About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Sara hiding her face with a purple polka dot cap and sunglasses while holding a lilac phone in her other hand

Sara Sabery

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:

Bosnia and Herzegovina



Sharmin Tolouimehr

“My dream was to reach my goals but I didn’t have permission,” says Sara Sabery (20), who was born in Iran to a family from Afghanistan. She left her home to escape the limitations placed on her by family members, which gave her “the feeling of getting choked … that I can’t grow.” On the journey to Europe, Sara faced hunger, thirst, and days of walking. The memories come back to her at night: “When I put my head on the pillow and think of the difficulty of the way, I get a feeling of strangeness.” To keep going, she focused on her faith, and thought of how “my sister had my back.” Now in Sarajevo, Sara feels “homesick because I feel that I don’t belong here,” but also “stronger and sturdier” because of her experiences. “I would never allow myself to forget so that when I reach somewhere in life, I would know where I used to be,” she says. Her dream remains “to achieve my goals, reach my wishes, be a strong girl in the future, and not lean on anyone for support except for myself.”

Trigger Warning: Sexism/discrimination

full interview

Hello. How are you?
Hello, thank you. How are you?

Thanks, are you ready for the interview?
Yes, go ahead.

I’m going to ask questions based on your current condition. What type of accommodation do you live in?
For now, I’m living inside a camp.

Could you explain the conditions?
The condition that … was on the way was very difficult but now it’s very good.

Who are you living with?
I live alone.

How do you spend your time here?
I want to learn the language and I want to adapt myself to the conditions that I have.

Do you work?
No, I don’t work at the moment.

What are the things that are the cause of your happiness?
I become happy from the happiness of others. Then, the fact that I came here. It makes me happy.

Ever since you entered Europe, how has your life been?
A … a feeling of peace, the feeling of security. It gives me a good feeling.

What was the benefit of staying here?
Every day that passes, I become hopeful about living and of learning new things.

What was difficult for you?
The route of the way and the current condition that I have.

Is there anything else?

Can you explain how living here has made you feel?
It gives me the hope to reach success and a lot of wishes.

How do you feel being away from home or family members?
The feeling of homesickness, the feeling of being far away, the feeling of nostalgia.

How has the feeling of not belonging here or discrimination affected you?
I feel homesick because I feel that I don’t belong here.

Did you ever imagine coping with this condition? The condition that you’re currently in?
Never, I can never imagine or cope with such a difficult situation.

Was it really hard?

How were you able to overcome it to live?
By thinking of the good days and my goals.

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? Did you have these?
Yes, I did.

Now, I going to talk about your past with you. Why did you leave the country?
Because of my family, they used to annoy me a lot, because of my job, goals, and the limitations I had.

Do you mean that they didn’t give you any permission?
Permission … umm, for example … the way that I want to be comfortable in it myself … No.

You were that restricted?

Can you describe what happened to you?
The feeling of a prisoner, not evolving, not having any freedom, these things.

How did you feel at that time?
A good feeling

(Interviewer interrupts: No, when they didn’t give you any permission. What feeling did you have?)
The feeling of getting choked … that I can’t grow or when someone hinders what I do, and the fact that I can’t stand on my feet.

You couldn’t do anything?
When my family didn’t give me permission, no … I couldn’t argue with them.

How was the journey to Europe?
Very good, the fact that I can stand on my feet, do my work myself, and have high hopes to live.

Did you have any specifically difficult experiences that you can tell us?
Yes, the difficulty of the way. I suffered a lot on the way, I faced a lot of difficulties and as days passed by, I knew that I was one step closer to my goals.

How was the difficulty of the way?
The difficulty of the route as in I suffered a lot on the route, the walking that I did, hunger, thirst and I thank God that I reached my goal.

Thank God.

What feeling did you have at that time? When the route was difficult?
The feeling of becoming mature, strong, sturdy. It gives me such feelings.

Do you often think of these incidents that happened?
Yes, I do.

At night when I put my head on the pillow and think of the difficulty of the way, I get a feeling of strangeness.

Are there anything specific ones that you think about often?
I think of them at night and go over the memories (in my head).

Is there anything specific?

When you think of them, what feeling do you have?
Things like reaching my goals, higher successes, and the things I want to achieve. These things.

Has the current condition that you face have an impact on you?
Yes, I have a good feeling, feeling of happiness, and feeling of peace.

Have you ever imagined of managing those situations that you were in?
Yes, because of my dreams … I know that I will reach my dreams and I will achieve my goals and no one can hinder my work.

How were you able to live or move on from those situations?
Because I think of my dreams. I have to reach the things I want.

Did you have any strategy or mechanism to overcome the difficult days and memories?
Difficult … yes, it was difficult but … I had difficult days while on the way and as I said earlier … my family didn’t give me permission but now I can because I’m alone and I’m on my own feet and thinking of my goals makes me have a good feeling and I’m happy.

Where did you get the strength and support?
God always had my back and I have a strong belief that what I wanted from the bottom of my heart was from God and grateful for the things He gave me. The hope to live and another thing that had my back was my sister because she always supports me.

What was your dream before the incident that led to you running away from your country?
My dream was to reach my goals but I didn’t have permission.

That’s all? Was there no other way?
No, my dream was to reach my goals and improve. Have a great improvement.

What hopes or dreams did you have now for the future when you left your home?
My dream was to reach my goals, and have a good life and after my family finally comes to know about me would understand that I have finally reached the things I wanted. So, they would regret ever wanting to hinder my growth and improvement.

How about freedom?
I wasn’t a girl to ever want freedom. I just wanted to achieve the things I want and no one to hinder my work.

I want to conclude these questions. Before leaving your country, what did you describe as your strength?
First, God. Second, my self-confidence and I always believed that I will reach (my goals) somewhere in life and my sister had my back.

Have you preserved all these?

If so, how? How did you preserve them?
Do you mean that it would make me strong?

No, when you described your strengths, did you preserve them? Yes?

I keep going over them in my mind. I would never allow myself to forget so that when I reach somewhere in life, I would know where I used to be.

Were you in contact with your sister?
Yes, after coming to Europe, I called them and told them that I got here.

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, the fact that I came here … the situation that I’m currently in, I feel stronger and sturdier and I can achieve the things I want.

What are the hopes and dreams you have now for the future?
My dream is to achieve my goals, reach my wishes, be a strong girl in the future, and not lean on anyone for support except for myself.

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?
The European people already know, they understand … I think. They see everything. There’s nothing else. I am grateful to you.

You don’t have anything else to say?

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.