My girlfriend was killed in 2011 by shrapnel

Khaldoun, 30 years old, from Damascus, Syria.

Before the war I lived in Damascus and for 7 years I had a girlfriend who was studying fine arts at the University, and she was so good at drawing and would draw me many times over the years.   She was also a skilled stonemason and would make sculptures that imitated human beings. I was a student of psychology at the time, and so we met in Damascus on the streets first and later we had coffee, smoked water pipe and talked and talked; she was open-minded and such a free spirit. My girlfriend was killed in 2011 by shrapnel from a bomb dropped by the government, and my life just fell apart and I became so sad and angry. I was already a poet, but from this moment my poems became very critical of Assad and I canalized my deep hatred towards his regime through my poetry and published it in books, and eventually I began to receive phone calls from henchmen of the regime who threatened to severely beat me up. But I did not care about them, because when I lost my girlfriend my life no longer had value. They knew that my poetry had been published.

After 10 days receiving dead threats over the phone, I decided to flee with a fake ID in a taxi to Lebanon: There were checkpoints for every 300-400 metres and as a result it took several hours to reach Beirut where I stayed in the apartment of a friend; there are good people in Beirut. I earned some money by doing small jobs, often as a painter.

After 2 years, I left for Jordan where I, however, was detained for 3 days at the airport, because the authorities there claimed that I had not right to enter the country, because I did not know anybody there. I told them that they could send me to all other countries than Syria and they finally sent me to Egypt, where I worked for a couple of months. But when el-Sisi was elected president in 2013, it was no longer possible to live in the country without a residence permit as a Syrian citizen, and so I went back to Lebanon, where my family now also lived, and I ended up there for some months.

At this point there was a French woman, whom I had gotten to know over the internet, who persuaded me to go to Europe. And so I took a flight to Algeria and from there a bus to Tunisia from where I headed to Libya with the smugglers: It was an extremely dangerous journey and we both walked, ran and drove in car, and I was kicked and beaten several times, because I answered back the smugglers, as I could not tolerate how they were behaving.

From Libya I boarded a fishing boat together with 350 persons in the middle of the night, and we spend the day on the sea until we reached the port of Napoli. We did not have any water on the boat and it was very hot to sit in the sun. I had paid the smugglers 1.500 dollars to go to Italy, and I often think of all the money they must have made on me and the other ones in the boat, and also about how scared I was while we were out on the sea.
When we reached the shore of Napoli, a huge warship met us at sea, and all 350 persons from our fishing boat were transported in smaller boats to the warship, where we stayed for 2 days and got food and water. And after that we got ashore and could finally wash ourselves at the place where we were held by the police. My journey from Lebanon to Italy had at that point lasted for a month.

I ended up talking with a woman from the authorities who advised refugees, and even though she was supposed to drive me back to the police she drove me to the train station, where I took the train to Milan and spent some days. Together with 3 other refugees, I arranged that we would take a cap to Denmark, and we each paid 750 euros to the driver. But we did not entirely trust the driver, and we all agreed that we should be awake by turns, so that we could keep track of where he was taking us, and we also had a GPS: We were afraid that he would drive us to some strange place, beat us up and take our money. But he was actually a really good man and as we had agreed, he took us to the Central Station in Copenhagen.

From the Central Station I took the train myself to Sandholmlejren and from there I was sent to the asylum centre Sommersted, where I spent 6 months and got my permanent residence permit. At my interview I told the authorities that I wanted to live in Copenhagen, where I first lived at a hotel and then later in a temporary housing for a few months before I got my own apartment.

But at this point in my story something else also happened, because when I arrived to Denmark I began to speak with a female friend on messenger. And she came here in 2015, and we got married the same day and we now have 2 children; a son and a daughter.

I have had several jobs since I arrived: I have worked as a painter and a serviceman, and tomorrow I will start a new job as a driver in a transport company, where I am going to deliver newspapers and other things. During my weekends I often go to another housing facility in Copenhagen, where they have a billiard table, and I play and talk with friends, as a did in Syria.

I am grateful to be in Denmark and to have gotten the opportunities to start a new life: There are a lot of very nice people around me here. But I also feel the we, the refugees, are being put under pressure constantly, because they change the rules regarding what we as refugees are allowed to do and not to do, and what we are forced to do. And it is very stressful.

One example of the stress that I am going through right now is related to our accommodation, because living with 2 small children in a small apartment is a huge challenge. I have talked with the “kommune”, because we very much would like a bigger apartment, but it seems as though it is going to be quite a difficult task.

Dublin Core: Language: en Subject: a million stories, denmark, damascus, syria, refugee,