“It was very dark and we could not see anything in front of us”

My name is Wissam and I come from Syria.
I worked as a journalist for 17 years on various Syrian channels. If you ask any syrians about their life in Syria, they will answer that they’ve had a good life. But of course there were difficulties, as in any Arab country.
We left Syria and fled to Beirut and then via Beirut to Turkey. I was against flying over the ocean, after all I heard about people drowning and the problems people encounter in the ocean. I talked to people about taking a yacht, that would be safer, because I was with my son who was 4,5 years old. Unfortunately, a yacht travel should take a long time and, as you know, you have a budget that will suffice the entire trip. I chose to take the risk of flying with him anyway.

We stayed in a hotel in Turkey for a month. The longer we stayed the less money we had left, so we had to take a rubber boat from Izmir to Greece. My cousins, my brother and a friend also fled with us. We stayed close to each other so that my son would not get lost in the darkness. Then the smugglers told us that we would be picked up by buses within an hour and that they would drive us to the beach. We stood in a queue walking slowly in the dark. It was a very difficult situation and I was very scared. I was holding my son firmly so he would not fall and stumble.

It was very dark and we could not see anything in front of us. The smugglers ruled us and wanted everything to go fast. Then we noticed that there were no buses we were going to go with. Instead, they had picked up a large truck, where the seats were high up in relation to the ground, so the men were helped and carried each other to the truck. We also discovered that it was not a truck that transported people, but a transport for cows, sheep and lambs. We discovered it because of the strong smell. The truck accommodated about 30 people, but we were about 150 people.
I have a phobia for the ocean. I don’t understand how I could fly through the ocean, maybe God helped me? The smugglers showed us how to start the engine and we got into the boat. After five minutes in the sea, the engine stopped. We tried to make it start, but it did not work. We could not return because many of us could not swim.

We started screaming for the smugglers. They helped us to start the engine. This happened three times and finally it worked. We traveled about 15 minutes and then the engine stopped again. Now we got afraid. But we had no choice. We could not swim to Greece and we could not return because we were out in the ocean. This caused panic in the boat. We brought with us women, young children, young people.

It’s the smuggler’s responsibility to make sure everything works. Some young people opened the engine and wanted to see where the fault was. They saw that there was gasoline, but they discovered that there was a loose cable.

One of the young people connected the cables and then the engine started again. It was a difficult trip and some of us lost family members. I have a friend whose mother could not swim, who fled with her husband. Their boat dropped and the mother drowned.

I can tell you that I’m sad to expose my son to such a trip. But I think children forget and I hope the event does’nt get stuck with him. Maybe I will remind him.

The next day we went to the airport and flew to Athens. We arrived and rented an apartment. We were there for five days. It was nice and we tried to forget the hard times. Me and my son’s escape were very easy after Athens. We took a road that was not sure but I would rather not go into details.

We took the flight to Copenhagen and my brother welcomed us. Then we took a train to Malmö. We arrived in Sweden, and now we got the opputunity to know a new country, new traditions, a new place. It was a difficult trip and it affected me in a negative way.  In my age it’s easy to get affected. Events get stuck in memory. But thank God we reached Sweden safely, others have had a worse experience.

A Million Stories Sweden: Nizar Keblawi, Nina Olsson, Sara Sarabi, Malin Gillberg, Daniel Björklund, Mats Nordström.

A Million Stories Sweden volunteers: Fariborz Ghadir, Mohamad Mohsin, Yazan Saad, Tarek Aloudallah, Dalia Saleem, Yara Ali, Ahmad Younes, Chaimae Hamri.

In association with



Dublin Core: Language: swe Subject: asylum, refugees, A Million Stories, Sweden