About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Wuliboy hiding his face with his hand


Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:

United Kingdom



Aymen Mahammednor

“I was not happy to leave my country, but the situation made me leave,” says Wuliboy (pseud, 21). He was 15 when he fled Eritrea to avoid being recruited by the military. It was a hard journey, mentally and physically: he went to Sudan on foot, crossed a desert by car to Libya, then took a boat to Italy. The experience has made him stronger, he says. “That was not easy journey, so [it] does make me tough.” In spite of this, he still hopes to return and help others fight the regime in his country. He also wishes to see his family, whom he misses. “When I hear my mom voice and my brother’s voice… sometimes I want to see them face by face, enjoy my life with them. But hopefully we’re going to meet one day.” Today Wuliboy lives in London, where he splits his time between work and school. “My dream is to become an engineer,” he says. It’s a dream he’s had since he was young. “I was like football player, basketball player, and I was good student”—which he still is, he adds. “I never give up.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

Hi, my name is Aymen, so as you know the purpose of this video, this interview is to, yeah, to have your story so we can, like, help other people understand, like, what we go through as a refugee and, yeah, just give them an understanding of… of people, people of different race and people from different backgrounds. And in this, in this interview, you don’t have to give any names that you don’t want to give and also at the end, we are going to be taking pictures. If you don’t want your face to be shown, you don’t have to show. And yeah, if you feel in the middle of the interview, if you feel that you’re not happy or about anything, you can stop, we can, you can tell me to stop the interview and I will stop the interview.

And at the end, when we finish this interview, there is going to be like a form just to have from you that to just have that permission from you that we can use like this story in the future.

And during the interview, I’m going to ask like some personal questions. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to answer it. If it’s alright with you, then you can answer.

Do you have any questions or should we start?
No, I don’t have any questions, I’m happy to give people all my detail and…

Okay, amazing. Perfect. Uh, what kind of housing do you live on right now, and can you describe the condition of it?
I basically I live in a private house. So I just rent it from the agent and the rent is 1400 monthly.

And the house is okay, not bad but not that big; it’s a very small house and the rent is too expensive for me. And I’m trying to get cheap to afford how I can pay my rent.

Okay, do you live by yourself or do you live with your family?
I live by myself.

So you live in your place with your – you with yourself?
Yeah and my cousin.

Okay. How do you spend your time here? Do you work?
Yes, I do work. I’m a full-time—a part-time worker and I’m a student at the same time. I’m a hard worker and I study at the same time.

Amazing. What are some of the things that brings you joy here in the U.K.?
So the—when I came here, like, I know different people, and different diversity, from different country, so I make a new friend here, like, from different country, different race, different community, so they all of them go there and I’m happy I met them.

What are some of the things that brings you joy here in the everyday life?
I’ve got, like I go different community, so I enjoy there. We have like boxing, football, we like, like, help charity. That’s all.

Amazing. How has life been since you arrived here in Europe? What has been the good and—what has been good about it—and what has it been, like, difficult a bit?
When I came here to the U.K., like, they helped me, they helped me a lot. And when, so which is make me like leave my country of—I leave my country of the regime—there’s totalitarian government there, so… Which is I don’t like here, I miss my family and I wish that they could come but I never see my parents’ face now, ten years.

Okay. So since, uh, since you have, since you came here to the U.K., how has that been since you arrived here in Europe? What has been good about it and what has been difficult since you came here?
Okay. The good thing is… when I came here I feel I’m a human. The bad thing is… when I came here I don’t know to meet people and to have friend.

Okay. Can you describe how living here has made you feel?
I feel good.

As a human being.

How has, how does being away from the rest of your family, home, friends makes you feel?
Ahh, it’s like, ugh, I miss my family and my friends. It’s very hard when you’re new here and you don’t have a friend and no one to play with him, no one, like, go out. So it does make me to miss them.

Yeah, and then how did you overcome this? How, how did like you make friends?
Oh, when I came here after like three months, I went to school and I try to make friend there and I made it. That was a challenge for me.

Do you, do you still miss your parents now or did you overcome it?
Of course I still miss them. I love to see them with me.

Amazing. So what are some of the skills and some of the skills that you use to help you with missing, missing your family, friends, and leaving your home? What are some of the skills that you use to help you, or distract you?
When I phone them, when I speak with them, I get happy. When I hear my mom voice and my brother’s voice, so, I guess, you know, sometimes I want to see them face by face, enjoy the rest of my life with them. But hopefully we’re going to meet one day.

Okay. Uh, change topic: how has COVID affected you in terms of your daily life, your, your mood, feeling, and emotionally, your emotional well being?
COVID does give me big challenge because I was a key worker, so I was not staying at home, I was always at work, and I get the challenge to help lot of people. So I was doing good and it was test for me. How can I challenge COVID-19? So we’re still doing great to control the virus.

Okay, so you were working?
As a key worker, so I delivered food to the elderly people.

So they can stay home safely because the COVID affect mostly the old people.

Okay and how, how was it tough, like, mentally, to see a lot of people, like?
They was, they was not happy to stay at home, they want to go walk on the park. But they have to respect the rule and then we tell them, “Don’t risk your life, just going to be end soon,” we were always giving them advice and confidence so it was big challenge.

Like for you, seeing like a hundred thousands people dying across the world, how like, mentally did it affect you and how did you overcome it?
It doesn’t affect me any mentally. So it was many loved one, and it was very hard time, so we tried to over control the virus and we was listening to our government to… for the safe distancing, what they tell us, so we follow.

Amazing. Uh, so now this is some questions for, like, in the past.

Why did you leave your country? Can you describe like what happened? What was the cause that let you leave your country?
I leave my country because I’ve got my old, my old brother and sister. They take them to the military camp and they didn’t come back, so they been there for long. And I was like, they was, they came to our school and they tried to take us, and we run from there. And my mom get scared for me, they might take me to the military camp. And then, I accept, I ran away from the Government Sudan. So I ran away from the Government Sudan and then I was living in Sudan for a couple of days and I came to Libya by the desert and after that I came from Libya, I came to Italy by the sea. It was a very big challenge for me. And I was like… I was not thinking (unclear audio) I was like very mentally problem for me. It was very bad the journey. There was no food, no water. End of the day, thanks God we manage all this thing.

Amazing. So, like you said, like when you leaving your country, like before you leave your country you were at school. How old were you? Like, were you like?
I was, I was 15.

You were 15?
Yeah, when I leave my country. But they don’t, they don’t care what the age is you, how is your weight, if you are tall and you got knife, they take you, they don’t care about the age.

Okay, can you clarify this in a full sentence? Uh, like before you leave your country, like, what… what is, what is the, what is the National Service? How is the National Service in Eritrea and why would they come to you and want to take you?
Because they don’t want to stay with them on the military. Everyone who in the the military, they run away from them because there is no end for the military there, they take you forever. So they don’t leave you. If the military service was one year, two year. So okay, but, they don’t give you even, like, they don’t give you to see your family, you are always in the military camp. Even my dad is like 60 years old, he still is on the military camp. They didn’t even give him, like, they give him after like six or after seven years he come to us, one day, two days, and he go back there. So that’s why I don’t want to go to the military camp.

Okay, and where are you from again?
I’m from Eritrea.

Okay. When, so when you were leaving your country, when you were leaving your country, how did that make you feel? Like leaving your home, leaving your all your childhood dreams?
I was not happy to leave my country, but the situation made me leave my country. So it is what it is what happened, so I was not happy to leave my country. And still, I hope, to go back my country, see my family, and help the other people that take the regime out from the country. We don’t want to, to be the government dictator, we want to be the freedom of speech.

Okay, so when you left Eritrea, did you leave by car, like how did you leave?
Uh, when I leave from Eritrea to Sudan, I was going by foot.

To Sudan and from Sudan to Libya was desert, we went by car.

And from Libya to Italy, uh, we went by the… on the sea by…

By what?


Okay. Uh, do you, do you think about this event often? About, like, the past that happens to you? Do you think about, do you think about, do you think about some of the event that happens to you in the past? If yes, which, like, which one do you particularly, like, do you remember like one bad, do you remember one bad time?
Say again the question please.

Do you think, do you often think about the events, like the problems that happened to you when you were leaving your country? If yes, if you remember, do you remember any particular day or particular time that you felt like very, like, not good?
No, alright. I already forget about everything.

So you don’t, so you don’t remember about the past?
No. I do remember, but not many, so…

Was there a particular day that it was like some like, for example, when you were travelling from Eritrea to Sudan?
Oh yeah, there is. When I leave my mom and my brothers, that was very sad day for me and I still remember it.

Okay. And, uh, and does this situation affect you into today? The situation that happens in the past?
Yes, still.

And how do you, how do you overcome this kind of situation like that happens to you in the past?
Say again that, please.

So the things that happens to you in the past, how do you overcome it?
Oh… I don’t know. I trying to like, you know, pray my God to help me. And, I do exercise, forget about the stress. I do gym and boxing and football, so it does make you clean your mind.

Okay, great. All the situations that happens to you, what was – like, from all this stuff that happened to you – how do you stay positive? How do you say motivated? How do you, how do you deal with all the bad stuff?
Oh, the bad stuff I try to forget which is bad thing what’s happened to me. So… I go out with friend, I go to different communities so I can forget which is past so I try to improve my life from now on. Forget what has happened to me all.

Okay. So this is the last couple of questions and then we’ll finish. When you were leaving your home, what was your dream for the future?
Oh, my dream when I came to the UK to study and become…

When you were leaving your home, what was your dream for the future?
Oh, my dream is to become an engineer. And get good job and improve my life and help the country, which is I live in. They helped me a lot, so I have to look after the country and pay my tax, and pay everything, which is to the government and follow the rule, respect the rule. God save the United Kingdom.

Before the event that led you to leave your country, what was your dream as a, as a child?
Before I leave my country?

Yeah, what was your dream as a child?
Yeah, my dream to come similar engineer in Eritrea, airplane engineering.

My dream was…
My dream was to come an engineer and I was trying hard to come, I was studying, I was good at the school. So it is what it is what happened.

Okay, this is a wrap-up question, this is the wrap-up question. Before leaving your home country, what would you describe as, what would you describe as your strength?
Say again that?

Before leaving your home country, what would you, what would you describe as your strengths? Like, something that gives you power. When you were young, something that motivates you?
Oh, which is like I go through that all makes me strong. All the way, this was not easy journey, so does make me like tough, strong.

How about before leaving your home country when you were in Eritrea?
Oh, when I was in Eritrea, like, I was very strong. I was like football player, basketball player and I was good student.

Have you maintained that? Do you still have it?
Yes, I’m still doing it here as well. I never give up.

Okay and this is the last two question. What advice or a message would you give to people who are not people who are from Europe or people who are not refugees? What advice would you give them to know about refugees or people of very different race?
Oh, I would like to say to them when when they come flee here to this country, they don’t have anything, so when we treat them good here, they will treat the country good. And we have to show them, like, we have to tell them the rule and we have to give them good income until they improve themselves. And when we treat them good, they will treat their country good. So when we find them job, we find them home, so we have to tell them as well, be good, don’t go to the bad way. That’s all.

Okay. Do you think, do you think refugee or people from different backgrounds when they come here to Europe, they are destroying the economy?
No, they’re not destroying the economy. They, they help the economy because who coming young here, they would like work, they would pay rent, and they would pay tax. They, like, helping the country, the country’s economy and they work hard, so they think this country they country. And… that’s it.

Okay, lastly, last question. What advice would you give to new arrivals, like refugee to Europe, what advice would you give them, or a message?
Oh, just respect the rule and listen, someone came before you when giving you advice. And don’t go the bad way and try to when you came here, when you are another country, when you finish your study, try to help the country, which is help you a lot and follow the rule.

What you have been through seems really difficult and I wish you very good luck. Thank you so much for, for, for being part of the storyteller, and thank you so much for everything.
That’s all right, sir. 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.