Mohamad’s Story, Bulgaria
For more than two years my wife, our four children and I survived the Syrian civil war in Aleppo until one evening militia tanks rolled into our Palestinian Refugee Camp and snipers took positions on the rooftops. Our family was forced to flee at once. We were only able to take our identity cards.
The camp was wiped off from the face of the Earth. We lost sixty men and women only to the snipers. Our home was destroyed and my electrical appliance shop burned down.
We left for Turkey taking refuge there for several months. Sadly, I could only find menial work illegally and I could not support the six of us. So in October 2013, we decided to move again, this time to the EU.
I heard Bulgaria was receiving refugees from Syria and it wasn’t difficult to find a guide to take us there. We paid 500 USD each to get across the border starting by car in Edirne until we reached a forest. The smuggler ordered us to get off and only showed us the way through the trees with his hand. We walked for nine hours, reaching the first Bulgarian village across the border on foot.
A family there took us in, while we waited for the police. They gave us coffee and tea, and fed the children. My first memory of Bulgaria is the kindness of this family. However, just a few hours later we would be forced to sleep on the floor in an overcrowded gymnasium at the police precinct in Elhovo. Then every four days we would be sent to a different centre each full of people, without much food, very dirty and freezing cold.
Many things have changed in the last seven months since we arrived, many improvements. Conditions are much better; there are doctors, bathrooms, and hot meals. We have also just received our refugee papers.
Now, I am preparing for the uncertainty of the future, but I am grateful that my family is together and safe. I can get a new shop or a new house, but I would be lost without my family.
Text by Boris Cheshirkov