Story by Emanuela Cutelli, Photos by Rein Skullerud
Syria is the biggest and most complex humanitarian crisis of our time, with the situation continuing to worsen. Through this series of portraits, the World Food Programme gives a voice to people caught up in the conflict. Here we meet Hasan and Nour, whose family were among the Syrian refugees who, in April 2016, were brought to Italy by His Holiness Pope Francis during his visit to Lesbos in Greece.
My name is Hasan. I come from Syria and I am 31 years old. I am a landscape architect.
I had to leave Syria because I was asked to do military service and I refused. I didn’t want to kill anybody from any side. So I decided to escape and leave the country and the war and to save my small family — my wife Nour and my child Ziad.
“We miss a lot of things”
We used to live in a small village, 35 km from Damascus, called Wadi Barada. We miss a lot of things — our friends, our relatives, our memories, our favorite places, all of the interesting things that exist in Syria. We miss them all.
It was very hard to leave Syria and we had to do it illegally, as my name was in all the police stations because of the military service. I was wanted. So we had to leave with a smuggler who took us through hostile territory.
We arrived in Aleppo and we stayed there six days, and then another smuggler put us in a small bus and we crossed the border with Turkey.
“My hope is to live in peace.”
We have a lot of dreams for Syria, dreams of peace. We hope the situation will get better. We know it is complicated now. It is not easy but we have the hope.
My hope here in Italy, for me, for my family, for my son especially, is to live in peace, to simply have the type of life we had before in our country.
Everything has changed because of the war, especially the prices of food. For example, before the war one litre of milk was 15 syrian lira. After the war, in some areas, the price had risen to 250 Syrian lira and also there are some areas where one litre of milk can reach 200.000 Syrian lira — because there is no milk, no cows, no goats.
There is nothing. This is a just small example but there are so many stories like this. Everything has changed because of the war.
My name is Nour. I am 31 and I am Syrian. I was working in the department of microbiology in the Atomic Energy Commission of Syria. My husband Hasan and I decided to leave Syria because he was asked to join the military service, but we didn’t want to take any side so we didn’t have another choice — we had to go.
When we left, we wanted to bring many things with us, but when you travel in an illegal way, you can’t bring anything with you. We could take only the things that were needed for the baby.
We wanted to bring our families, our clothes, our laptops, my hairdryer — a lot of things. I left all my life behind me. So you can imagine how hard it is. It is difficult when you move to another country with a small amount of luggage.
Imagine when you are moving to another country with nothing, because I couldn’t bring anything.
“We don’t miss Syrian food too much.”
Here in Rome we don’t miss Syrian food too much because we can actually prepare and cook it ourselves. We find the ingredients and the spices in the supermarkets, where we can buy food using the food vouchers or the card that we have been given.
The card is recharged regularly. If the supermarkets don’t have the ingredients or the spices, we can find them in some Egyptian or Arabic shops. It is easy.
We like pizza and my son Riad enjoys his pasta with just some olive oil. He is funny, he likes to eat with other children, not with us!
When we arrived, thanks to the Sant’Egidio Community, my son started attending the kindergarten of the Community.
“We have refugee papers now.”
He loved playing with other children so much and I used to watch him from upstairs, from the flat where we stayed for a few weeks as guests of the Sant’Egidio Community. After a while we moved to another flat, still in the centre of the city. It is very nice.
We have refugee papers now. They are valid for five years and we can travel with those documents, even if we still don’t have our passports. We’d like to stay in Italy, for now, then we’ll see.
TAKE ACTION BY SIGNING the UNHCR #WithRefugees PETITION: withrefugees.org