Anna is nine years old. She is Kurdish and comes from Syria. At the time that she told this story (August 2016) she was living in a refugee camp in Northern Greece.
My city had both Arabs and Kurds. I was five when the war began and until now we have war. When I was seven I went to school, we lived in an apartment. When the bomb came it damaged it, I don’t know when, but we went to another place, and as we went I saw a boy of ten, and something had happened to his stomach and I saw all the blood. This was when we were leaving the flat. Only the house was damaged, we were OK.
I want to tell you something but don’t tell anyone. I have an illness, I can’t explain because I cannot say it in Arabic but when I was in Turkey my legs were swollen and I had bruises. This happened because I saw the boy with the stomach. And now when I go to the toilet, I wont go alone because I am scared and I need my mother. This illness lasted two or three months. I am not fully recovered. When I am scared or anxious it comes again. When I fall asleep I see him in my dreams, then I wake up and start crying and my legs and hands become swollen. Just a little.
I do want to send a message to people to tell them how bad war is. I feel sorry for myself. I am only nine years old and I have had so hard a life. I see that my mother is ill and I cry all the time because of her and I cry all the time because I miss my father. The rest of our family still live in Syria and my mother cries because her mother and father are there.
The only thing I can remember from before the War is that one day we took a boat trip with my family. I don’t know where, it was sea and we had a blue and white boat. Only my father knows how to swim, I am scared in the sea. I wasn’t scared on that boat, but when I see a beach or a river I feel a little afraid. At night we went home in a taxi. My father was a taxi driver. He took us in the car on trips, we went to the Mall, and we went to the beach with the car, and we went to lots of places.
The first thing I knew about the War was from television. When I saw the pictures I asked my father: is this Syria? And he said: yes. He said: this is what Syria becomes now, and I asked why Syria becomes like this and he said: people did it. He told me that the bad people had guns, it’s Daesh, these are the people who make war.
The first thing that actually happened to us was when I was seven, when our apartment got damaged. There were five apartments, ours was on the fourth floor. I was at home, it was morning. The only noise I heard was the boom, I was watching TV, then I saw the TV fall down and I heard someone saying: boys and girls lets go, we have a bomb in our house. Then the bunk beds fell on me but my father came and got me. I was OK, nothing was broken, I was just bruised, but it was really scary.
My father kicked the door open so we could get out and we started running. We went to grandmother’s house. In the street there were more bombs falling and I was screaming. When we got to grandmother it was calm there. The boy, that was another day. My mother gave me money to go to a kiosk and buy something and I saw my sister holding a boy with his stomach opened and I fell down, when I fell I could not feel anything and I still have the picture of what I saw. They took him to a doctor. The boy died, my sister was carrying him because his mother and father were already dead. That’s why she held him, and when I saw my sister holding him I felt so scared. I still feel scared now and I still see him. It comes whenever I am scared.
And my mother has an illness and has to take medicine and no one has given it to her and we don’t have money to buy it. And me and my brother want to eat ‘potatabe’ but we don’t have enough money to buy it. It’s not so bad here. Father wants to send us money but he has nothing. My best friend here is Helen, I love her, we are together all the time and we paint together. We paint flowers and houses and butterflies.
We left Syria as a family to go to Turkey. Father borrowed money from people, then he went to Germany with my older brother. I will tell you what I can remember of that journey. First of all when we started we used a smuggler. He took us somewhere and we got caught by Turkish guards. We tried to run away but the Turkish guards were violent and stopped us getting into Turkey. The smuggler was with us disguised as a refugee. We waited for the Turkish guards to fall asleep and then we crept over the border and then we took a bus. The smuggler took us to a yard where he said we could stay. It was very dirty and full of water. You cannot imagine how bad it was and it smelled terrible. It was like a garage. There were eleven or twelve of us. The floor was concrete so we borrowed a blanket to sleep on. We stayed there three months. Father was always borrowing money to buy food. Our day was no different from night, it was all the same from morning until night. The place was so dirty that some people got yellow eyes from the dirt. There was no shower and only one toilet for all of us. You had to go out or go in the corner to wash yourself with a bottle of water. It was like a big shop. Someone in the city had given it out of pity. They gave the place for nothing until we had a solution. There was nothing to do. We did not go outside. The only thing we did was cry. My mother cried all day long. I cried too. Sometimes my mother became sick, so we went to the door of the shop and looked at the people walking in the street. We all got sick with yellow eyes and mother had problems with her spine and her heart.
One day a lady came and said: how can you be in here. This is not for families and you cannot stay here. I have an empty house, you can use it.
Then we went to the house, it was fully furnished and had everything we needed. My father was still borrowing money to pay for our food and drink, but when we got to that house we felt for the first time that our life was changing and we were human beings again. We stayed there two or three years. When we went to the new home I started to go to school. I learnt Turkish but when I came here I forgot it. We left because my father was without work, and he was borrowing so much money. So he left and traveled to Germany to find work. Father has got a residence permit and a home but he is not allowed to work yet.
I am very worried about my mother. She is sick and every day she is more sick and I don’t see a solution for her condition. I am so worried, she has so many diseases and I become so upset.
We were in Turkey three months without father. Then we left that house and went to Izmir to start for Greece. We stayed with an Aunt in Izmir. We had not been able to travel to her before because we did not have enough money. We were stuck because we ran out of money, but after father left, someone gave us money and sent us to Izmir at his expense. Then we left my aunt’s house with a smuggler who took us to a very dirty house. Then after one hour he brought us to the sea by bus. Then the smuggler arranged a rubber boat. He asked for our number. Three guys carried my mother because she could not walk. We all got in and she suffered a lot in that rubber boat. We stayed three hours in the rubber boat.
My brother was about to fall into the sea, and the sea was very rough with high waves. We were very frightened as we were about to sink and my brother bit his lips from fear. I was frightened too and I became dizzy. And then we reached an island and some guys sabotaged the motor and cut the boat in pieces. We got to the shore and a bus came to take us to another place with 200 people. We stayed there in caravans, there was big bed and there were nice toilets. Then the police came and told us to move to a big ship which took us to Eko camp. We didn’t go to the border. My mother stayed in the tent, but my brother and I joined the protest. I had a card saying ‘open the borders’.
Eko was very nice, there was everything. When we came here it was not the same. The biggest problem is the toilets. And the tent is too small and crowded and we cannot breathe. I feel like I am in prison. It is not as bad as that yard but it is still terrible. There is a school here but I don’t go regularly because it is too small and too hot so when I go I become wet.
And one day a guy outside the camp told me to come to the sea and I was afraid. He was a foreigner, English speaking. It was just me I was outside on the road and he told me to walk along with him to the sea. Because I was alone and there were no other children I was afraid. I told my mother.
It is not safe. I am afraid, especially when everyone is asleep. I am so afraid someone will come and take all our papers so that we wont be able to join our father in Germany. There was a tent, they stole the papers and stuff and we are so afraid for us. I do sleep well, but my mother cannot sleep. I do get nightmares from time to time about that boy, maybe once a month. That boy who was hurt, I think it was Islamic state that did it and I am afraid of them. I am afraid of them because there was a lot of fighting in Syria. I don’t think they will come here but that fear of Islamic state always stays in my heart
I don’t know what is happening to us now. My mother talks to my father every day on Viber. We have registered. They told us to keep the phone open and when it rings to go for interview.
In the future I want to be a dentist. But if Syria is peaceful again I want to go back.
 I was later given permission to include this in her story provided her name was not used.