Mohad’s Story, Poland

Photo by UNHCR/R.Kostrzyński

Photo by UNHCR/R.Kostrzyński

I first met Mohad in January 2013. He had just arrived to Poland from Malta where he was granted status as a refugee. Warsaw was covered in deep snow then, and the temperature was 15 degrees Celsius below zero. Back there, in La Valetta it must have been at least 30 degrees more. “Why would a young Somalian man trade Malta for Poland?” you may ask.

Mohad had only one reason to do that, but it was a very important one. In Malta he might have had a steady job, but what’s the use of having one when you can’t live with your family?

In 2008, Mohad, a fisherman from Kismayo, Somalia, had to leave his fatherland due to threats he had been receiving from local militiamen. He had no other choice but leave his family behind. His children were too young to endure the perilous journey towards the unknown, and his wife was pregnant. “I will find a safe shelter and bring you and the kids there. Sooner or later,” Mohad promised his wife during a hasty farewell.

It was much more “later” than Mohad expected. In search for safety, he had to cross the Sahara desert on foot and the Mediterranean Sea in a tiny old boat with tens of other refugees. “We were given a GPS and told to navigate to Malta ourselves,” he remembers. “We saw the land four days later. A day more and I would die of thirst.”

In Malta, Mohad was finally safe, but he missed his family who in the meantime found refuge in Kenya. When it turned out that the Maltese authorities did not allow for family reunification, he started exploring other options. He had to wait 5 years before he found one. One day he was given the opportunity to be relocated to Poland. “I only asked them if I would be able to bring my loved ones,’ Mohad said.

Mohad’s determination paid off. Half a year later he welcomed his wife and children at the Chopin airport in Warsaw. The relief on his face was almost tangible when he realized he fulfilled his promise. I know, because I was there myself.

Text by Rafał Kostrzyński

1 family torn apart by war is too many

Learn more about our work with refugees at