Yasser’s Story, Bulgaria
When the problems started in Damascus our neighborhood was among the first to see fighting. One night during a protest, bombs killed 400 people. By six in the morning our whole street was gone and we left our family home in ruins after it was struck by an explosion.
Initially we found shelter in Quneitra province. But even if we were away from the worst fighting, I could no longer go to college where I studied tourism. My options were to join one of the armies or leave the country. I left for Lebanon with only 180 USD in my pocket and from there to Istanbul. Those first weeks were very difficult and lonely.
In Turkey, I joined five of my friends and started working in a factory making cardboard boxes. It was enough to eat, but nothing more. I was working over twelve hours each day. So, the six of us decided that we have to seek asylum in the European Union. We had no money so we tried on our own without a smuggler.
On December 2, 2013, we left with printed maps, a GPS, food and flashlights. We walked along the Rezovo river until we crossed into Bulgaria. It took us three days on foot.
In Bulgaria we were taken to a dilapidated building for single men in the rundown Harmanli camp. It was horrible. There were no proper bathrooms or showers, people were heating themselves with bonfires, and there was very little food. Then day by day things got better and now it is actually decent. After the first few weeks the six of us formed a volunteer group to help out around the camp. Soon after, we started a daytime school for the children in the camp, so we all have something to do.
If the war stops I will immediately go back to Syria. But I can see it’s not going to stop. I can see that it will not end even in ten years.
Text by Boris Cheshirkov