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Being a Refugee

How It Feels Like to Flee Your Home and Be a Refugee

Your wife sits, vacantly, in a corner. She hasn’t had anything to drink for 2 days. When the coast is in sight, you are loaded onto small boats. Your wife and the younger child are on one boat, you and your older child on another.

You are warned to stay silent so that nobody knows you’re there. Your older daughter understands. But your younger one in the other boat doesn’t. She doesn’t stop crying. The other refugees are getting nervous. They demand that your wife keeps the child quiet. She doesn’t manage it.

One of the men grabs your daughter, rips her away from your wife and throws her overboard. You jump in after her, but you can’t find her again. Never …

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In 3 months, she would have turned 2 years old. You don’t know how you, your wife and your older daughter would manage to get to the country that allows you in.

Everything is foggy. Your wife hasn’t spoken a word since your daughter died. Your older daughter hasn’t let go of her sister’s teddy and is totally apathetic. But you have to keep going. You are just about to arrive at the emergency accommodation. It is 10:00 pm. A man whose language you don’t understand takes you to a hall with camp beds. There are 500 beds all very close together.

In the hall, it’s very crowded and noisy. You try to collect your mind and strength to understand what the people there want from you. But you can barely stand up. You nearly wish that they had shot you.

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Instead, you unpack your meager possessions; two items of clothing each and your smartphone. Then you spend your first night in a safe country. The next morning you’re given some clothes. Among the donated clothes are even branded ‘label’ clothes and a toy for your daughter. You are given 140 euros for the whole month.

“They’re safe here. Therefore they should be happy!”


Outside in the yard, dressed in your new clothes, you hold your smartphone high in the air and hope to have some reception. You need to know if anyone from your city is still alive.

Then a ‘concerned citizen’ comes by and abuses you. You don’t know why. You don’t understand “Go back to your own country!” You understand some things like “smartphone” and “handed everything on a plate.” Somebody translates it for you.

And now tell me how do you feel and what do you own? The answer to both is “Nothing.”

First published: September 2017

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