LOST IN IDOMENI

Slowly I open my eyes as my dream begins to fade. I don’t want to remember what I was dreaming and I don’t want to wake up. I don’t know what I will do. The tent above me is still standing, it didn’t rain this night and the wind didn’t blow either. That is good, at least.

My name is Mahmud, I come from Syria, but now I am somewhere in Greece, in a place they call Idomeni. I came here on my way to Germany, but they stopped me here. I am a refuge, but I don’t know where to take refuge anymore.

My family still sleeps, so I get up and go for a morning hygiene to the closest latrine. I hate those portable boxes. It’s disgusting just to open their door which I touch with only two fingers and I always have to hold my breath when I am inside. The worst are the children, they always climb on the top and make it dirty. When I am done, I quickly leave and go to wash. I stand in a queue and talk with my neighbors. I am asking if anybody knows anything about the borders, when will they open them, but they as clueless as me.

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I know a few families around and we keep our tents close to each other. In between them, we put up a tarpaulin to protect us from the sun. We also dug a hole for a fireplace to make our food and tea. Most of the time I spend there. I don’t go far into the camp, because I am afraid that my children will get lost or somebody will steal some of our belongings. I have three children and my wife is pregnant, so I have to take care of her. They told me that somewhere in the camp there is a cultural center where I could study languages, but I don’t have time for such things. I have to take care of the family. I have to take care of them. This thought keeps me going when I don’t know what to do anymore.
I still remember a good life, when I had my store and all the people in the neighborhood knew me. I had their respect and my family lived well. Now I am one of many, just one man in the thousands sitting here in the mud and no one knows me. My children didn’t go to school for two years. I try to explain it to them, all those people that come to camp, all those journalists and volunteers that run around all the time. I try to explain to them my situation, but they just reply that everyone has it bad and they move on. I stop them every day and every day I am trying to explain that my tent is broken and water gets n and that my children sleep in wet blankets, but they just say that some people don’t have any tent and that they will come back later. I know one young man that is alone and he already got three tents. Then he sold them for 20 EUR. I don’t get it.

They always come here, take pictures and ask about this and that, but nothing changes. Nothing at all changes, we are already here for three months and borders are still closed. They have to open them, no? That is the only hope I have left. That is why we are still staying with my family here in Idomeni. If they opened them suddenly, we could go on. I am afraid that if we move into army camps, everybody will forget about us. There will be nobody, no media, no volunteers and no-one will care what happens to us. Here they at least see us. The world has to do something with it, no?

I don’t know, I don’t know what to think. The police want to clean the camp and some people say that things will never get better here and that I should move to an official camp. But the others say that borders will open soon. Every week, there is some news. If I knew clearly how it’s going to be, I would be calmer, but this uncertainty kills me. Often I feel I would rather be back in Syria. There they shoot you once, but here you die slowly every day.

That neverending sitting, inability to do anything, unforgettable memories… Those haunt me the most, memories of the bombs in the distance, torn bodies, the last tremble of the engine as it fails in the middle of the ocean… I don’t want to think of these things, but I can’t help it. They come back during this neverending waiting that is impossible to evade in the camp. We wait in the lines for food and in the lines for clothes. We wait for somebody to give us a cover against the sun and somebody to help us repair torn tents. And of course, we wait for the borders to open. I would like to do something about it, but I don’t know what. Maybe it is my fault. I should be more active. Some of them made food stands, some sell cigarettes, some go to school. I only sit and wait. Just like most of us.

Enough of thinking, it is already afternoon and I have to go to get some shorba. Volunteers distribute soup every day. They always come riding their jeep into the camp and children run behind them screaming “Shorba! Shorba!” Sometimes I can’t even look at it let alone eat it. Sometimes I wish that they all went away, stopped giving us this pitiful soup and blankets and just let us live like people. We don’t need those alms, we need a chance and a new life.

But in the end, I am grateful that there is at least somebody, who is interested in us. They play with the children and play music in the evenings. Sometimes they come to visit us. I make space for them in my tent and I offer them a tea. We light up a cigarette. I like to be their host. I also want to give them something, offer them something in return, not to be only on the side that is receiving. And it is pleasant to have some distraction, somebody I can talk with. I am not speaking very well in English, but I still talk to them. I need to talk and I need them to understand me. I always hope that somebody will understand and do something to change my situation. One time there was a doctor from Switzerland. She said she will arrange the papers and take me and my whole family together with her to her country. Then she left and never came back. Maybe she still will, Inshallah.

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It is getting late. I will take my youngest to the field before the sun sets. I made a kite for him from a broken tent. Let’s go to try it. The wind is strong enough today. The children love it, they always fly kites, but I am afraid for our shelter. Let it be calm night tonight, no wind, no rain, no fights. It’s always the young ones that start them. Fools, they don’t know what to do, so they fight in between themselves. But I already have a family, I can’t afford any problems. I just want a peace and future for my children.

Let tonight be a calm night and let the borders open tomorrow. Inshallah.

The reportage was published in the magazine Respekt.

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