About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Danial looking down to his right with his hands clasped on top of his heart

Danial Hozhabri

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:

Bosnia and Herzegovina



Hasan Mohammedi

If I can help people and have an opportunity to drop a smile on all the people that come here is heartwarming and the cause of my happiness,” says Danial Hozhabri (pseud, 34), an Iranian refugee currently living in a camp in Sarajevo. The journey was frightening and dangerous, he recalls: “One would go from one location to another in the hopes of not getting caught by the police, not getting caught by others, till they reach their destination.” The most difficult parts of his life in Europe, Danial says, are the “lack of love and affection, not being with the family, and being lonely.” He spends his days helping other new immigrants that arrive at the camp, and volunteering for various organizations. Before he left home, Danial says he was young and immature and had no dreams for the future, but these days he dreams of being “the most truthful photographer in Europe.” He adds: “As the saying goes, ‘we have to slowly, slowly move forward.’”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

Good day!
Thank you.

Could you tell me what type of accommodation you live in?
In a 6m long Conex inside a camp.

Could you describe the conditions of the camp?
Well, the conditions of a 6m long metal Conex during summer are really difficult. We don’t have cooling units such as a gas air conditioner. But well, it’s really hot, the weather is hot.

Who are you living with?
I’m alone.

So, you don’t have anyone you’re living with?
No, unfortunately.

How do you spend your time here?
By helping other immigrants, by guiding the new immigrants that come here using my experience and I’m also a volunteer in other organizations. This is how I spend my time.

Do you work here or anywhere else?
Yes, I work as an unpaid volunteer.

What is the cause of your happiness?
If I can help people and have an opportunity to drop a smile on all the people that come here is heartwarming and the cause of my happiness.

Ever since you entered Europe, how has your life been?
Well, my life before coming here… was very new. It wasn’t what I had imagined. The people of Europe… How do I say it? … The people were really sociable and liked simple living in regards to the conditions that I had.

Was there any benefit of you staying here?
For now, I’m just gaining experience. The whole benefit is just experience. Nothing else.

What was difficult for you?
Lack of love and affection, not being with the family, and being lonely.

Can you explain how living here has made you feel?
A feeling of homelessness.

How do you feel being away from home or family members?
A feeling of choking. The feeling of not having any support. It really feels like being in a dark world where you can show the things in your heart, or empty yourself. You don’t have anyone.

Did you ever imagine coping with this condition?
Did is a past verb…. I didn’t know that I’m going to gain such an experience. But over time, if you reach here assuming the use of the past verb, then no. I wouldn’t have imagined.

How are you able to cope with this or that or live?
I don’t know about coping but getting a feeling of it and accepting it, this itself is called coping.

Do you think you have the ability to overcome these challenges or do you think you had strengths or skills or resolve to cope with these issues?
The strength and skill will get discovered at their respective times. It means until you don’t get trained or gain experience, you can never enter that challenge… Or even pass the situation by other means. In my opinion, these occur suddenly and have to be answered on the spot. You cannot wait, because the world of immigrants is a world filled with different challenges.

How has Covid-19 affected you in your life? (Interviewee interrupts)
Ohh Covid-19 …. Wow! Covid-19… well… was very challenging for everyone because the environment was very cold, and brought us a very uncertain environment. Because the virus was unknown and we didn’t know what we were going to face. So, we were very suspicious of everything and feared of getting sick. It was such that anyone that coughed *imitates coughing sound*, we said he has the Covid (virus) and we need to run away from him. So, it has a lot of impacts both in terms of trust and affection. There would be a cold relationship, let me give an example. There was someone who had the virus symptoms. We didn’t go near him and that guy had said: “I don’t have Covid, it’s true I have the symptoms but I don’t. I feel that I don’t have but you guys are staying away from me.” So, this makes the person sense the lack of kindness and affection. It was really challenging for all of us.

Your past, I wanted to ask some questions if you’re willing to answer.
I’ll answer any that I can consider and if I can’t, I won’t answer. (Interviewer: Right… okay)

Why did you leave the country?
I can’t tell, next.

How was the journey to Europe?
Why do you ask as if it’s a news headline? *laughs*

These questions are pre-determined.
Ahh, so it is.

Can you explain what happened after you left your country?
Well, a lot happened. Because when we leave our country, it’s illegal. Since we take a trip from here to there, it’s quite dangerous. One would go from one location to another in the hopes of not getting caught by the police, not getting caught by others, till they reach their destination. It’s very dangerous.

How did you feel at that time when this happened?

Only fear?
Only fear. Fear is the expression of everything. If you have fear, you can overcome it.

Did you have any specifically difficult experiences?
Not having or not knowing enough information.

Do you often think of these incidents that happened?
Yes, a lot, just like last night. I was thinking that if this and that happened, I would have been able to do a lot of things. But unfortunately, we come to think like this when it’s too late.

Is there anything specific that you think about often?
There are a lot of things that we think about. It’s not necessarily just a single thing. Because everything is related to each other.

How do you feel when you think of these, do you get a good feeling or a bad feeling?
A lot of things, if you have prior experience and want to experience them again, then you will get a good result. There were also a lot of good things and a lot of bad things because of a lack of experience.

Has the condition that you are in had an impact on you?
A lot! (Interviewer: How?) Well, for example, Ummm… how do I say it? A child enters a class and in order to go to the next class, he needs to pass the previous one. In the sense that, when I start work and when I reach the results, only then would I say “how amazing”.

Have you ever imagined managing those successes?
No one can prove their self-awareness. Why?? Because we can’t predict the future so it can’t be described.

How were you able to live and move on from the conditions?
With the hope of living. All of this goes back to the quality of humans. If we have hope for something, we can both stay alive and continue with it.

What was your dream for the future before the incident that led to you running away from your country?
I didn’t have any dreams because I didn’t do it voluntarily to leave my home.

Before leaving your country, what do you describe as your strength?
Since I was young and immature, I didn’t have any strengths. When the person is young and a teenager, well, he would do a lot of mistakes rather than doing or presenting better things. Due to this, I don’t see any strengths in my past self.

Have you still preserved the things you just mentioned?
There’s no reason for me to preserve them. Because we need to throw things that are wrong.

What you experienced seemed really difficult. Do you feel that these experiences have led to your improvement in any way or resulted in something positive in your life?
100%. If it didn’t result in something positive then I wouldn’t have had a lot of experience. Or even bad.

What hopes or dreams do you have now for the future?
Well, I have a lot of dreams, and it’s not just one or two for me to tell them. As the saying goes, “we have to slowly, slowly move forward”.

Can you describe one of your dreams?
One of my dreams is to…. Not the best but… to be the most truthful photographer of Europe.

Is there anything you’d like to add so that it helps the European people to understand the life of refugees in Europe?
If they remove the borders then all of us would be one. Without race, without skin color, without language. Humans!

Thank you for your interview.
Welcome, thank you.

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.