About Refugees, By Refugees
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“My dream was… To be an important person in society and be able to do something good for my country,” says Sahar Ebrahimi (16) from Afghanistan. But a lack of security, and life as a female there, left her feeling fearful and humiliated. After travelling by land and inflatable boat, she is now an asylum seeker at a refugee camp in Greece with her parents and brother. Life there is “worrisome” and “full of stress.” Thinking of her journey to Europe makes Sahar want to cry. “My morale has become more shaky… I can easily get upset and have become very sensitive.” To cope, she finds calm and peace in painting, and is a volunteer teacher to children at the camp. It is through her difficulties that she came to know her strengths. “I have overcome all those hardships, I have crossed the sea, I am now able to endure more problems,” Sahar tells herself, harboring dreams of becoming an actress or designer. “I came to understand life further,” she says. “I became stronger than before.”
Please introduce yourself and tell us what are you busy with these days? What do you do?
In the name of Allah, I am Sahar Ebrahimi. I am from Afghanistan and I teach children here in Ritsona camp. I teach drawing and first grade courses.
Do you work voluntarily or do you receive a salary?
You said it has been one year since you have come to Greece, right?
Did you first come to the Island or you came directly to Athens?
No, I was first on the island, Lesbos Island.
How long did you stay on Lesbos Island?
It has been 10 months you are here?
We were on Lesbos island for 10 months and then we spent around two months in a hotel and after that, it has been around five months that we are in Ritsona camp.
How is the living condition here? Can you elaborate?
The condition is both good and bad. Ummm… I don’t know how I should say that. I mean, it is good from one perspective. For example, we have a house and a shelter. On the other hand, we are indecisive and we are waiting to see whether we will get accepted or what future is waiting for us. Well, that’s it.
Who do you live with?
With my parents and one brother.
How do you spend your days? Do you work?
During the day… Lately, I have been going to class. I eat my breakfast and go to class and then I come back and read a book or read about anything else. Then, I have my lunch and at 5 o’clock, I teach first grade courses to my students.
What makes you happy and what makes you enjoy your life?
What is pleasing to me during this time is to be in a quiet place and express my inner feelings through something like drawing or acting, to show ummm …
Do you like acting?
How has life been from the time you came to Europe? What good points did it have for you and what negative points and difficulties did it have for you?
The good point about it is that I have security, I am with my parents and with my family. The bad points are that … I don’t know … I did not have any future until now and I am waiting to see whether I am going to get accepted… Whether I will be able to continue my education and reach my goals. That is it. I haven’t seen any other negative points.
How does living here make you feel?
My life is somewhat… Somewhat very saddening. Because we don’t know …
Can you please speak up?
Ummm … I don’t know. It is kind of worrisome and somewhat full of stress.
Would you even think of being in such a condition and be able to control it?
No, never. I never thought about it.
How could you endure the condition that you are in now, The conditions that you have overcome?
I don’t even know myself. I wouldn’t have even imagined myself being in such a situation and doing such activities. And now I don’t know how I bore it.
Do you think the difficulties and challenges you have faced have made you stronger and gain more strengths and skills?
Yes. I have come to know what strengths I have and I am able to overcome the current problems and can surely tolerate more and bigger problems, too.
How has Covid-19 affected your life and your emotions?
It is somewhat terrifying. At the beginning, I thought it was a joke but later I found out that it is terrifying. When they say there will be a quarantine, it is like they are pouring ice-cold water all over my body and I get a headache. I am afraid of getting quarantined and being at home all the time, not being able to see my friends and going out.
Now, I want to ask questions about the past. Why did you leave your country? What happened? Can you explain it to us?
Ummm… I don’t know.
At least if you can explain a little bit. You can speak generally if you cannot go into details.
Generally… I don’t know what to talk about.
How was your situation?
My condition was that our father was separated from us and my mother was caring for and looking after us. And it was somewhat hard. I was not with my father. Our father was not with us. We were in a condition that there was no one to support us. We did not have security. It was in a situation where a woman was not able to look after two children alone and I had no freedom to go out alone or for example, I, as a girl, could not go out alone and someone should always be there to guard me. All of these caused me… It made me come here and I thought to start a new life for myself. I was far from my father and never… Whenever we would go outside, I was always in fear and we would go out carrying fear all the time. We were like, we should go home quickly, we didn’t know what would happen next. All these things were a concern to us and …
What was your feeling at that time with all these fears and concerns?
Actually, I was feeling humiliated and I wished we had a shelter and I wished we didn’t have all these concerns and I wished we could experience a peaceful life, we would experience a quiet life.
Can you explain your trip to Europe to us? What difficulties and hardships did you face on your way?
The trip to Europe…
This smuggling way that you took to come here. Can you tell us how you came?
When we first came, first of all, they would put around 60 people in one terrible car there, sitting on top of each other. We came with a lot of difficulties. At sea, there were around 60 people riding one inflatable boat. We would put our life at stake by coming here by sea. Very… I don’t know… actually. The time that I was experiencing all those hardships, I was wishing when I reached Europe, I wished for a peaceful life and I wished to reach my goals, that is why I came here. It had its own hardships, especially at sea. I was about to cry when we were at sea. I said “Oh God, I wish I wasn’t in the middle of the sea and I wish I had experienced a life back where I was before and I wouldn’t have to face all these problems.”
What was your feeling at that time?
Do you mostly think about what has happened to you? When? Or what makes you think about them?
When… Most of the time before I go to sleep, these happenings come into my mind and when I tell myself what will happen tomorrow, then when I think about the past and the things that happened to me, then I tell myself, I have overcome all those hardships, I have crossed the sea, I am now able to endure more problems.
When you think about those memories and they pop up in your head, how do you feel at that time?
I feel sad and I want to cry.
How have the situations you have encountered affected your life?
Its impact… Is…
Considering every aspect. Both good points and bad points, its impact on your morale.
My morale has become more shaky. I have become more sensitive than I was before. I can easily get upset and have become very sensitive. And… the good points are that I might be able to reach my goals.
Would you ever think you will be in such a situation and be able to control it?
How could you overcome these memories? What technique did you use to make those memories fade away? Or did you find a place to support you with this?
Ummm… No place, really. I myself don’t even know how I endured it. Only when I was in Moria with all those problems would I go somewhere for painting, and it was only painting that would calm me down. All my thoughts during the day and all the happenings that would happen in Moria, the concerns that I had, but when I went to my painting class, it was as if those problems didn’t even exist. I would feel that I am experiencing a peaceful life in the painting class, when I was painting.
Before you wanted to leave your country and start this journey, what was your dream for the future? When you start talking, please start your sentence with “my dream was …” and then talk about your dream.
My dream was to be able to be… To be an important person in society and be able to do something good for my country and for all… For my country and for myself.
When you left your home and started this journey, what was your dream for your future back then?
Ummm… It was… how should I say it?
What was your dream when you were on your way here?
My dream was to reach here. The first thing during that time when I was having all those hard times was to reach here. When I reached it, I thought that I will for sure achieve my goals. I would become an actress and do the acting that I like, I would become a designer, I would become a painter.
Before you left your country and your home, what skills did you have and what were your strengths?
I know that you were younger. What do you feel were your strengths and your skills? For example, one was hard-working, one was responsible, and someone … ummm … had a good handwriting. What did you have back then that made you feel you were stronger than other people your age?
Do you still have that sense of responsibility?
The things that have happened to you on your way are really difficult. And do you think these hardships have made you grow? And do you think these difficulties have created a positive point and a strength inside you that you didn’t have before?
Can you elaborate?
For example, I don’t know… How?
For example, the difficulties of the smuggling route that you took to come here were really hard. These hardships, for example, make someone stronger, make someone more intelligent, make another more fearless, what changes did they bring about inside you?
I came to understand life further. And that I become more stone-hearted.
You mean you became stronger?
Yes, I became stronger. Yes, I became stronger than before.
What is your dream now for your future? Start with “My dream is”.
My dream is to become a designer. And… First of all, I want to become an actress and after that if I can’t achieve this goal or don’t become an actress that I am sure I can be and I will try my best. In case there are some problems or anything happens, I want to become a designer.
Sure. Thank you very much for answering my questions. And at the end, if there is anything that you would like to share to help people better understand the immigrant’s situation and their lives here, you can say it.
I would like to thank you… It is… We should never lose our hope. We should be hopeful and always strong. That is it.
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.