About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Parisa with her long hair open and hiding her face

Parisa Farahmand

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:

Bosnia and Herzegovina



Sharmin Tolouimehr

“I always thought that I should come and become a bridge for my children,” says Parisa Farahmand (pseud, 40) from Iran. “I never imagined entering such a challenge.” When Parisa and her husband divorced, she found herself unable to work to support her sons. She decided to come to Europe, but “it was so difficult that I wanted to return and didn’t want to continue the rest of the way.” During the journey, she and her group often had no food or water. “It was difficult for me as a woman. I suffered,” she says. Communicating with her sons and parents back at home helped Parisa find the strength to continue. She also drew on her faith: “I always had my trust and faith in God to be able to come through this route.” Now in a camp in Sarajevo, she often feels homesick as “it’s kind of hard for people not to belong to the place they are in.” Parisa hopes one day to reunite with her family: “My dream is to continue this path and reach my destination in order to bring my children near me.”

Trigger Warning: Sexism (discrimination)

full interview

Shall we start?

It’s about your current condition. What type of accommodation do you live in?
I am now in a camp.

Could you explain the conditions?
Well, in the camp that we are in, the conditions are not really interesting. Our camp is extremely crowded and extremely polluted. They don’t attend to us the way they should attend. But, well, we have no other choice. We are forced to stay here until our situation is specified.

Who are you living with?
I’m now living with my group mates.

How do you spend your time here?
Well, sometimes we go to language class, we go to handcraft class, or a gathering held by the guys… we just spend the time.

Do you work?
No, no specific work.

What are the things that are the cause of your happiness?
The gathering with the guys, they put music… we are together and we somehow spend the time.

Ever since you entered Europe, how has your life been?
Well, ever since I entered Europe, it was really difficult, was homesick, being far from family. I was forced to start work here… well, it was difficult, really difficult for me.

What was the benefit of staying here?
Being here compared to the previous area that I was in, well, I think it’s so much better. Now compared to where I used to live… (Interviewer interrupts: Where did you live before?) I used to live in Iran.

What was difficult for you?
Being far from my children was very difficult for me, being far from my father and mother, homesickness… was really difficult for me. I’ve never experienced it.

Can you explain how living here has made you feel?
Well, my feeling… I came here mostly because of my children. I came here because of my son, because I wanted to bring them here, to live in Europe. In this regard, I’m happy because I was able to step up for my children.

What feeling do you get being away from your family members?
Well, it’s really difficult. For example, being far from my children, far from my father and mother. It’s really difficult, it hurts me but, well, I try to spend the time so that I can follow the path and achieve my goals.

How has the feeling of not belonging here or discrimination affected you? Can you explain it?
Well, it affects people a lot because you don’t belong there. As in, unless you don’t reach your destination, you have an unknown situation. In other words, you have an uncertain status. Well, it’s kind of hard for people not to belong to the place they are in. The perspectives of the people or the things that happen to you are really difficult, I think.

Did you ever imagine coping with this condition? The condition that you are currently in.
No, not yet. For example, I tried a lot to cope with it but it was really difficult. I can’t accept the fact that I’m in such a condition.

How were you able to overcome it to live?
Well, sometimes I’m busy with music or either practice my language. I try to overcome the situation by doing these two favorite activities of mine… to fade the condition that I am currently in and not think much about it.

Do you think you have gained the ability to overcome these challenges or do you think you had the strength or mechanism to cope with these issues?
Well, the route was really difficult but I was able to get along with it. I passed it in a good way.

How has Covid-19 affected your daily life?
Well, this disease from the start until now has in a way affected people. Such as being sensitive so we had to protect ourselves. It has affected people a little.

Now, it’s about your past. Why did you leave the country?
Well, because I’ve divorced my former husband and I didn’t have any income in Iran. I couldn’t handle my own problems. I tried to somehow earn money to leave that place so that I can live here.

What feeling did you have at that time?
Well, it was really hard. I had to separate myself from my family and sons and wanted to immigrate. It was really difficult.

How was the journey to Europe?
Well, the trip to Europe was a challenge for me. It was a hard challenge and I was able to overcome this challenge successfully.

Did you have any specifically difficult experiences that you can tell us?
Well, I want to say about the route. The route was really difficult. As in, it was difficult for me as a woman. I suffered.

What feeling did you have at that time?
Sometimes I felt like going back. It was so difficult that I wanted to return and didn’t want to continue the rest of the way.

Do you often think of these incidents that happened?
Yes, a lot. I constantly think about them.

Well, sometimes at noon… at night when I want to sleep. Mostly at noon when I’m jobless.

Is there anything specific that you think about often?
Well, mostly my children, my family, and being far away from my nation.

When you think of them, what feeling do you get?
Well, I get uncomfortable and sometimes cry.

How has the current condition that you face have an impact on you?
Well, it was really difficult. I suffered a lot. I never imagined entering such a challenge. It was a very big challenge and it was hard.

Have you ever imagined of managing those situations?
Well, yes… I had to listen to our leader and concentrate on his words and follow the principles.

How were you able to cope with the difficult route?
Well, Ummm… well, I always thought that I should come and become a bridge for my children. It was really important to me… to be able to come through this route so that I can bring my children.

Did you have any solution or resolution to overcome the difficult days and memories?
*silence* (Interviewer: repeats question)
Well, sometimes, for example… when we were on the way, the weather was really hot and water ran out and we didn’t have any water. It was really difficult but when we found water somewhere we would be really happy. At times, our food would run out and we didn’t have food for 3 to 4 days. It was really difficult.

Where did you get the strength and support?
With my faith in God, I always had my trust and faith in God to be able to come through this route.

What was your dream before the incident that led to you running away from your country? Can you start with “My dream was…”?
Well, my dream was to have a good life with my husband along with my two sons. But, well, it never happened. I tried a lot and made a lot of effort to be with my husband and children but unfortunately, it didn’t happen and we divorced.

What dreams did you have for the future when you were leaving your home?
My only wish was to bring my children with me. Being far from my children is really tough for me. So, my only wish was to bring my children to me.

Now concluding the questions. Before leaving your country, what did you describe as your strength? What gave you strength?
Well, I, ummm… One is my family and my sons and also that they were the ones that gave me assurance and were the cause for me leaving and entering this path which I did by speaking to my children, my father, and mother, and they gave me hope and strength.

Have you preserved these?

If so, how?
Well, I mostly did it by calling them or sending a message to my son or family.

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?
Well, one is my strength and sturdiness and also, I was able to take strong steps on the path I was in, and with the high confidence I had, I could come through this way.

What are the hopes and dreams you have now for the future? “My dream is…”
My dream is to continue this path and reach my destination in order to bring my children near me.

This is your only dream?
Yes, only my children.

We thank you for answering all the questions. Is there anything else you’d like to add so that it helps the European people to better understand the life of refugees in Europe?
Well, I can tell the officials to understand us a bit more, especially lonely women. The route is really difficult, one would really suffer on the way and bad things would happen. I would like the officials to hear that we need their support, we need someone to have our backs and help us because the route is really difficult and hard but like I really hoped someone would support me and help ease our way. That’s all

Thank you. Merci.

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.