40 years old
When I was informed about the Museum1 programme, I was not sure if I wanted to participate. I had never been in a museum and had never visited an exhibition. But something made me go to the first meetings and then to take the decision to take part. So, I realized that there is something new to do, which is interesting. I was able to meet new people and learn new things. With our discussions, the ideas and experiences shared by the group, my mind was cleared from concerns. I was given the opportunity to think of something different and perhaps to change the way I see things.
It was interesting we all2 saw the works in our own way. For example, looking at the work of Bia Davou, Sails, I thought that the map of Syria looks like this installation. In Davou’s project, each sail occupies its own special place; it has its own limits as well as its own colour. Something similar happens in Syria map, which is divided into Governorates and Districts; each Governorate and each District is marked on the map with its own colour and its own borders.
Before the war, in Syria, Christians and Muslims used to live harmoniously. In my neighbourhood there was a church and a mosque. I had Christian neighbours and there was no problem between us. One family participated in the feast and mourning of the other. In this area, since ancient times, different religions and different cultures have coexisted. What is happening today has not been initiated by the people. I do not believe that the cause of the war is religion.
Of the projects we saw in the Museum3, I was moved the most by Hopscotch by Vlassis Caniaris. I think that this work expresses all refugees. Personally, it reminded me of how I felt as soon as I arrived in Turkey. I did not know anyone, or the language, and I did not know what to do, where to start and how to go on. My suitcase was the only object I could lie down on, rest and think for a while.
I identified with the man seated on his suitcase, who looks as if he was tortured by the decision he had to take, by the dilemma of whether he should stay in his homeland or leave. I experienced this dilemma, too. Deciding to leave was not easy for me. I had my doubts. I had to leave my wife and two daughters behind. This doubt still exists deep inside. Even now, I sometimes think that I shouldn’t have left them. But if my one hand was burdened by the concern for my wife and children, preventing me from leaving, the other hand was pulled by the need not to take part in such a war. I dislike violence. I do not want to hold a weapon. I do not want to harm anyone. I do not like blood. I want to live a peaceful and safe life with my family.
It’s not just that I have left my wife and children behind. What worries me the most is that two years have passed since I left Syria and I haven’t yet managed to do anything for my family, to be able to bring my wife and daughters here. I want to settle somewhere permanently, find a job so that we can all live together in a safe place. I do not care about where I’m going to be, as long as we’re all safe together. I worry for my wife, because she is alone taking care of our daughters. I do not know how she manages. I talk to them in the morning, at noon, at night. I want to know what they’re doing, if they’ve arrived home, what they ate. My wife is working as a teacher. My older daughter is six and is in first grade, and the younger one is four and goes to kindergarten. For a working woman with no help, things are not easy, the responsibility is huge. Not to mention that the place where our home is located is not completely safe.
The last month and a half I’ve been living in a building, in a room of my own. I’m very happy that it has a balcony where I can sit and relax. Every morning, when I wake up, and in the afternoon too, I have my coffee there and listen to music. You see, back in Syria I used to take my coffee on the terrace and listen to music. There, I liked to listen to Fairuz, a famous singer in Syria, while here I sometimes listen to Greek music and other times, songs from Syria. When I left the camp, the first thing I thought of was to see if my room had a balcony. It’s my favourite part of the house. On my balcony in Athens, I have the opportunity to continue this favourite habit I have from home. So, even if the room is small, the fact that I can keep up this routine makes me feel at home. The other day when it was raining, I was enjoying the autumn weather4 and the feeling of the rain falling on the terrace. It made me think even more how beautiful it would be to have my little daughters here, taking them for long walks in Athens, wandering around the city streets, at the amusement park, by the sea.
1 Refers to the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens.
2 Group during the meetings of which his narration was recorded at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens.
3 Refers to the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens.
4 The story was recorded in autumn 2017.