My name is FaridGiornalismo Sociale
My name is Farid, I was an anaesthetist at the Damascus hospital, it was a job I loved and proud to be.
That all changed though one night, my world stopped and it still hasn’t started. I was lay in bed trying to sleep, we lost a patient on the table and it was hard on the whole team. I just lay there wondering what more we could have done. Then it hit, there was no noise immediately but then everything collapsed around me, followed by the noise of the explosion, I tried to get up but I had to get the rubble off me, I couldn’t see because of the dust and my ears were ringing. I felt blood coming out of my left ear, the pain told me my eardrum had burst.
Then the panic set in, my family Bushra my wife was next to me, my heart broke into as many pieces as the apartment, my beautiful wife of 15 years was lying there, eyes open, not moving. I reached across to find a pulse but knowing I wouldn’t, I sat there for what felt like an eternity holding her and screaming but I could not hear my screams. I had to lay her back down to look for my children, I went to my sons Mahdi’s room but there was no room only a hole where it once was, I could not find him and desperately turned to my daughter Atifa’s room, it was a scene of desolation but her cot was still there, she looked out from the side, silent and afraid, less than 12 months old and she experienced this. I picked her up and held her close but she made no sound, no attempt to hold me back, I had to get us out of there before anything else happened. We went outside and we walked into what was now a war zone, my beautiful city Damascus pummelled into the ground in the matter of hours. I grabbed an emergency worker and told him of my wife and son, they told me that right now they are only concerned with the living.
Day 4: We are in a camp, it is packed out with people and we are in a rudimentary shelter of canvas. My daughter is still unresponsive, I have tried to get medical assistance but there is none, I make sure she has water and food when it’s available. It can get cold of a night, I wrap her up as well as I can and hold her so we both can keep warm. We are going to die here, many already have, we have nothing, what we had lays in the ruins along with the bodies of my family. I cannot make contact with anyone I once knew, I have no idea if my brothers or mother have survived. My sister is safe, she is a doctor in the UK and has been there for many years.
Still nothing changes here, many are now with disease and are dying, we shall die too should we remain. I spoke to the others, they tell me the whole of Syria lies in ruin and many millions are now dead, the country has been lain to waste, there is nothing left for anyone apart from disease and starvation. They are heading out tomorrow to try and get safe haven in Europe, they will make their way to Turkey and then through Greece but their only means of transport is to walk. The distance to Turkey alone is around 800km and will take us over a week but what choice do I have, stay here and die with my daughter or try to get to sanctuary and possibly die on the way.
We reached the boarder of Turkey yesterday, myself and my daughter have not eaten for three days and our water ran out over a day ago. Nobody in the convoy had any apart from an old lady who gave us a few dried crackers she had but they were impossible to eat without water. They have us under arrest at the boarder but they are giving us food and water. A few people from some organisation have been around and given us more clothing, I can at least get my daughter a little warmer now. She is still unresponsive but they had a doctor come see me, he thought it was down to the shock and she should eventually come around but if not I would need to get further medical assistance. Given my current situation that wasn’t going to happen any times soon. A man from the organisation had found some nappies for me, I removed the rags that was once my shirt from Atifa and put her in a clean nappy, she was red raw with a rash but what could I do?
I don’t know how long we have been walking for, the days are blurring into one. We managed to escape the compound in Turkey or they just let us go I’m not sure of which. We have to just keep moving, finding food and water where we can, they say we have to just keep moving, sleeping under any cover we can find along the way. My daughter has started to respond, she reaches out for food and water and I give her what I have, sometimes I give her nothing because that’s all I have.
The hours become days, the days become weeks and the weeks feel like an eternity now. Where once we were 70 plus strong there is less than a dozen left. Some just disappeared, some just walked off some just didn’t wake the following day. We have seen the worse in humanity, cursing at us, some driving at us and we are run from the road, the names they call us saddens my heart, they do not know me, they do not know of the life I once had. They treat my daughter the same way yet she is innocent but they do not care. We also saw the best of humanity, the farmer that let us sleep in his barn and the next day fed us all before we left. The drivers that drove us for parts of our journey to save our feet getting worse than they already were, the angels who tended to us, gave us medicine to keep us strong, food and water so we didn’t perish on the route.
They came to us one day offering passage to Calais now only a few hundred miles away but the money they wanted was more than I carried, over 6 months wages from home. I had little money but I hoped it would pay for the last leg of my journey were I simply could not walk. I had to refuse and take my journey on foot again but I left as soon as I could, I feared for our lives from these men.
We moved on, I carried Atifa either in my arms or on my shoulders, even though she was small the weight became unbearable at times. We did it though, we reached the last camp in France, there were tents upon tents but it was filthy, rats scurried around and their was a stench in the air, I knew this stench though, I carried the same smell of the forgotten and the abandoned. She approached me, a woman aged before her years, she asked me from were I came and I told her Damascus, she came from Aleppo or what was left of it, she was all that remained of her family, she lost everyone and everything, they had a bakery in the family for over 50 years, gone in one night witH one bomb, only she got out of the ruins, 12 members of her family perished that night. I gave her a hug, it was all I had that I could give away.
“You need to leave right now” I was shocked and looked at as to why I should go. The baby, if the authorities find her here they will take her from you. I started to panic, what could I do? She asked if I was planning to get across the channel and I told her of my sister who lived and worked in the UK. Could I pay she asked, I told her I had some money, she guided me into her tent and told me to wait, was I being foolish? I had told this stranger I had money, what if she had gone to get some men to rob me.
I was at the point of panicking and running when she returned, with her was a man, medium build but a scowl on his face, once again I was afraid. She told me he can get me over the channel today but at a price. I went to introduce myself and he said no names, then asked how much I had. I told him what I had in Syrian pounds and he snorted and told me my money was near worthless now but it might just get me across the water, I told him about Atifa my daughter and he just said no, not enough money for two. I took in a deep breath and picked my daughter up to make my way. He told me to wait and walked away speaking on his phone. A few minutes later he returned, said they could take the both of us but my daughter would have to stay on my lap for all of the journey so we only take up the room of one. I agreed, I had no choice, he put his hand out for the money, again I started to panic, what if he just went and I never saw him again. I told him I would pay when we were on the boat, “no pay, no boat” he said and turned to walk away. I had no choice, I was at the mercy of stranger, what else could I do but give him the money. He told me to wait here, he would be back in a little while.
Time passed like an eternity, all the while I’m thinking I have made a mess of any future we might have had. There was nothing more I could do. A van arrived at the camp and he jumped out of the passenger seat, “come” was all he said and I climbed into the van with Atifa. Inside there were other people, we all looked and smelled alike, unkempt and desperate. We travelled for a hour or so and we came to a stop and told to get out. We were on a beach and in front of us was a small rubber dingy in poor condition, way too small for the amount of people they are going to put on it.
They told us to hurry and get in the boat and put on the life jackets, as I grabbed one there was none for my daughter and I asked where it was. We don’t have one that small, put her inside yours, that couldn’t work, I put it on but left it untied in case anything happened. We had been in the boat for a while when someone remarked about the water getting in, they spoke to the driver and he just shrugged. A little while later and the passengers are trying to bail the water out, the driver said not to worry he was making good ground. I wasn’t happy and took my life jacket off and put it around Atifa and tried to tie it as best I could.
I kissed my daughter and told her everything would be alright when the world spun. Suddenly I was in the water and trying to get back to the surface, I had taken in water and my lungs were burning. As I breeched the surface it was horrific, people shouting and screaming, the boat upside down with a tear right along the bottom. I looked around and a few people hadn’t made it then I remembered Atifa and I began to splash around screaming her name, I saw the life jacket first and swam over to it but it was empty, she was too small but please, please, please say she is alright. Then I saw her and I couldn’t get my breath, she was floating in the water, not moving, face down. I ushered all my might to get to her, pulled her to me and turned her over but as soon as I did I knew my little Atifa was gone, the sea had taken her after all she had been through this was the one thing that took her from me.
I screamed and held her close, I’m not sure how long I screamed for or how long I was in the water, I wondered if I should simply let the water take me too, I had nothing left.
I felt the hands on my shoulders as they hauled me out of the water, they got me on board a ship and someone came to speak with me, he said he wanted to take my daughter to care for her, I said no and held her tighter. He leans forward and felt for her pulse but we both new he wouldn’t find one. He was British, it took me a few minutes to fathom out his language, he asked if there was anything they could do, I just shook my head and said no. He placed his hand on my shoulder and looked at me. He pulled me forward and gave me a hug, he said nothing just held me close and I cried, I could not stop the tears from falling, I cried for the loss of my family and friends at the hands of an enemy we did not see, I cried for the destruction of my city and my country, I cried for the many miles we had travelled and the scorn we had met because we had become homeless at someone else’s hands. I cried long and hard.
A few weeks later and I’m sat at my sisters table, she had managed to track me down and bring me home, my daughter now buried in a foreign land and I’m struggling to come to terms with anything.
“Are you OK?” she asks.
“No, I have lost more than anyone would believe, I’m not even 38 and my whole world, my life has been ripped to shreds, I have no one left apart from yourself yet even now they call me a fucking immigrant, tell me to go back to a country that no longer exists because their government sold the arms that killed my fellow man. I’ve applied for a position in a hospital that I’m confident of getting but I’m still not worthy of being here. I heard some of the British said we should have drowned in the channel. Well my daughter did and I sit here wondering would it have been better if I had too.”
“Don’t think that way”
“How else should I think, they don’t even consider me human.”