“I think everything had a meaning”

My name is Hiba, is 38, Palestinians and born in Syria. I originally come from Haifa. I came to Sweden in November 2013. At the moment I work as a French teacher.

I was born in Damascus. My mother is from the Yarmuk refugee settlement and my dad is from Aleppo. I lived in Aleppo until I became 4 years old. Then my parents got a scholarship and we traveled to Bulgaria. We lived there until I finished third grade. Then my parents got work in Algeria. We moved to the capital of Algeria. There I read the fourth, fifth and sixth grade and learned french. Then there was unrest in Algeria. The president was murdered and the military went out on the streets. Then we returned to Syria

I lived in Syria and studied seventh, eighth and ninth grade in Aleppo. I continued to study in Damascus. I studied french literature at the university. I also studied to become an interpreter. After my studies, I worked as a french teacher.

I had my home and my job. There was nothing that happened that meant I that I would have to leave home or my work. Although It was obvious that the job became tougher and that life became more difficult. But I worked in a large french company and we continued our work.

I was well off economically compared to others who encountered difficulties. The economy was not a problem, it was safety. It felt like there was not enough air in Syria and did not want to stay for a single day.

During that time, many people fled through Egypt. It was legal for us Palestinians who were born in Syria to go to Egypt. The goal was to flee with a boat from Egypt to Italy. I fled at first, but I met a person from Syria, that my family knew. He was going the same way, so we decided to flee together. I thought that we could just take the boat trip the next day. But It did’nt work that way. It was much worse. Our trip was delayed for several reasons. One day they blamed the policemen, another day there was a storm, another day the smuggler did’nt answer the phone. We were 10 days late.

Meanwhile I lived with an Egyptian family, where I felt more than welcome. Then the day came when I was going to flee futher away. At first we had to take small boats that would take us to bigger boats. They were fishing boats. On the way through the sea, the Egyptian boat police came from all directions. We saw a lot of lights from their boats and they jumped into our boat and arrested us. They took us back to an Egyptian military base and there we had to stay one night. Children began to cry and people were worried. We did’nt know what would happen to us. Then they took us to a prison called “Qarmoz”.

The prison is located a bit outside of Alexandria and is known to be a prison for drug dealers. We were shocked. People cried and everything we had paid to the smugglers had disappeared. What would happen? Our papers and passports had disappeared. You can’t imagine what a shock we had. They told us to book the trip. What are you waiting for, book and go home! You will not get a residence permit in Egypt!

I think everything had a meaning, because the same night we were going to flee over the ocean, there was another boat that dropped and many died. We might have drowned if we had not been taken by the police. It could have been really bad. I have learned this lesson during the trip:  it could have been a lot worse. One should be grateful.

After 18 days I came out of Qarmouz. I booked a trip to Turkey. I went through difficult situations, fatigue and I was imprisoned. I had no future in Turkey, so I decided to continue.

Smugglers are not nice people and not human. They screamed and hurried with us. They never told us where we were and where we would go. It was just to come along. They treated people as sheep. We told them that we are people that they should talk to us!

The second lesson I learned during the flight was to swich off. I am a person who pay too much attention to details. But you can feel bad if you pay too much attention to all the details around you. I tried to think of something else and not look at what was happening around me, because it was so scary. It felt like something bad would happen. I noticed that the smugglers were criminals. I thought about how we would be able to have room enough in the small rubber boat.
Many people looking at me because I was a woman and I fled alone.

So I swiched off and started looking at the beautiful night. Beautiful stars. We walked around in a beautiful nature.

I don’t know why, but the boat trip was not scary to me. It was dark and the engine in the boat worked. I noticed that we approached land. We were worried that Greek police would catch us and send us back. I’ve heard that some refugees have tryed to flee 10 times. I know of someone who eventually chose to swim over, but was taken. This was my first try and I am grateful that I succeeded.

The trip was much easier when I arrived in Athens. I lived with a family that I had known before. I contacted a smuggler. It was easy to find French paper for me. I could speak different languages and my appearance helped a lot. I then took the flight, landed in a country and then I arrived at Copenhagen. Then I took the train to my mother in Malmö. She had already got there before me.

After five months, I got a residence permit. After three months, I began to learn Swedish. After five months, I got an internship and started working. I’m happy with my life in Sweden.

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