Sthlm chronicles pt. 17: Reality check – First hand stories from refugees pt. 1

If you follow the news you know the discussion about Syrian refugees going on since over a year now across all of Europe. I´ve read a lot of articles on the topic and watched self proclaimed experts discussing it out on political talkshows. I also talked about it with plenty of people, family and friends and everyone has an opinion. However… who has actually spoken to one of the affected people, the refugees? Many are quick to build an opinion based on what other people feed them. That opinion however can often be stupid, uneducated, ignorant or straight out racist.

If you follow my blog you know that I am going to a language school since 3 weeks now. Most people in the class I attend are refugees. They come from all over the world including countries like Lebanon and Syria. I got into a conversation with three guys who, funny enough, are all sharing the same name but shall remain anonymous here. They asked me where I was from, so I shared where I was born, grew up and also my life in Ireland, etc. and of course also wanted to know their stories and where they´re from. The first guy goes: “I am from Syria, city of Aleppo.” Obviously that name rings a bell since it´s over the news, it´s a slaughter house for civilians. I say to him that I know Aleppo from the news and ask him a bit more about where he lived there and obviously also about the reality of the situation. He whips out his phone and starts to show me pictures of the city, before and after the heavy bombings that he took himself. Places where he used to meet with friends or spend time with his family in the park, play with his child, eat ice cream or go to the cinema. All that´s left is mountains of rubble and destroyed structures. He showed me a picture of the house he lived in and it was a ruin, partly burned out hulk of a structure without windows, the walls full of holes and shrapnel impacts from cluster bombs the Russian air force dropped on them. He didn´t even flinch, he told the story and showed the pictures like I would show pictures of my home. His parents still remain in Aleppo. I always wondered why he was constantly on his phone, but now it´s clear. He´s checking the news in and around the city.

It was really hard to watch this for me because all three of them have been through more terrible situations and struggle than I can imagine ever going through. He told me how he and his family escaped with their lifes but had nothing but a few clothes on them. Luckily for him he had money saved up, so he could afford to travel by train and even airplane to Sweden. He managed to do so by buying forged papers in Bulgaria for which he paid 5000€ cash, his savings. He, his wife and little daughter, both of whom I also met, came with him. His daughter who has barely lived her life and could have easily been killed – It´s terrible to imagine it when you actually MET the people and not just see pictures on the news.

What fascinates me talking to them was this: You´d imagine they´d be bitter, frustrated, desperate, angry, and I´m sure they are – BUT they´ve been nothing but positive, friendly and kind every time speaking to them. Not one of them did complain, they brushed it off as if it was nothing. That really left a mark on me. While on the other hand I sometimes have to read long posts from overly sensitive special snowflakes who live such a cushioned life that they can freak out over topics like gender or political correctness.

This puts things into perspective for me – Our life may not be “perfect” (whatever the fuck perfect means anyways) but hell, at least we can sleep at night without having to be afraid to get hit by a 500 pound bomb or getting shot on the street.

In the next blog post I´ll talk about the other two guys who have similar but at the same time very different stories to tell.

Catch ya later,


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