Sameema, 18; Dari translation by Kamila, 22 (Fiction)
My Immigrant Son
Today, my heart was full of loneliness, again. I looked at your photo, suddenly, I felt that my heart was on fire. My eyes were burning and my tears were flowing down like a river. I remembered the day that you told me, “Mother, this poverty and misery took over our lives. On the other hand insecurity is getting worse and worse every day.” You also said, “Mother, I can’t handle this anymore. Living in poverty in an unsecure place is painful; it makes me weaker every day. I must find a way to rescue you and myself from this miserable life”. You said “Mother, if we don’t get out of our country, if we don’t find a peaceful place, we either might die of hunger, or this ongoing war, and someday, the bomb blasts will take our tortured lives. Mother, I am going to a foreign country, and will try every possible way. I want to have a peaceful life with no poverty, war, bomb blast, and suicide attacks. When I make enough money, I will bring you, too. Then, we both will have a better life, hopefully, in a European country.”
I told you, “You are my one, and only son, Hastish. You are the only one left in my life. I lost your sister, Setayesh, and your brother, Darwish in a bomb blast. The enemies of our country took your father’s life. Now, I only have you, my son. I can’t stand being away from you. The loss of your siblings, and your father broke me enough; I cannot handle any more pain.
Well, I also understood him. He was tired of living this way. He was tired of war, and wonders. I couldn’t stop him anymore. He packed his clothes, and told me, “Mother, pray for me. Pray that I get to Europe safely. Once I get there, I am going to bring you as well. We will have a life without pain.”
My Hastish was a religious person. He put his prayer beads and a little book that had verses of Qur’an in it, in his pocket. He said, “Mother, I am leaving now.” He took my hands and asked me to give him my blessings. I looked at my son, and my tears rolled down on my face. My heart was beating so fast. My throat got so dry. I didn’t have the ability to wish him a safe trip. I couldn’t say a word. The only thing I could do was to squeeze his hands. He hugged me, and put his head on my chest. I could feel his warm breath, and his nervousness. His heart was beating so fast. His tears were falling on my chest, which made my heart pound. With a trembling voice, he told me, “take care of yourself, mother.” My tears were dried, and my body became numb. My legs got weak. I did not have the energy to run after him. I stood there, and watched him leave. My heart was still telling me to run after him, and stop him from going, but I couldn’t move. I just saw him disappear behind the houses.
I was angry, and mad at my god. I asked him what have I done that he punishes me like this. What sin was I punished for? How much should I suffer from being away from my kids? I told my god that I was tired, and all mothers around me were tired. No mother can handle this ruinous war anymore.
The days were passing so slow, and I impatiently was waiting for Hastish’s call. I was counting the hours since he left. With each passing each day, I was getting more impatient. I was worried why he was not giving me a call. What if something happened to him? Then, I was repenting, and telling myself that nothing happened to him. He will be all right. Again, nothing was working.
It was one month after Hastish left. I saw two policemen coming toward my house. I stood up, and walked toward them. They walked toward the door, and I let them inside the house. “What do you want? Is everything ok?” I asked. They stared at my worried eyes for a moment. “Are you Hastish’s mother?” The policemen asked.
My body started shaking. My heart started beating faster. “Yes”, I said slowly. “Is my Hastish okay?” I dared to ask them again. They were silent for a moment. One of them came closer, and handed me a bag. He didn’t say anything. His eyes were teary. “This bag is from Hastish Ma’am. May Allah give you patience” He said with a trembling voice. My tears were burning my face. I lost everything I had. I lost hope, too. I felt the darkness surround me. I couldn’t hold the bag, it fell on the floor.
The boat that he was sailing to Europe on had sank. I heard from the news that not many of the passengers were rescued. He couldn’t make it to Europe.
I kept imagining my son, Hastish. He was gone forever. He took his dreams of having a better life in Europe with him. He abandoned this world with all of its unfairness. He buried all of his pain, dreams, goals, and sadness with him. My Hastish also left me in this dark world.
Khadija 16 (Personal account)
The Things We Left Behind
My family traveled to Iran for to seek a better life in other countries. I left my school, friends, hope, dreams, teachers, family, father, house, and I left the people that they were supporting me and they loved me. I left all important things in my life. I traveled for a better life, but I didn’t know that without hope, dreams, friends, school, teachers, house, father, love and support of your people you are not able to have better life. You can’t be happy. You would lose everything.
When I left Afghanistan, I felt that I lost all my hope and dreams. I thought maybe I would never come back. I went without even looking back, without caring about my country, without thinking about the need of my people, without thinking about all concerns and problems that my country and people have. I escaped not because I hated my people or my country, but because I was tired. I was tired of war, I was tired of poverty, I was tired of street harassment, I was tired of violence against women, and I was tired of people that are disrespectful to humanity. I was thinking that escaping would leave all my problems behind and that in doing so, everything would be better, but it never happened.
When I left my country, I became a refugee. I needed to have my passport 24 hours a day. I don’t blame anyone because it was my own family decision. We decided to face these problems. I had to hide myself among trees, small houses, and with people that I didn’t know. I was not able to pray, to take a shower, to talk with friends, to watch TV, to study or to have fun. “Is it really a better life?” I asked myself. I had to run away from the Iranian and Turkish police with my young brothers and my family. I had to pass high mountains in cold weather and was so afraid. I did not sleep from 6:00 in the morning till 4:00 next morning. I kept walking and running, always afraid of the police and being with people whom I did not know.
It was hard for me when I saw that my young siblings and my mother they had to crawl on snow. It was hard to see my young brothers sleeping on snow in the mountains, and in sleeping in that cold weather. My heart was breaking into pieces when I was watching my family sleeping on snow, and their bodies are shaking from cold and I can’t do anything but watch them suffer. It was painful to see your young brothers, who should be having fun and playing games, instead experiencing the worst situation.
We ran and passed the high mountains, and it was 7 pm when we reached the border. We were waiting in that cold weather, and our feet were frozen. I had to change my shoes and left my beautiful shoes that I liked so much on the mountain. We had to leave all of our supplies behind such as shoes, socks, coats, food, clothes, and go through for a better life. However, there was no better life for us. We knew nowhere else can be our own country but still we were on our own path. Darkness had covered everything and we were underneath the moon waiting to pass the border. Suddenly, all the lights came on and we heard a loud voice, telling us “come on”. The Turkish police caught us. It was an awful moment for me, hearing children cry and watching everyone trying to escape and getting injured on the rocks. No one can understand the feeling I had in that moment when I saw my aunt falling on snow, with a bleeding hand. I felt weak. I was not able to do something for them. I was speechless.
It was like a bad dream yet I knew it was real and not a dream. Everyone was looking at me. I had to do something for them I had to help my family, my mother, and my siblings. The hardest part was that my father, he was not with us, because he passed away. My mother was trying to protect us from dangers, but how can she protect us from that windy weather, from those Turkish police, from those high mountains, from those wild people. Still she was the one who stood up strongly against these concerns. It took hours talking with police at the Turkish border, and trying to explain them who we are. It took two weeks living with fears and with people we didn’t even know. Finally, we were able to come back home. It was clear that we could not get over the border, so we tried to come back to our own homeland. After that awful experience we were sure that nowhere else can be our own homeland.
Finally, we were able to go back home. However, on the way again I had to leave my family. We were in two cars on the way of coming back to Afghanistan, when suddenly Iranian police caught us. We were again in the same situation, in darkness underneath the moon, in mountains, but this time my family wasn’t with me because their car just escaped. My mother and my family left me behind and they went back home. I was happy because my family was safe. There was nothing wrong with them. I was happy because I didn’t want my brothers and my sister to experience the things that I went through. I didn’t want them to be arrested as criminals at their age. I knew I was also not ready for that situation but still I was strong. I was with my aunt’s family. I knew that they are with me but still I needed my mother to be with me and tell me everything will be fine, and not to worry.
My aunt was asking me how come you are so comfortable with all that happened. She was asking me why am I not crying. I don’t blame her because she didn’t know my pain, she didn’t know that my heart was crying, so no need that tears should come out. She didn’t know that I was sad inside. The Iranian police took us to a dark room and all night we were in that darkness. We were there for 4 days and after that they took us to Herat/Afghanistan. It took 2 days and finally we reached Herat. On the way, I had to sleep in the car. Those 2 weeks that I had to climb mountains and be deported from Iran to Afghanistan felt like just 2 years for me. All those experiences made me strong. Those bad days made me be a leader, and to be a survivor, not a victim.
Aydin 13; Dari translated to English by Fatima, 19, & Zeinab, 29 (Essay)
Migration is very cruel. It has taken the lives and happiness of many people. Friendships and kindness become locked by a big lock, and it isn’t clear whether there is a key for it or not. They left all the dreams and thoughts for the future that was not to be. The home where there was happiness, friendship, and kindness was locked, but was there a key?
Yes, there was a key, a very beautiful and lovely key, but everyone left that key for more facilities, better education, and to achieve freedom. They might have had the key of happiness and dreams with them, but they lost it in the Aegean Sea when they were forced to leave all the happiness that they had once upon a time. They left the key in the sea and they lost all the happiness in the home.
That might be the key of those beautiful days or that key might have been the only nice memory of their happy days back at home. That key might had been held by a girl who was playing with the door of her room or it might belong to a boy who would open the door of his home of happiness when he was back from school. But, today the only thing which remained is this key, no brother and no sister. All is gone except some memories. They had locked all the happiness and dreams by this key, and they wanted to open the lock by migrating to a far away land without being aware that they would not survive.
This key wasn’t only a key of a house or a box, but it was the key of life and happiness. It is very difficult to leave a key that would for year open the door of happiness and laughter, to search for a new key and a new life.
Her mother was proud to have a daughter such as her. She was an intelligent and hard working girl. She had a good sense of humor loved by all of her family and relatives. When she was four years old her father passed away. From then on she lived in a small town in Kabul with her mother. Each and every night, as an older sister, she would read books for her siblings, two brothers and one sister. She was an intelligent and hard working girl.
It was 2016, a rainy morning and the streets were shimmering with dampness. She and her siblings walked to school and started their day with a big smile. Suddenly a very loud voice appeared and all the students run near the door but her teachers calmed them down. After an hour her mother came to pick her up. She was in the car with her sibling and seeing the blood on the road and people running, it was really disappointing for her. When she reached home her mother was very worried and was sad. After two days her mother decided to leave the country with her family.
The girl was heartbroken and she felt like she was going to explode. She tried to convince her mother to stay and not give up, but could not change the decision. On the following day her family started traveling to Greece. She looked back toward her country, she saw she was leaving a lot behind but she didn’t have a choice. She saw she was leaving her special books, her childhood memory, father’s memory, friends and the country that she wanted to build in the future. However, although she was filled with sorrow, she also felt happy that her family might have good opportunities to improve their lifestyle. She left those all precious possessions, but still she had her jacket which her father had given her when she turned 4 years old.
In addition to reach Greece first they traveled to Iran and they suffered a lot. They faced people whom were being rude, left some of their luggage on the border to Turkey. They climbed cold mountains, didn’t have food threes times a day. After reaching Turkey they met smugglers who helped them with getting into the boat to Greece.
When they got into the boat they needed to hide in a special cabin which was already in the boat because of the security. So the whole night they were on the boat but when the day brightened they came out to see the ocean water and the sun. After having her breakfast with her family and other Afghan families the weather changed. It was windy and the water was moving very fast and the boat looked to sink. The crew ordered everyone to throw all their luggage out of the boat. All the people threw all their luggage, including her family, except for the girl’s jacket. For her, that jacket was her life. The crew didn’t know and they could not feel what she felt, because they wanted to be safe. They took from her cold hands the jacket and they threw it out of the boat. She was nearly dead, because the jacket was taken from her and didn’t know what to do. The hopes that she had, they were gone with the jacket. She lost the most precious gift of her life.
After she settled in Greece, whenever she would see people from Afghanistan or talk to people whom are in Afghanistan, she would say: “Now I am educated here and my family have got everything they wanted. But I am still not happy because whatever I left behind I will never forget. Life with no homeland, no memory, no friends and supporters is nothing. I have wished to go back to my homeland, but I can’t ever have the jacket, or the same people that I have met back in my homeland. Whenever I think if I had a chance or magic to change the past, I would never have left anything behind, my people, my homeland, because now I am the person who left my country. If I go back to my homeland, the people won't accept me because I wasn't there with them in hard days. I still wish that I hadn't come to Greece. Now we are refugees.”
Maryam, 16 (Essay)
The things we left them behind
I chose this vest because of its beautiful flowers and design that stood out to me.
From my point of view, it’s such a delicate and neat pattern which is very attractive. When I saw it for the first time I just couldn’t stop staring at it and many ideas came to my mind.
The picture that I drew has a very special meaning for me. We see a family that emigrates from their beloved homeland and they are looking for hope. The life that they really deserve is, a life without war, a life without hunger, and a life with peace and comfort. To fulfill their dreams they are ready to take any risk. They are ready to lose everything, their friends, their family, their memories, and all the other things that are really important to them. They are ready to risk their lives in those cold and freezing oceans, and mountains. As we see, they left their precious and valuable things behind just to find a peaceful and comfortable life. But, most of the times they get unlucky; they do not get accepted by the countries that they are immigrating to. Their all hopes and dreams fade away, and with such regret and sadness they come back to homelands or they stay there facing many problems. They stay there being hungry. They stay there remembering the lovely memories of their homeland and waiting for help with their chilled hands, waiting for the people and government’s help to feed them, and to get them to a warm place.
The vest could be a man’s, woman’s or a child’s. I don’t think it belongs to any one gender, because I’ve seen both men and women wear these kinds of clothes. As I look at the vest, I think it’s a child’s. Because of the size, and because of the design that would appeal to children. This vest might have been bought by his parents or by his kind uncles or aunts who loved him, treated him well, and knew what does this child like. Children like colorful, attractive, and flamboyant things like this. When I was young, I too loved things like these. I loved anything that had these kinds of flowers and designs. That’s why I chose to be an artist. I always loved to design things, to draw patterns and beautiful flowers.
Now why did they leave it behind?
I think maybe they just have forgotten it while moving or immigrating. Or maybe because they needed to rush to escape something bad that happened, they might have forgotten it, even if it might be a valuable thing for them. I’ve seen many people facing a lot of problems while immigrating on T.V. Facing with problems such as: losing their friends and families, losing their money, losing the love of their people and their motherlands, hunger, disappointment
We who do not emigrate, we don’t want to leave our country because we’ve been refugees once. Because, we have seen how it would feel to be emigrants, and how hard it is to be emigrants. And now, we don’t surrender to such situations this easily. If we do too, I am sure we won’t survive even a minute without our country and our people; however there is no one in my country who hasn’t been a refugee. We all have faced the problems which cause people to immigrate, but we still have hope. We don’t give up. We still have the courage for changing our country’s situations and seeing positive changes. We study for seeing these changes and enhancements. We work hard for it. We do our best to make our country prosperous. We encourage others to have the same perspectives as us. Because, we still have the passion for rebuilding our country.
If we all leave, then there will be no one to help my country heal its wounds.
It’s such a hard decision and I respect the decisions people make. I don’t exactly know what they suffer from, so I don’t want to judge whether they have to leave or stay. It’s such a costly action for most of the people, and it’s got bad consequences.
One of my cousins decided to go to Europe in an illegal way. She’s married and her husband used to work as a journalist in a T.V. channel named “Aryana T.V”. She was such a great poet of the Uzbek language. She studied the Uzbek literature in Turkey. They both studied in Turkey, so they had Turkish visas. They had a newborn baby. They decided to immigrate to Germany. They went to Turkey in a legal way, but on their way to Europe they went illegally. It was one of the cold days, in winter last year. They crossed from many cold mountains, they crossed the rivers, the forests and all the places where we only see them in our dreams or on T.V series. The new born baby got ill when they were crossing from the forest. When they were in the middle of the ocean, the ship sunk. They lost their money, they lost their transcripts and all the education letters they got throughout the years they studied, and most important of all they lost their baby. After about an hour the couple was saved by the rescue ships of the Germany, but the baby froze to death in the cold weather and the cold water of the ocean. It was the most costly action they might ever do in their whole life.
Losing all those important stuffs that their futures depended on is never easy and is never a choice. They didn’t want it to happen like this.
Maybe, the people who’ve forgotten this vest might have faced a lot of challenges and problems with not having any clothes, as well. We can understand the value of those things that we left behind now. We still have got no idea about why did they leave those things behind? It’s just a guess. They don’t even know that one day the things that they are leaving them behind or forgetting to take will be a matter that after some years the people or students from different countries all over the world will research. They don’t even know that it will be one of the important things that many people are trying to learn about.
The vest belongs to a child somewhere and he’s got no idea that I am writing about him and his vest.