Wael’s idea after we met was that he wants to write “my story” and I’m going to write his, but after I read what he sent me I do not want to touch his material. I think the world should learn from firsthand from his own raw testimonial The surreal thing is that we may have met in Hungary first because Wael was one of those Syrian refugees who walked across Hungary to Austria back in September 2015, the time I met thousands of refugees on my first trip to Europe to witness the ‘refugee crisis’ for myself.
Here it is:
“So I have been asked so many times about whom I am and what I am and its crazy the insanity or irony of the world, that I have to repeat all over again and again, maybe not the same always, but there was always a funny thing to add, or maybe a tragedy. As well, I should start again now but I hope it’s going to affect people and make a change somehow.
My name is Wael Alafandi, and I am 22 years old. I was born in Aleppo city in Syria. It’s so funny that when I used to tell people that I am from Syria 5 years ago they wouldn’t know it and I would have to mark on the map always for them, but now you just have to say the magical words ‘I am a refugee from Syria’ and the entire world goes crazy and blackout about it. Funny no?
My childhood was super interesting and I think it’s the best childhood a kid can have, even with the poor status and the difficulties of living in Syria and growing up there means that you have to wake up and fight everyday no matter if you were a kid or a grown up. You have to fight in schools, work, companies, and even in the streets, to prove your strength and abilities and it’s so sad that the world doesn’t know all these things about Syrians. All they know is that we come from a desert, or we don’t have smart phones, or even cars or trees. Yes believe I have had a lot of these kinds of questions when I first arrived in Germany. It was silly and crazy to realize that it wasn’t really the best choice you can make to become or transfer from a normal human being that had everything he wanted in his life to a refugee that has nothing in his hands or in his pockets, and being known as a savage or a terrorist and you have to fight from the bottom all over again, in different ways and levels.
As I grew with the years and life became less and less fun and joyful, and even less warm and I don’t know about that maybe it’s the global warming?! As the years passed by me working and studying in the school, as I worked many things as a kid my Mom and Dad always relied on me to count on myself and need no one, funny, as it seems they prepared me for a massive bloody war and a lonely trip in life. And that’s really breaks my heart remembering my childhood how amazing it was and by growing up year-by-year it became harder and harder for me and it broke the child inside of me. Since those times I have been like a broken bird. I couldn’t trust anyone or feel loved by anything. I had and I have always looked for someone to take care of me or help me feel safe.
In addition, I couldn’t fly because I am a Syrian national and my passport takes me nowhere without a visa or a lot of money. And money was always my biggest problem to do anything since I am counting on myself. If I ever needed something I had to work extra to get and it was nice because when I get it, it feels awesome. But I could never get something fancy or something like leaving Syria or a visa to a nice country where I can start a life where I don’t have to fight so much. Sadly, that was the only thought that was growing with me all over the years.
Then without even a notice we sleep and wake up and hear on the news of the acts of Daraa (where the revolution started) and everyone starts to fear the wage of war and change, because we witnessed Egypt and Libya before anything started in Syria. People knew that the government isn’t as easy as Egypt and Libya because in the 80s there was a similar act of a revolution but Bashar, sad father, was the president that time and he murdered all the people who started the war.
Some fled to Germany and other countries, but many died and nobody outside of the world knew about it because there was no media, nor internet like these times and in no time, it just happened everything started going bad. People started to go out and peaceful protests asking for the government to stop killing and taking the kids in Daraa city, and then the government started beating and taking all the peaceful people and the government used bullets, tanks and soldiers to fire upon harmless people. Our beloved Syrian army started to clash and crash and burn and kill peaceful people who only asked for freedom to speak and freedom to those who were behind the bars. I can speak a lot about the war and how did it happen until I left Syria.
For me I was doing my last year at high school when the first year of the war started. I was pretty young and stupid. I knew nothing of the war or all of this, as I was working simple things so I can support my dad because he stopped working in the war because of the bombing where he works. I finished high school with 83% degree and it was amazing, all my family and friends cried and they couldn’t believe it that I made it this good because I had no money to go to a school or to have private teachers and I had no time to study because of working, and yet I made it. I fought! I really cried blood during those days I can never forget them, and then I started university it was like a dream because I started studying Architectural Engineering and it was amazing really, but I couldn’t get in because I would have needed a lot of money and I had no support that times as I mentioned before, and then I switched to biotechnology Engineering.
I wasn’t very happy in the beginning, to see that I can’t do something I liked just because of money. I never understood money, and why it stops me always.
After time biotechnology seemed nice. I had great friends. Some were the best friends I ever met in my life and if I regret leaving Syria it’s because of these friends and fellows.
As I started working as English teacher in many private schools, it was super fancy, I had a great chances and I was lucky. I was fluent in English and I didn’t even have a degree for it. All the other teachers thought I was 28 or 29 years old, I could never tell them that I was 19 or 20 years old, they would never have respected me or accepted me, not all of them though.
As time flied it was already two and half years of me working as English teacher and studying biotechnology. I then started helping in the hospital and I worked for a couple of NGO`S when the war started, and it was amazing that I could mange to do all these things at the same time without falling apart. I admit it was almost unbelievable how much pressure it was but I liked it and I miss it somehow because at least I had my family and friends by my side. Good friends are really priceless.
My Mom was always supporting me, funny we didn’t had a good relationship before the war started, but then we got closer and became super best friends. I love that woman. She is a warrior and she really fought for her sons and she always tried everything she could for us. She’s the kind of Mom, during the war, at some point, that would give a peace of bread for me and leave her self starving if it means that I’ll be happier,
I wasn’t studying much because of the pressure with work and everything with the stress of war, blood, losing people, friends, and the bombing was crazy. I almost died 3 or 4 times and one of them was super close. The breaking point for me to leave was always there but I never had the courage to leave everything behind and just go to the unknown.
People were saying the UN countries are taking Syrians as refugees and they are helping them with everything. I started studying the plan to go there. I started contacting friends who were already there studying or people who applied for asylum there and I started knowing everything about the whole thing. I never had the ability to do it because again I couldn’t pay as much as the people were paying. It was costing between 8000$ and 14000$ and that’s a lot of money.
I started thinking of the walking road and it might not cost that much money if I just walk the borders and yes, that plan was very good for me. Every one of the people I knew, including my family, was laughing and telling me I was crazy? You are going to walk there? You must be tired go sleep or something? It was like this for a year and a half of me thinking like this but I never took the step until I reached a certain point. I just took the chance and told my family that they either support me or just forget about me. And they did support me. Mom helped so much. She borrowed money from everyone she knew that she could get me 3000$. I also sold my laptop and everything I had worth money and I went to Turkey by sea from Lebanon.
From Turkey I met nice guys that used to study with in my university but they were older than me, most of them had graduated while I didn’t. It made me think about it a lot but I never could look back, always go forward. This was something I used to tell myself all the time and I think that’s one of the reasons that I made it here in Germany.
We then went together to Izmir, a city on the sea close to Greece, and from there we took a small boat. We paid a smuggler around 1000$ each and we were 50 people on a 9-meter long boat. It was the kind of boat that you pump up with air and it has an engine behind it. With 50 people and their bags we were nearly drowning all the time and the engine stopped in the middle of the sea and all of us started accepting death. Suddenly one of the guys gets up and starts fixing the engine and it worked. We were so happy at that moment, it’s like we came back alive again after we all saw a flash of death and all our memories.
We arrived in Greece and then we got held up in a prison for 10 days. Then the walk journey started from Greece until Hungary. There are so many details and sad things that happened on the way. I don’t know if the article will fit them but I could always write more and more. I arrived in Germany after 45 days of walking through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary and Austria. We made it. I was so happy. We even kissed the German ground, ha-ha.
Things were not as expected here in Germany or as people were saying they would be, but yet I made it somehow. Hopefully I am going to write a novel and I am going to include in it all the details that are missing here.
Wael is currently seeking employment . We would like to help him get the same education, chances and job opportunities what we all have within the European Union. His dream is to become a writer. If you would like to have a skilled and super witty young man working for you, do let us know please.