About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Maryam with her face turned and hidden to show the back of her hair

Maryam Ahmadi

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:

Bosnia and Herzegovina



Sharmin Tolouimehr

“My dream was to one day be with my children again in a different place which has peace and be with them without any problems,” says Maryam Ahmadi (35), who left Iran due to her religion. Now at a camp in Sarajevo with her husband, she says being away from her children has taken a toll: “Living here has given me sorrow, homesickness, and loneliness… And every day is harder than the previous day.” But speaking to her children brings Maryam joy, and she finds strength and support from herself and her children. “I’m a strong woman and I have the ability to overcome any kind of problem,” she says, adding that she overcomes challenges through her hope for better days ahead: “Thinking of my children becomes the cause of my strength and is the cause of my advancement.” She dreams of growing, reaching her goals, and reuniting with her family in a place where she has rights as a woman: “My only dream is to experience it in a different country with a different peace.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

Hello Mrs. Maryam. How are you?
Greetings, hope you are doing well. I’m Maryam Ahmadi.

You know what the questions will be about, right?
Yes, yes.

I’m going to ask questions based on your current condition. What type of accommodation do you live in?
The accommodation that we are living here now is a camp. It doesn’t have a suitable condition.

Could you explain the conditions?
The conditions aren’t suitable. It’s either a Conex or wooden rooms in which they put 2 to 3 couples in one room which is absolutely not convenient. The hygienic facilities are really weak. In terms of hygiene, it’s completely ignored in the camp.

Who are you living with?
With my husband.

How do you spend your time here?
I visit different Conexes. We knit; we draw.

Do you work?

What are the things that are the cause of your happiness?
Speaking to my children who are in Iran.

Ever since you entered Europe, how has your life been?
The way was really difficult, it was really difficult and I don’t recommend this to others when they don’t have a problem and they want to step into such a path.

What was the benefit of staying here?
For now, there wasn’t any benefit.

What was difficult for you?
A burnt month, our physical and mental conditions. It’s really difficult.

Can you explain how living here has made you feel?
Living here has given me sorrow, homesickness, and loneliness… And every day is harder than the previous day.

How do you feel being away from home or family members?
It has caused me sorrow, making me weep every day. Because I’m far from my children and this disappointment is having a big toll on me.

How has the feeling of not belonging here or discrimination affected you?
Discrimination and the sense of not belonging here don’t have much effect because the people of Bosnia aren’t far from the people of Iran but it’s rather us that are sad because we are far from our family… And that we have problems and we aren’t in a good situation.

Did you ever imagine coping with this condition?
We have to cope with the situation… We are forced to get along with it. Due to necessity, we are forced to cope.

How were you able to overcome it to live?
To busy ourselves with work.

Do you think you have the ability to overcome these challenges or do you think you had strengths or mechanisms to cope with these issues?
Yes, I’m a very, very strong woman and I can fight with all problems but there are certain issues that get us emotionally involved which causes distress.

Now, I’m going to talk about your past with you. Why did you leave the country?
Can you go to the next question?

How was the journey to Europe?
The journey to Europe was accompanied by challenges and difficulties and it had its own specific problems.

Did you have any specifically difficult experiences that you can tell us?
I don’t have any specific experience but I really recommend… If people don’t have any problems, don’t leave your country for the sake of Europe. Because in this path, there are different people, different conditions, different difficulties and… It has its own problems. It’s not easy as they say. People say different things from afar but when one enters this process, they realize it’s much more difficult than what they thought.

What feeling did you have at that time? When the route was difficult?
I had a sad feeling but since I couldn’t go back to where I was because of my problem, I was forced to overcome it.

Do you often think of the incidents that happened?
Not often but well… I might think of these problems or situations or the things that happened on the way once or twice a week.

Is there anything specific that you think about often?
No, nothing specific.

When you think of them, what feeling do you have?
Are you talking about the present time or when I was on the way?

The thing you’re thinking now.
The only thing that I think about now, is that I’m far from my children and family. This displeases me a lot.

Has the current condition that you faced had an impact on you?
It certainly does.

I don’t know but I do know that every day… Any situation that arises will have side effects that will affect us and we have to prepare ourselves for anything depending on the situation that arises.

Have you ever imagined of managing those situations?
Yes, I’ll say it once again… I’m a strong woman and I have the ability to overcome any kind of problem. The only thing that can uproot me is being far from my children.

How were you able to cope with the difficult way?
Well, with the hope of a better tomorrow, with the hope that I will overcome these problems and I will see better days. I’ve passed these challenges, problems, and difficulties. Because of my goal and the problem that I had which didn’t allow me to go back forced me to cope with this issue.

Did you have any solution or mechanism to overcome the difficult days?
All the solutions are difficult. Every work has its own difficulties

Where did you get the strength and support?
From me myself.

Only yourself?
Only myself. Only myself and the things that I think… And thinking of my children becomes the cause of my strength and is the cause of my advancement.

What was your dream before the incident that led to you running away from your country? Can you start with “My dream was…”?
Well, this goes back to my case where I can’t explain.

Oh sorry.
No worries.

What hopes or dreams do you have now for the future when you were leaving your home?
When I left my home, left my nation… (interviewer interrupts: sorry say “My dream was to…”) My dream was to one day be with my children again in a different place which has peace and be with them without any problems… And this is my biggest dream as a mother.

Now concluding the questions. Before leaving your country, what did you describe as your strength? What gave you strength?
*silence* (interviewer: you don’t want to?) Well as I said, it depends on the above question which I don’t want to speak about it… Or answer this question.

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?
Yes, it’s definitely like that. When a person… Unless they experience the life of a refugee or immigrant, they won’t realize it but when they step on such a path and see the difficulties, they slowly grow in a way that prepares them for a better life… And they won’t step down from small problems and this helps one become strong.

What are the hopes and dreams you have now for the future? “My dream is…”
My dream is to… I’ll say it again. To grow, reach my goals, and manage a happy family by being alongside them. In a place that really… Cares for me as a woman and to have my basic rights. My only dream is to experience it in a different country with a different peace.

We thank you for your answering all the questions. Is there anything you’d like to add so that it helps the European people to understand the life of refugees in Europe?
My opinion is that I’m telling this to all the people of Europe and immigrants; anyone that leaves their home and immigrates surely had a problem that they stepped in such a path and it’s possible that any moment, any second this problem could happen to any person. So, it’s better to stand with the refugees… Not in front of them and cause problems for them.

Thank you. Merci.
Welcome. I hope that my answers were of help to your questions.

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.