syria to another place after all my dreams and hopes ended. There was no more hope for me in Syria. The only option was Turkey because it was – not anymore now – the only good country who was accepting Syrians without visa.

May 7, 2014: Going to Turkey

It was the last day for me in Syria, I went to Lebanon at the beginning before Turkey. All the way from Syria to Lebanon I was shocked because I did not know when I will see Syria again or I will see my family again.

May 10, 2014 was the first day for me in Istanbul, Turkey. When I went out from Ataturk airport, I was shocked by new life, new people and new culture.

The situation in Turkey was not so good because many, many Syrians were living in Turkey - about 2 million people. Most of the people were working 12 hours per day for 350 Euros per month.

Can you imagine to work 12 hours per day for 350 Euros per month? it is something unbelievable. But because of the very bad situation that the Syrian people have, they accepted this condition of work and worked just not to die and to feed their families.

Besides that, most Turkish people were biased against Syrian. Racism, no respect, no humanity from the employers... Syrian people had very hard moments at work but their only choice was either to die or to be patient.

I was sharing a house with 9 people, 3 rooms, all were from Syria and that was a good thing, especially at the beginning.

It was hard time for me because everything was so different form what I knew. The first thing I did was learning the Turkish language. I had been learning Turkish language for 2 months and after that I decided to look for a job and it was the mission impossible for me.

I could speak little Turkish and I started to look for a job in the big city – Istanbul.

The biggest problem for me was being Syrian. Yes, if you are from Syria, it is almost impossible to find a job even you speak Turkish.

It was a really hard time. For 3 months I could not find job because every time I asked for a job, the only answer was NO.

Three months later I could find job in small hostel and my job was to prepare the breakfast.

I worked at this job for just 2 weeks and here is why:

One day I came to work, and the manager was waiting for me as well as another guy working in the reception. He was so angry.

I said to him, ‘Good morning, sir, how are you?’

But he did not answer me and said, ‘Do not go to work and wait here until Ehab comes’ – Ehab is the person who was working at the reception during the morning shift.

15 minutes later Ehab came and he told me to come to his office.

We went to his office and he gave us money for 2 weeks of work and told us to leave.

We were so surprised by this and we asked him why. He told us, ‘I do not want thieves in my workplace’.

We were shocked and asked him to tell us what happened and he told us the story.

My friend who is working in the shop next to the hostel came in the morning to his job and did not find the night shift person at the reception, he called him many times, but did not get any answer. He called me to tell me this, I came to the hostel and I did not find any money the cash box. I asked my friend if he saw anything when he came this morning but he said no, I saw the cameras and I saw Ahmad – the night shift worker – was taking the money and left the place with 1500 Euro.

We did not say anything because this was unbelievable, but he kept talking, ‘I know you did nothing but I do not trust Syrians anymore’.

We could not say anything and we left the place just like that and we had big disappointment.

After this I believe that all the Syrians had no luck anywhere they went. What happened was not our fault, but we were affected by this.

I started to look for a job after that situation and I sent my CV to many, many places, but always got the same answer – NO.

One time I went to a bit hostel and gave them my CV and asked if they had a job for me. The person who took the CV from me was the owner, which meant that I would receive the answer immediately. When he saw the CV, he asked me with a strange reaction: 

‘Are you from Syria?’ he asked me.

‘Yes,’ I answered.

‘Get out and do not come again to here,’ he said.

‘Why?’ I asked him and I was shocked.

‘Because you are Syrian and I do not like you. I will not give a job to a Syrian person.’

I left the place and I did not know what to say.

I kept looking for a job with less hope to find, my friend told me to travel to another city for other opportunities.

I traveled to another city – the Cappadocia city – it is small city and a very nice one.

Finally, I could find a job in a travel agency and the owner was very nice with me. He liked the Syrian people – he is the first person I found who liked us – I started the work and my job was to give information to tourists about the service we have in the agency.

I know myself, I do not have any kind of luck in this life.

After 3 weeks of my job, the owner decided to close the agency because there was no work for him and he spent more than he earned.

I went back to Istanbul with no hope to find a job again.

I did not have any choice, so I started to look for a job again. Always the same answer, ‘NO’, ‘Sorry NO’, ‘I am sorry, sir, but NO’.

This word was in my nightmares.

I traveled to another city – the Gaziantep city – to look for a job with any organization in human rights.

I spent 1 week looking, but got the same result, NO JOB.

I spent 15 months like this in Turkey and I started to think to go back to Syria, even though being taken for the military service would have meant the end of my life.

When I told my mom what I was thinking, she got crazy and told me not to think of going back to Syria even I have to stay at the street.

She told me she would give me the money to travel to Europe because the situation was getting worse every day.

This adventure to Europe was the turning point in my life, even if it is very dangerous, but there was no hope for me in Turkey.

So I decided to do it and I prepared myself for this adventure, but I know my luck, it always cheats with me. I thought it would not be hard, but here is what happened:

August 1, 2015: The Start of the Journey

This date has changed my life completely. It has changed my plans and every single thing in my life.

I went from Istanbul to Izmir at 12 am and we arrived to Izmir at 9 am. We got the breakfast and started to look for a hotel and it was so hard to find one.

We found god hotel and paid for 2 nights and we started to look to a person to help us to arrive to Greece.

After many attempts, we found one person who agreed to help us to travel from Turkey to Greece. We were 10 people, all boys. We met the person and we had a deal: he said he would take us to Greece by boat and charge 1200 U.S. dollars.

We couldn't find another person who would have charged less money.

He told us, ‘Be ready. I will call you tomorrow and tell you about the time we are leaving.’

The next day we were ready. All bags were packed, we got our breakfast then we stayed in one room waiting to his call.

The day almost ended, but he did not call. He called us at 11 pm and told us, ‘We can't leave today, we will go tomorrow.’ Then we went to bed and got ready for the trip next day.

However, the same thing happened again and again. We were waiting for five days. On day 6 the person called us and told us to get ready. This time he promised that there would be no change. In 10 minutes we got ready and we were waiting for his call. He called us and told us to come and meet him in the center of Izmir.

We went there. There were a lot of people who were waiting for other people for the same reason. And then the first attempt started.

He took us to a house in the countryside by cars and left us there. He also told us to wait for the truck. The house had just two rooms with a simple kitchen and a bathroom, every time the person who agreed to take us on the truck said to us, “Stay silent, the people who lives here should not know about us”.

And we stayed like this for 3 hours and we were 80 persons. Three hours later, the truck came. The maximum number who can be in the truck is 20, whereas we were 80. We went in the truck and it was very very bad. No place to sit down.

After 4.5 hours I couldn’t even move my leg because I did not feel it.

The truck was covered so we could not see anything, we just heard one thing from the driver, ‘Keep silent or I’m going to stop and smash you back.’

Then we finally arrived to the point where we could take the boat, but a lot of police were there. We could not move and we had to stay in the forest for three hours. After that we moved very fast and quiet to the boats and started our trip.

It was very safe. The sea was very nice, no high waves, no police, it was in the early morning so we could see the sunrise. It was an amazing view, but before we arrived to the borders between Turkey and Greece, Turkish police caught us and took us to Turkey again. It was horrible.

Everyone was crying, including me. They put let us stay on big steamship and every 30 minutes they catch new people, almost all of them from Syria. We were 800 persons on the steamship and we stayed in the sea for 7 hours under the hot sun and they did not give us anything, just the hot water (not cold).

At that moment I felt that I lost my hope and it's the end of my life. However, I convinced myself to try it one more time and that is what happened.

August 6, 2015: The Second Disappointment

We left Izmir and went to the city called Bodrum. It was the second place we could go from to get to Greece. We arrived to Bodrum at 1 pm and started to look for a hotel. All hotels were full because it was vacation time for many people.

All people wearing swimsuits were looking to us as we were strange. Sure, we were hiding from the police because if they had caught us, they would have taken us to the police station and we would not have been able to travel.

After many hours of looking for hotel, we found a very expensive one, but we had to take it because it was the only hotel that accepted us as Syrians.

We talked to another person to help us. He told us, ‘Ok, you should be ready to go very soon.’ And the same thing happened, just like in Izmir. We had been waiting for 5 days to leave, but this time we did not have to use a truck to arrive to the point, we got their by cars. We got in the boat and everything was good, except for the sea that was bad and the waves that were high.

The sailor of the boat didn't know how to sail it very well. The waves were very high and it was in the middle of night. No lights, just light of the moon. 100 meters later, the sailor lost the control and the boat sinked in the sea.

We had to swim back to the beach, at the same time helping old women and men to arrive safely. We were shocked. I could not believe this. This time my hope was completely destroyed. All our clothes were very wet, it was cold and immediately I started to cough. At the beach I checked my money and I found out that I had lost 500 EUR. I was shocked.

How did I lose them? I and my friends had been looking for them for two hours until we found them near the rock. I felt happy again but I did not forget about the accident.

If I couldn’t swim, I would die. We arrived to the highway and by chance we found a small bus that agreed to take us to our hotel.

My friend told me, ‘Let's try for the last time and if we can't do it, let’s go back.’

I agreed with him so fast and I do not know why but maybe I remember what my father said to me before I started my trip, ‘You must be strong and challenge yourself if you want to get somewhere.’

2 days later, we asked another person to help us and he was the only person who was honest with us. He told us that we were leaving tomorrow. Indeed, the next day we went to the point, got into the boat, and started the trip.

Again, in the middle of night. Again, there were no lights, just the light of the moon. This time the sea was good. No high waves during the 2.5 hours of the trip. It was scary, in the middle of the sea. Nobody talked, we were silent.

The good thing was that none of us was alone, we were 60 persons on the boat so we had the same goal, to arrive or to die.

August 11, 2015: The Best Moment in My Life

Finally, we arrived to the Kos island of Greece. I can't tell you what it meant to me. We were extremely happy. We made it. WE MADE IT. It was the most amazing feeling you can ever feel.

BBC, UNHCR and CNN were waiting for us. They started taking photos of us. We became famous. And then we made the second step.

We had walked for about 2 hours before we arrived to the police station. All people does not look to us because they use to see refugees on the street, so it was normal to them.

We were walking near to the sea and the other side was about buildings and markets. We needed an official paper from them that would allow us to go to Athens, the capital of Greece.

Of course, a lot of people were there so we had to find a hotel to stay. And there was a big problem: no hotels. We saw about 10 hotels and all of them were full.

We stayed on the street the entire evening and eventually we found a hotel just for 4 people. The rest of us kept looking for a hotel until they found one. We took a shower and went to sleep because we were very tired.

The next day we went to the police station to take the paper but the same situation occurred: lots of people were waiting there.

We could not take the paper and we had to stay one more night at the hotel. The next day the same thing happened. It happened again and again for 5 days.

It was a big problem to while we are in Kos, we are losing money we need in the trip so we had to pay to a person to get this paper and he took 50 EUR for each paper.

After receiving the paper, we took the steamship to Athens.

August 16, 2015: Arriving to Athens

We arrived in Athens at 9 am and found a hotel. We talked to a person who agreed to take us to the border between Greece and Macedonia. The next day we took a bus towards the border.

We arrived at 6 pm and some people told us that it was dangerous to go at that time. They suggested waiting until the next day, but we did not want to wait anymore. We kept moving.

There were about 100 of us walking together, so it was safe, you may say. We were walking into the fields while it was raining. Here we had a problem because everyone wanted to move in his way because his friend told him how to move.

After a lot of talking we chose one way and moved, it was a bad walk, but we had to do it. 4 hours later we arrived in Macedonia. The second step of our trip was made.

August 17-18, 2015: The First Borders

We kept moving until we arrived to the train station. We wanted to go to the border between Serbia and Macedonia. At the train station in Macedonia there were about 1500 people waiting for the train to come. All people were talking, drinking tea, eating, singing and dancing. Just a few lights with the light of moon.

The situation was good because you feel like you are in a big party. Just I and my friends were sleeping because we were very tired. Four hours later the train came. The train had 6 doors. Imagine how many people there were in each door.

I jumped to the window and entered the train from the window, not from the door. I fell down onto the train floor and about 100 people walked on me. I stayed like this for 20 minutes till my friends found me and lifted me up.

Sounds bad, right? You will see things that are much worse than that.

Do you remember the truck we took from Turkey to Greece during our first try? The same thing happened here. I was standing for four hours in the train. I stopped feeling my legs.

It was really bad. Four later hours we arrived to the border. One girl from UNHCR told us about the right way to take in order to cross the border. And we started walking.

August 19, 2015: The Way to Unknown

Five hours of walking between the wet fields as it was raining really hard... It was terrible. You must be very careful because the way was so wet and it was easy to fall down.

Even I was very careful but I fell down many times. Of course, it was very dark. At the end we arrived to the first village of Serbia. There we had to be very careful because if the people had seen us, they would have called the police and the police would have brought us back to Macedonia. We were walking silently.

We walked as groups to not make a sound. We were walking between houses and using GPS to know where we were. 2 hours later we met taxi drivers and they offered us to arrive us to the third village but they will charge 250 EUR by car.

It was so expensive so we did not accept the kept moving, but we were afraid from them because maybe they will call the police but thinks God they did not.

After that we arrived to the third village. We crossed 3 villages on foot. From the third village we took a bus to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. We arrived there at night and it was raining so much.

All hotels were full. It was so difficult to find a hotel. Of course, every 4 people were in a different hotel. The next day we went to the bus station to take the bus to the last village of Serbia, which is the nearest point to the border with Hungary.

But all buses were full so we had to stay for 2 days to find a place in the bus because there were many people.

August 22, 2015: The Dangerous Way

We arrived in that village at 6 pm. We started our most dangerous and difficult part of the trip at 8 pm. We started walking just in our group, there were no other people with us.

We had two ways to cross the borders, by crossing the river way or using the railway. We chose the railway because it was safer. We were moving on the left side of the railway. It was at night, just the light of moon and just our group.

We were walking silently and carefully because if they had caught us at this step, Game Over: we would not have been able to do anything after that. The borders was about just a rock, if you are before the rock you are in Serbia and after it you are in Hungary.

Suddenly a policeman light was on us. We started running while he was trying to shoot us with his gun. I will never forget what happened then. The police man shot my best friend.

He died. My best friend died, and I could not do anything. Why him, why not me? Why him? It was the worst moment in my life. We hided between trees while all of us were shocked of what happened, my friend knows some Hungarian words and he heard them said “died”.

I have known him for 20 years. His father died when he was born. He didn't have any brothers or sisters. He lived with his mother. His mother is a teacher in the same school of my mother, so we know each other from very long time. We used to play together, eat, fight, we did everything together.

He told me before we crossed the borders, ‘Mahmoud, if something happens to me, please take care of my mother’. He knew that something bad would happen. Every time I remember that, I cry.

I won't able to tell you what happened when I told his mother about this accident. I will never forgive myself. The police took the dead body of my friend while we had to keep moving because I could have lost my life and my hope if I had stopped then.

We arrived to the end of the railway and saw a highway. We had to cross it in order to get to the other side of the railway, but a lot of policemen were moving and we needed choose a perfect moment. We were hiding in the corn fields.

It was raining a lot while we were waiting in the corn fields for at least 3 hours.

When the police car left the highway, we crossed the highway and continued our trip on the railway. We continued walking through the wet fields, crossing the highways and keeping close to the railway in the heavy rain.

At the end of the railway we found a person who had a truck and took us to Budapest, the capital of Hungary.

We arrived in Budapest at 6 am. We were very wet. We were looking for a hotel, but, again, we could not find one.

The man who brought us to Budapest left us in a small forest where we changed our wet clothes very fast. It was very cold. You can't imagine how it was.

We stayed in this forest to 12 am then we divided to 5 groups and went to eat something and come back to that forest. Then we called a taxi to take us from Hungary to Germany, but we couldn't find one till 12 pm.

We were hiding from the police as well as from the people because if they had seen us, they would have called the police for sure.

We got a taxi and we made our last step.

The driver was drunk and we could have ended up in an accident several times. He was driving so fast, going right and left on the highway. We were scared, but fortunately we arrived safely.

We arrived to the first city in Germany where the driver left us in the middle of a big forest. Again, we had to walk to the train station. While we were walking, the German police saw us.

They were very nice to us, especially when they realized that we are from Syria. They took us to the police station and gave us food and blankets. Then, in the afternoon they took us to the shelter and left us there.

Soon we escaped and went to the train station everyone alone because if they saw us as group they would have brought us back to the shelter. This was the last time I saw my friends after long trip.

All of them went to Germany, I was the only one who came to Belgium.

August 27, 2015: New country, new culture, new life

It was the day when I arrived in refugee center. I spent 11 months there before moving to my house.

My life in the center was nice and difficult at the same time because of what happened to me. My first interview was on October 20, 2015, and here my luck started to play a stupid game with me again.

On October 16 one of employees of the refugee center told me that there was going to be a train strike on October 20. I told myself that it was just the beginning. On October 17 another person from the refugee center told me there is no train strike on October 20.

I was very confused because 2 people told me 2 different things, what was I supposed to do in this case? I decided to no to go to the interview, and it was the most stupid thing I have ever done.

Because of that, my interview got rescheduled 3 times and for the fourth time it was on January 6, 2016, but the luck also played its game with me and there was a strike on this day. I was so sad about this because I had a lot stress.

The next date was on January 13, 2016 and after many months of waiting I did it finally.

My second interview was March 31, 2016 and thanks God it did not get rescheduled. After 14 days from the second interview I received a positive answer and felt great at that moment. However, the big problem started: I had to find a house in 2 months so it meant that I had to leave the center on June 14, 2016. That was very difficult.

It was June 7, 2017 and I still could not find the house, so I asked the refugee organization to give more time to find house. They gave me a negative answer 3 weeks later, but I asked them to give me time again. Before they replied, I could find a house near to Liege city center and I moved on July 26, 2016 and now I am living in my house.

Now my life has changed and I started a new life in a new culture with new conditions and new people.

This was the short story about my life, I hope you enjoyed reading it.


Mahmoud Qeshreh 

© Copyright 2019 Mahmoud Qeshreh. All rights reserved.

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