Behind green windows.

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Photograph by Erika Kochanski.

I have a new roommate in the hostel tonight named, Yahya. He is a refugee from Syria trying to make his way to Germany to hopefully use his contacts there to find work. A highly skilled medical engineer, days ago he left his family behind to take an extremely risky journey to escape from Syria, via Turkey, onto Greece and then into Serbia through Macedonia. He speaks to me so he can practice his English, which he had to learn in secret because it is not something that is taught back home. He apologises profrusely for his “bad English” but I can understand him perfectly fine as he shows me pictures of the dinghy he crossed into Greece on where he spent six hours shoveling out water and navigating the person who aided their crossing with his phone GPS. Even still, he stopped to take a picture of the sunrise.

Yahya shows me pictures of refugee camps, and of his children Hani and Aziz back in Syria, and although he has literally trudged across multiple countries in recent days, asks me if I need any privacy in the dorm room as he is “happy to leave if I need” because he doesn’t want me to feel uncomfortable because he knows his home country has a “bad reputation”.

His hope is to settle in Germany where they will likely want his skills and even then it will take him at least a year before he can expect to bring his children and family over safely. He does not want to risk their lives as he risked his own. A year or more before he gets to see them again, only holding on to digital pictures of them on his phone to remind him what he is doing all this for. They’re absolutely beautiful children, and you can see he loves them and is proud to show me their smiling faces. He apologises again for his poor English, but as far as I’m concerned he need not apologise. As the storm rages outside I wonder how it must have felt to cross all those countless kilometres through the elements and how tonight he ended up, in all places, on the bunk bed on the other side of my room. He risks all of this for his children’s future because he wants a better life for them away from all of the terrifying things going on there. Yahya hopes change comes for the good people of his country who are caught in the middle and don’t have the education he was fortunate enough to have and the opportunity to perhaps build a better life elsewhere.

Tomorrow he hopes to continue his journey towards Austria where he hopes to get on a train, and here I was this morning wondering how I was going to get to the airport on Wednesday. I am in awe of this man, this refugee, and his sincerity. Mostly I am so pleased that he shared his story with me and allowed me to write it, and touched that he is still able to smile even with all he has faced and the uncertainty that still lies ahead for him. Makes you think, doesn’t it? It should.

Goodluck Yahya.

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