Hayat’s story: A new beginning in Spain

© UNHCR/Yorgos Kyvernitis

Hayat and her children enjoy an organised tour at the Cycladic Art Museum in Athens

Fourteen-year-old Sami gets carried away when he listens how the everyday life of teenagers was, during the ancient Greek Classical era, and stands in awe of the warriors’ helmets. Nine-year-old Rahaf cannot keep her eyes off the big, marble Cycladic figurine of a woman with her hands crossed. Twelve-year-old Abdal Fatah scrutinizes simple everyday objects: vessels, oil lamps, looms.

“It is so interesting for someone to get to know one of the oldest civilizations” their mother Hayat Alidriss says, while she enjoys together with her children every second of this short throwback to the beginning of the European civilization.

With the assistance of the NGO Praksis, Hayat’s family is one of those that reside at an apartment, within UNHCR’s Accommodation for Relocation scheme funded by the European Union. Many more families participating at the program had the chance to attend an organized tour of the Cycladic Art Museum, offered by the Museum itself.

Forty-year-old Hayat’s request for relocation was accepted recently and the whole family is soon going to Spain. She feels stressed because she doesn’t know anyone there. “But, I know that -thank God- we are lucky, we’ve seen other families’ requests being rejected, without even knowing why. I’m looking forward to be in Spain, to have a place where we can start a new, normal life”.

A life quite different from the one she left behind in Damascus. The situation was really difficult, but they were determined to stay in their country. Every now and again they were saying that the war would end, but instead it was becoming more and more violent. Hayat suffered a severe head injury after a bomb attack and she stayed at the hospital for a long time. When she recovered, she took her children and left the country. “We realized that, if we stayed, this would only mean our death. You don’t have a choice. Every day we were risking our children’s lives, our own lives. To be saved, we had to flee”.

Her husband stayed in Syria. He couldn’t leave behind his old, sick parents. She left alone, with the kids. They came to Greece from Turkey through the island Lesvos and from there they moved towards the borders with the Former Yugoslavic Republic of Macedonia. The traffickers had told them that they would be able to cross the borders within a week to continue their journey towards northern Europe. After the borders closed, Hayat was desperate. She and the kids were transferred to the newly established accommodation site of Halkero in Kavala. They stayed there for about five months until the day they got the much-desired call, informing them they could go for full registration.

At that point, about one and a half month ago, they were accepted at UNHCR’s Accommodation for Relocation Scheme and moved to an apartment, with the support of Praksis. “It was a huge relief being in a flat, due to the rudimentary conditions at the site, mainly the hygienic aspect during the first and a half month: 4 toilets for 1.000 people. Rafa was sick all the time, she suffered from urinary infections and diarrhea, and she to be transferred many times to the hospital. Fortunately she recovered. All my children are now fine and they can’t wait to go back to school”.

The first thing Hayat wants to do after arriving to Spain is to find a good school for her kids. Sami – who learned English online- was an excellent pupil, outstanding for his inventions. He dreams of becoming a pilot and wants to design his own aircraft. Abdal Fatah prefers to be a doctor and he’s happy to be going to Spain, because of its great football teams. Ηe stops for a while and reconsiders: he could be both a doctor and a football player. And small Rafah, when she is asked what she wants to, hesitates for a moment and then says she wants to become an air hostess, so she could travel the world with her oldest brother. She can’t work with her other brother, as she says, since she doesn’t like at all hospitals and needles.

Hayat smiles and mumbles: “The kids are going to be safe. And after everything they’ve been through, they will manage soon enough to adapt to the new situation and move on with their lives. The only thing I hope for now, is for my husband to be able to join us in Spain, so that we can be a family again”.

By Christina Pantzou, in Athens

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