Syrian Women in Berlin: Rawda, the Mother
What have refugees gone through and what is their vision for the future? Danica Simonet explores these questions with the Syrian friends she made in Berlin this summer.
Here is the voice of Rawda.
I want to be known as a mother. My nickname is Um Khalil. “Um” means “Mother” and “Khalil” is the name of my son. I should not be labeled only as refugee, my nickname even demonstrates my identity as a mother.
I would like to tell you a little bit about my life. Here are the chapters of my life.
Childhood: I grew up with a father that always supported and wanted the best for us. Although I didn’t enjoy school, I was happy during childhood.
Marriage: Then I got married when I was 22 years old. My husband was studying to be a veterinarian, and we were living with his parents, so we were doing well economically. We created our life and I worked side by side with my husband to build our home.
I was very happy during this time, but then the war came and everything changed.
Fleeing: We lost all of our livestock during the war, so we decided to leave Syria, which was not easy. The saddest moment in my life is when I was fleeing from Syria to Turkey. I remember being pregnant and walking in the forest. There were lots of twigs on the ground and it was difficult to make out landmarks. Suddenly, I tripped and began to roll down a cliff, with my daughter, Abir, in my hand. I couldn’t let her go, but luckily a tree stopped us. It really seemed as if I was going to die. I thank God everyday for saving me, the baby, and my daughter.
Then after all this fear, we finally made our way to Turkey, where we stayed for a week, then met up with my brother-in-law’s family, and continued the journey to Germany.
On Remembering: Now in Germany, I always think about the happiest time in my life, when I was living in my home, with my family, and had my freewill. My two daughters would visit me every week with their husbands, and my mother-in-law would visit me every morning just to say hello. Those moments are like a dream to me now.
I miss my family. My happiness is tied to sadness.
It is interesting. Now what makes me happy is also what makes me tired: my children. They are screaming and playing all day, but I am happy they are safe and that there is hope for them in this life.
On Adjusting: I appreciate everything that Germany is doing for us. I understand that it is taking a long time because a lot of people arrived at once. We just came here with higher expectations. I thought that it would be easy to get residency and to get a flat. I know it is a hard and complicated situation for both sides. I would just like to live a normal life again. I want to make a home: to raise my kids, cook for them, and wash their clothes.
What would you like to say to the people of Germany?
Recently we went to a picnic at Tempelhofer Feld.The volunteers helped by taking care of my children, taking me out of this camp, and taking us all to a picnic.
These were happy moments, because while sitting on the grass, watching my children play around me, I was reminded of similar events in my village back in Syria. I felt relieved from the stress at the camp. The volunteers gave me peace, even if just for a moment, it helped me.
To the people of Germany I want to say, God bless you all. We appreciate all you have done for us. But please try to help us get out of this camp permanently, so people will have the chance to live in peace.
I want to feel at home and at peace in a green field once again.
When hearing about the Syrian Civil War on the news and stories of refugees dying on their way to Europe with hopes of starting a new life, it became clear to me that this may be the worst humanitarian crisis of my time. At first, I planned on spending my summer with friends and working as a waitress as I normally do, but as my awareness of the refugee crisis grew, I could no longer stay in my small town doing nothing about it. Although I had no previous experience working with refugees, I felt that by doing nothing I was standing on the side of injustice.
I wanted to hear the stories of refugees, to know their pain, fears, hopes, and dreams. I spent my summer in Berlin, which has a high number of refugees, and I became friends with many Syrian women refugees. I asked my family and friends what they would ask a refugee if they could talk to one in person, and then I used a compilation of their questions to interview my new Syrian friends. I’m sharing their voices here in hopes that others can hear and begin to understand their stories.