59 years old
I’m really glad I took part in the Museum’s1 project. I liked how we all would get together, all of us from different countries, and how we talked and made new friends. Each time it felt like a burden was being lifted. Our aim was to find some meaning in all the images we were looking at, each of us in their own way, and to talk about what was on our minds.
In The Raft by Bill Viola I first saw a group of people who looked like they were getting ready to enter a church. The woman on the edge was trying to read, like the man in the middle was. They were all doing something, except for the three persons on the far left, who were aloof and distant, because they didn’t seem to have any purpose. The rest of the people were thinking, reading their religious books, talking about their families and the future. Just these three were indifferent and didn’t seem to care about anything.
But then other things start happening. It shows these people being drowned by the sea and trying to save each other. At least that’s how I understand this artwork. It made me feel different things. It was painful to watch. There’s a woman praying to God saying: oh my God, save us, we’re drowning, we’re going to die… These images, they’re painful, they speak to me because I’ve seen these things myself. I’ve lived through them.
It’s terrible to live through an ordeal like that. I wish that everyone—all the countries in the world—could live in peace and safety and be well. No one should have to suffer so much. I wish we could all live in peace, without problems and hardships. Understanding each other—that’s the key thing we need to keep with us always. That and love, of course.
In Costas Tsoclis’ artwork2, I also saw some people: there’s a man who looks kind of anxious or annoyed, a woman who looks like she’s arrived someplace and is safe, and another man who’s somewhere in between and hasn’t reached his destination. But they’re all looking straight ahead in their lives. And then there’s the image with the fish that’s pinned down. It’s lost its freedom. This work has stayed in my mind more than any of the others. Because we all have to look ahead. We don’t forget our country and the problems it’s facing but we have to look ahead and see how we can build our lives without war. For those who come after us, for our children who need to find the world a peaceful one.
I’ve had to deal with a lot of difficult problems in my life, but I haven’t lost hope. I haven’t given up. I want to do something with my life, regardless of the difficulties. I wish the same thing for everyone else, I hope they keep on trying to work for a better world. That’s why we came here, for a better future. And I hope that we all get to the place we’ve set out for.
I live in Athens now and I’ve managed to create a daily routine for myself. After I wake up in the morning I have breakfast and then I meet my friends and my two children who are also living in Athens. I try to spend time with them because I need to be by them, as we used to do in Syria where the whole family was very close. I have lunch and then take a nap and afterwards I take a walk. I take some pita bread with me and go to the square to feed the pigeons; I really enjoy feeding the pigeons and watching them flock together and fly around me.
I love animals a lot. In Syria, my father had some land where he kept roosters, chickens, lambs and calves. I dream of one day having some animals here in Greece: sheep and lambs and chickens and roosters. I don’t want to sit around. I want to work and I’d like to make a living working with animals. This is my dream. But I don’t know how to make it come true because I don’t have the money to start out with.
I also like that here in the shelter they take us on trips and to the movies and organize different activities and celebrations. One of my favorite things to do is to gather the children together and tell them fairy tales. How else can these refugee kids pass their time? Besides, they need to feel they are loved. They need to have some peace of mind and a good life. Children need to grow up with love and with fairy tales, too. That’s what I did in Syria with my children and that’s what I want to do with the refugee children here, because after what they’ve been through, they need to feel loved and safe.
We refugees have all been through difficult times. We’ve left our homes behind, we’ve slept on the streets and in tents. We’ve been through a lot to get here. We know that many countries have problems, which is why we want war to end. We need to unite and live together in peace. There needs to be a helping hand for everyone and an end to all this destruction. And the countries in Europe and the Arab countries need to try to end the war so that we can come together—all of us, people everywhere—and live together in harmony. And in peace.
We all want love, we all want to be united. But instead there are wars because there isn’t love. There must be love! That’s what we’re striving for. Think of how many people left behind their children, their families, their children! The children… the children… the children…
Let us unite and become that helping hand for the countries that are in need. Let us move forward.
1 Refers to the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens.
2 Refers to the works Portraits, 1986 and The Harpooned Fish, 1985.