Blog Zena Izbeglica B92

WLOG 002: From Beirut to Malmo

I left my city but I couldn't leave my memories behind. I left the memories of what my life used to be and went into new one.

Source: B92
(Karl Baron, Love kastrup - 1 min security line, flickr.com)
(Karl Baron, Love kastrup - 1 min security line, flickr.com)

Written by: Jasmin Dijan, Belgrade

It wasn't far away, Beirut was less than 20 km away from Damascus. Two-hour drive but we couldn't go straight there. The war had cut the roads off. They were letting people cross the border selectively. We traveled by night and all the way it seemed as if there was no one anywhere, and then a row of cars at the border.

Lebanon is an Arab country and in a way everything is the same, but it's not my country and that, essentially, makes all the difference. When I saw the sea I touched my face. My cheeks were wet. I don't remember crying, it was probably from the last few days. I remembered the conversation I had with my husband before we had left. " To Beirut. Temporary. Until the situation settles." That stayed in my memory, that it will be a short period until everything settles down and we will go back. Those sentences often echoed in my head.

It was tough in the beginning until we settled and started getting used to our new home. Beirut is expensive. Awfully expensive. You need money for everything. The parking lot in front of the building we lived in. Food. Water. Water is very expensive. Still, we managed somehow. Until it was time to sign our daughters into school. That was impossible. So expensive. For that, there was no chance we could manage.

(CucombreLibre, Sweden Malmö 13, flickr.com)
(CucombreLibre, Sweden Malmö 13, flickr.com)

After a few months, when we finally found a way for our daughters to go to school, there were two explosions in Beirut. This we didn't expect. Those two detonations rang louder than all the bombings in Damascus. Two explosions made the Syrians the least wanted people in Beirut. And there were a lot of us.

I couldn't believe it. Was it possible that people could think that? As if we are the reason for terrorism. How could we be responsible for something that's happening on the streets? We ran away from the war, didn't want to be part of it. And now we came here and we are followed by the bombs but we didn't bring them.

I was so scared. Every morning when my husband would go to work and I stayed with our daughters, I was scared that someone was going to come and get us. When someone rang the intercom or walked past our door I would think that it was the end. I thought they will deport us or take us to refugee camp and my husband will never find us. The separation was killing me but he had to work. He had to go to work because that job was the only way for us to stay there. Maybe even the only source of security.

(Paul Saad, Manara Street, Beirut Lebanon, flickr.com)
(Paul Saad, Manara Street, Beirut Lebanon, flickr.com)

Still, I didn't feel safe alone with the kids in that apartment. And Beirut is so expensive, I didn't know if I could ever get used to that life. I spoke with my cousins, my friends, my husband. And they all told me to go to Sweden, that it's good for the Syrians there. Especially for the kids who had a chance to go to school for free, to really start a new life. That was what really appealed to us the most, a new life for our children. We were not important. I thought about it, I was afraid to go alone with two kids, but in the end I decided to do it.

When we landed in Denmark, the hardest period of my life began. I thought that Beirut was expensive, but Copenhagen is even worse. I didn't know where to go or what to do. Airports are so confusing. You are being led by some arrows. People are everywhere but not there to help you out. So many people and you feel so alone. I walked with two big bags and two small girls. I'm holding my kids' hands and we're all together holding those bags with our belongings. Every step seemed impossible. When I wandered upon an information pult I asked how to reach Malmo. We sat on a train and went to Sweden. Alone with two small girls, two big bags and hope that there will be no explosions here.

Sweden. New country. Another language. I didn't know anyone and didn't know how to start. We arrived in Malmo and went to center where you turn in the asylum requests. We got our numbers. We waited. There was a big crowd and we waited for our turn the whole day. We applied. Adult woman. Two underage children. We got the registration papers. We got new numbers. They put us in a refugee camp.

(Miriam, flickr.com)
(Miriam, flickr.com)

Still, I didn't feel safe alone with the kids in that apartment. And Beirut is so expensive, I didn't know if I could ever get used to that life. I spoke with my cousins, my friends, my husband. And they all told me to go to Sweden, that it's good for the Syrians there. Especially for the kids who had a chance to go to school for free, to really start a new life. That was what really appealed to us the most, a new life for our children. We were not important. I thought about it, I was afraid to go alone with two kids, but in the end I decided to do it.

When we landed in Denmark, the hardest period of my life began. I thought that Beirut was expensive, but Copenhagen is even worse. I didn't know where to go or what to do. Airports are so confusing. You are being led by some arrows. People are everywhere but not there to help you out. So many people and you feel so alone. I walked with two big bags and two small girls. I'm holding my kids' hands and we're all together holding those bags with our belongings. Every step seemed impossible. When I wandered upon an information pult I asked how to reach Malmo. We sat on a train and went to Sweden. Alone with two small girls, two big bags and hope that there will be no explosions here.

Sweden. New country. Another language. I didn't know anyone and didn't know how to start. We arrived in Malmo and went to center where you turn in the asylum requests. We got our numbers. We waited. There was a big crowd and we waited for our turn the whole day. We applied. Adult woman. Two underage children. We got the registration papers. We got new numbers. They put us in a refugee camp.

We got us a small room. About 6 square meters. The three of us on two beds- We joined those two beds and slept together because there was no room for a third one. The bathroom was outside, down the hallway. We were room number 14. There were 16 rooms on our floor. Around 50 people. A lot of kids. That was our new life. At least there were no bombs. It was peaceful.

The biggest problem was when I wanted to bathe my daughters. And to take a bath myself. I couldn't leave the kids in the room because we couldn't lock the doors. Simply, there's no keys. Anyone can come in when they want. Or come out. I couldn't leave the kids in the room and go take a bath.

That was the biggest difference between my country and Sweden. They say that women and men are equal here, but how are we equal if I don't have my space? In Syria women have their own corner where they can be alone, care for their selves, get away, seek peace. In Sweden it's impossible to be alone. It was an everyday thing not to lock the doors and every time I tried to take a bath someone was always trying to get in, to open the door. Big crowd. Always.

Then I made a deal with a woman from my floor to go to showers together. She would watch the door for me and I for her. After three months, I took a bath in peace for the first time. No knocking. No shouting. We all went through it. We all bothered each other and we didn't want that.

The second problem was food. I've lost 10 kilos in a few months because the food was pretty horrible. Their food is completely different than ours. The similarities are minimal. They cook without oil. Without spices. Cooked is brewed. You put the vegetables into water and cook for however long it takes. Rice. Vegetables. Broccoli. Asparagus. Cauliflower. Everything we only eat in Syria when we are sick. Even worse, to get that one meal we had to walk for about 1 kilometer. Canteen was down the street and winter in Sweden is very strong. We came from Syria where most of the people never saw the snow in their lives and never felt the cold.

We used to get dressed for an hour before we would go outside. Imagine dressing and undressing two small children three times per day every day. Gloves. Several pairs of socks. Boots. Sweater. Scarf. Cap. Three times a day, everything from the beginning.

And every day like that. Waking up, bathing, dressing, walking, breakfast, walking, undressing, rest, dressing, walking, lunch, walking, undressing, rest, dressing, walking, dinner, walking, undressing, getting ready for bed, sleeping.

TO BE CONTINUED...

This blog is based on everyday-life stories of women refugees and migrants who are currently residing in Serbia. The blog was written by an author whose name has been changed to protect her privacy and was produced by Info Park with support of UN Women in Serbia with an aim of shedding light on the situation of women refugees and migrants. The views and analysis contained in the blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of UN Women, the United Nations or any of its affiliated organizations.

Women refugees

WLOG 003: From twilight to Belgrade

Walking, taking winter clothes off, resting, putting clothes on, walking, dinner, walking, taking clothes off, putting children to bed, sleeping.

Women refugees Friday, November 3, 2017 14:18 Comments: 3