About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Ashkan hiding his face with a bunch of dried grass

Ashkan Mohammadi

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:

Bosnia and Herzegovina



Danial Hozhabri

“Before leaving our home, our dream was to have a peaceful life, a guaranteed future for our children,” says Ashkan Mohammadi (pseud, 30), who fled his birth country due to a lack of safety based on his race and religion. Being away from home makes him feel bad, and he describes his journey to Europe as “very difficult.” His family’s suffering has been the hardest thing for him to bear: “It has had a great impact on me and my family. In this path that we came from, everyone was depressed.” But Ashkan explains he was able to overcome the difficulties “with good management and the hopes and wishes we had along the way.” Now in Sarajevo, Ashkan still feels uncertain, but has been strong enough to preserve the hopes and dreams he had before leaving home. “If we didn’t have dreams, then we won’t be able to come here, where we are now,” he says. “Our only dream is the hope and guaranteed future of our children. So that our children can reach places, peace…”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

Good day, are you doing well?
Thanks a lot.

I’m here on behalf of the 1000 Dreams project, which is translated to “1000 Dreams” (in English). I have a few questions. You can respond to the questions that you think are easy and if you don’t want to respond to any other question, you’re free not to. First question, are you ready for me to ask?
Yes, go ahead.

Most of the questions are related to immigration and the perspective of a refugee. What’s your current condition? What type of accommodation are you living in?
In a pre-built wooden cottage.

Can you describe its conditions?
The conditions are really bad. We don’t have any heating or cooling unit nor refrigerators. We don’t have these things. The washroom is really – (Interviewer interrupts)

You don’t? You’re not living alone. Who are you living with?
With my family.

How do you spend your time? Do you work?

Then how do you spend your time?
With other refugees or asylum seekers. Those that come here and go, new and old immigrants.

Is there something that’s the cause of your happiness?
Yes, the security and safety of my family…. The happiness of my family.

How has your life been ever since you came to Europe?
Ever since I entered Europe, the people of Europe look at us as immigrants, they see us as refugees and don’t see us as humans. Immigrants. If they saw us as humans, the conditions would have been a lot better.

What was the benefit of you being here?
For now, only experience. There wasn’t any benefit other than that.

What was hard for you the most?
The suffering of my family en route (on the way reaching here) and many other things.

Can you explain how living here has made you feel?
As of now, nothing is certain, we don’t have any feeling of staying or leaving here.

As in…. (Interviewer interrupts)

Does being far from family or home create a feeling for you such as not belonging, sense of discrimination. How do these have an impact on you? Can you describe them?
Yes, I’ve had a very bad feeling…

Okay ….
Being far from family, being far from home, my mother, my father…

Uhm, did you ever imagine of coming into terms with this condition?

Then how did you overcome these and live?
I didn’t have any experience, but we hoped to live and be alive and the main source of our hope was to be alive.

Do you think you can overcome these challenges or do you think you always had the skills, strength, mechanism and resilience to do it?
We could say that we had the strength, but in this path that we’re currently in and have chosen, anything was possible to happen.

The year that Covid-19 occurred, what impacts did it have on you, emotionally and affectionately?
Work reduced, high costs of living, difficult financial and medical conditions, precautions, etc… Has had a bad impact on the family. Depression, etc…

Okay, the question that was asked now was related to your current condition. I want to ask some questions related to your past.
Go ahead.

Can you explain why you left your country?
Because of the lack of safety, because of the promises they gave us and never did, because of the future of our children.

Can you elaborate what happened?
It’s kind of personal, if possible, ask the next question.

Okay, during that time what feeling did you have?
The time when we came out of the country (Interviewer interrupts: Yes), we had a really bad feeling. Anyone, any creature, anything that leaves their home will have a bad feeling. And it’s going to be difficult to go to a place where you don’t know the language.

How was your journey to Europe?
Very difficult.

Do you have an experience that was specifically difficult that you can tell us?
Yes, from the place where we started our journey to the destination that we still hadn’t reached, all had its own difficulties such as the border between Turkey and Greece. The conditions were very bad. The Greek people, Greek soldiers, mistreated the immigrants up to a level that one wished to die. They took their money, forced them to pass through a trench barefoot, and forced them to cross a river named “MERIG”. There was a guy who walked barefoot in the jungle, thirsty, hungry, just to reach a destination and the Greek soldiers easily captured the guy and handed him over to a non-military group. I don’t know if they are Afghans, Pakistanis or Iranians. It was some specific group.

What feeling did you have at that time?
A really bad feeling, a feeling of… Saying it is impossible, we can’t say if we had a different feeling… (Interviewer interrupts)

Do you often think of these events?

During our travels, when we sit down with other guys and talk about the journey and the roads [we took or we have yet to take]…

Let me reframe my question. Is there something specific that you often think about?
We think about the path, difficult memories, like sleeping in the jungle, not having any food or water, everything!

When you think of the things that happened, what feeling did you have?
A really bad feeling, a feeling of hopelessness, such things.

Did the situations you had to face up until now had an impact on you? If yes, how?
It has had a great impact on me and my family. In this path that we came from, everyone was depressed, they felt really bad etc…

Did you imagine managing these conditions?
We could manage. That’s how we could reach here.

What strategy did you have to overcome all the difficulties? How did you do it? From where did you get the strength and support?
With good management and the hopes and wishes we had along the way.

Before the events that forced you into leaving your country, what were your dreams? Before the war or the event?
Can you repeat your question?

Before the incident that made you run away from home happened, what was your dream?
Before leaving our home, our dream was to have a peaceful life, a guaranteed future for our children. These were the dreams.

When you left your home, what wishes did you have?
Just as I answered the previous question. We couldn’t reach our dreams and desires there.

So, your dreams and wishes were the same?
Not the same, something that’s unreachable is a wish, something that we can’t have is a desire achieved. For example, it is my desire that I can’t have unless a miracle happens, but dreams have to be reached and concluded.

Okay, we’re about to reach the end of the questions. Before leaving your home country, is there something you consider as your strength?
Yes, uhh… Hoping for and believing in wishes, dreams, improvement.

Were you able to preserve these?
To a limit.

The way that we came, if we didn’t have the management, if we didn’t have dreams, then we won’t be able to come here, where we are now.

What you experienced seemed to be really difficult. Do you feel that these experiences have led to your growth in any way or result in something positive?
Yes, everything was an experience.

What dreams and wishes do you have for the future?
As other guys put it, I told you that our only dream is the hope and guaranteed future of our children. So that our children can reach places, peace… Proving a peaceful life for my family, these things.

I’m grateful to you.
You’re welcome.

I hope this interview is valuable and I hope your story helps the European people to understand more and if you allow me to share this interview to the media. If you want, we can take a picture of you without your face being seen and your story will be distributed to some degree, and if you want you can accompany us on our path, and I just had a final question. Is there something or note that you’d like to add so that European people can understand refugees more.
Yes, a lot of things such as, we ask Europeans to not see us as immigrants but rather humans. People in some countries that I can’t name, the people saw us as immigrants, as people who have fled their country to enjoy, have fun like tourists etc… But we kindly ask Europeans to view us as humans, view us as refugees. They might not have experienced the difficulties that we had on the way. We want them to understand us and a lot of other things.

Right, Thank you so much. Daniel (surname inaudible) from 1000 Dreams project.

Many 1000 Dreams interviews were not conducted in English. Their translation has not always been performed by professional translators. Despite great efforts to ensure accuracy, there may be errors.