Majd is 11 years old. He comes from Syria. At the time that he told this story (August 2016) he was living in a refugee camp in Northern Greece.
I cannot remember anything from before the war. My first memory is bombing and being scattered around. War came suddenly. We started hearing boom, boom, boom, boom and we ran away immediately, we jumped into our basement. There were snipers shooting into houses and we had to hide. It was my grandfather’s house, but we lived there. My cousins in B. were injured. I was in second grade when I knew about them. Their mother was staying with us and a bomb dropped in front of them and they got fragments in them. They were badly injured, they were in 5th and 8th grade.
I do remember school before the war. I was seven when I first went to school. We were living happily, we played a lot and it was peaceful, I used to play and study. Football was my favourite thing. There were two schools next to each other. And when I went to fourth grade we could not go in school because there was shooting there and and they were dropping bombs on the schools and there were snipers everywhere and we had to sit in the corridors. The teachers never told us anything because they did not want us to be sad. The teachers said: don’t leave your houses.
I don’t know why there is a war. When I asked father the reason he would just cry. Any time I asked him, he immediately started crying. I asked my aunts. They all just cried. They are the ones who suffered most. We were Ok because they loved us so much, but I was scared.
Our house had bombing all around it. We were actually going to die. Actually I kept going to school. I missed one week . School was right next door to our house so I could easily run home . The other school building right beside us was bombed and this massive wall collapsed, so our entire building was shaking. We went to the basement straight away because snipers were shooting the injured in the other school, they were 7th to 10th grade. None of them died. Stuff did not fall on their heads. The bombs did not come from a plane The guns were nearby, they scattered metal which was very very hot. This one area was Free Syrian Army and the other was Bashir Al Assad. We were in the Assad area and these bombs could land anywhere and if you were not lucky, you died. If our side did not send bombs back the Free Syrian Army would keep bombing us. We just wanted to live in peace. We would pray and read the Koran.
Then grandfather and grandmother died. I think grandfather had blood clots. Father inherited that house and he sold it, and we bought a house in the countryside. But when we had been there one week, they dropped a bomb on our new house and it was flattened. We arrived by car and were just going to put in the furniture, but the bomb fell and so we pulled away. The house was completely destroyed. We went back to the city. It was Ok there. There was no bombing. But I did not go to school, we were just there a week while father got money and papers and we left.
We travelled in a nice luxurious car belonging to some cousins. It had fourteen people in it. We escaped from the Free Syrian Army straight away, but when we got to the border, Bashir Al Assad’s snipers were shooting at us to scare us. They did not want us to leave. We stayed two days hiding in the mountains on the border, untill the snipers left. They were just trying to scare us to make us go back. Of course I was terrified. I thought they would kill us. How would you feel? God helped us to leave. And it was the smuggler who helped us. We did not know him but later he became friends with father.
I am not scared right now. I just want you to write these stories, so everyone knows. The worst thing was the bombing because they destroyed our house and we lost everything and we could not play. And I did think I might die with the sniper at the border.
I used to cry, I had bad dreams, not every night, just very scary dreams. Sometimes when I was really really scared I would get bad fevers. I sometimes dreamed they would take everyone into prison except me, and then they would kill them and leave me.
I knew some people who were kidnapped. When I was five years old there were a lot of events and they were taking a lot of people to prison. My father’s friend went to prison. I loved this man like my second father. And when he went to prison, I took a chair and I sat outside his house and refused to go untill he returned. It went on for 20 days. I would get a sandwich from a stand. There was a market nearby with a bathroom. I sat there at night as well. Then he was released. He is in Syria now.
We stayed in Turkey for two days and then left on a boat. One of our friends was told to be the captain. He was really good. We had to pay. It was the first time I had been on a boat, I had never seen the sea. The boat was really crowded with a lot of people but I could breathe, and I was not scared. The water was calm. I was wearing a life jacket. After about five hours a boat came and took us. We stayed on an island for about two hours and then we went on another boat and we got to Greece.
And then we walked for around five hours. We got really really tired. And then we got in a taxi and came to Idomeni. I remember you in the Camp, you played the spoons. Then we tried to cross the border but the Syrians were not allowed to cross, so we went back. JAFRA was in Idomeni they played with us most days. But here is better. The UN brought us here. There, if it rained, everything would be soaked, I got completely wet everytime it rained. Living here is so much better. I don’t know why, it just is. We play, we have fun, there is school where we learn English, Arabic and music. It is not a real school. There is no sport. But there is a field where we go with the Spanish.
There is nothing I don’t like here. The only bad thing is the food. Living in tents is OK, a house would be better, but a tent is OK. But my father is very fed up now. We dream of going home but they wont let us. We would like to go back to Syria even though there is war. Here we are humiliated even more than in Syria. If we went back we would have a roof over out heads and father would work and we would live better than we live here. I am happy to be in the camp, but not deep in my heart.
If God does not let us back to Syria, he will decide where we go, but I would prefer Syria. My cousins would not be able to come to me and I want to be in a house with my cousins and be happy. My mother is much skinnier now but she looks after me and she helps me in every way. God does not hold anything back from us. We are not a religious family. My mother prayed in Syria but not here. Father and I pray five times a day, we don’t go to Mosque we pray on our own.
I sleep ok now. I am not feeling sick, I play and sing. What I miss most is my friends and relatives. None have died. When I grow up I want to be a doctor or a dentist. When I have children, I wont tell them about this war, I don’t want them to be sad.
In February 2017 I met up with Majd and his family again. They were living in an apartment in Athens and had been told they would be relocated to Germany.
The camp was very boring there was nothing to do. Jafra tried to teach the children English and Greek and to teach us how to read. We liked that but we did not like the Spanish because they shouted at us. Jafra was always friendly. I did learn a bit, I went to classes every day. I wanted to learn English not Greek because if I walk on the streets people understand English We had football. Sometimes I took father’s mobile to play on it. There were so many fights, especially the Iraqi people. They were fighting with knives. We still went to the village, just to walk and play in that garden.
Then it got cold in the camp. It snowed. We stayed in our tents all the time and there was so much water in the tents. We went to the UN to get some more blankets but we got no answer. If it rained we tried to make a fire in the tent. We got wood from the forest, we tried to get dry wood and we used cartons for the fire. The food was still very bad. If you asked Jafra they always tried to help, if there had been no Jafra we would have been much worse off. They gave us plastic to cover the tents.
I made friends, they still keep in touch. (Majd pulls out a video a friend sent him of two men friends hugging and laughing). My friend sent this because he misses me a lot. He is still in the hotel.
I like to have lots of friends but I hate to be too close, because then if I travel I will miss them. I don’t want to miss people. I miss a lot of people in Syria.
It was better in the hotel. We moved there three months ago. The hotel was good. It was five people in one room just like here, I was with mother and father and my brothers. The food was delicious! Better than the camp. And in the hotel there was a big room for studying with a lot of books. I had English classes every day, the teacher was an old Syrian woman. There were lots of children we all played together on bikes, that was how I hurt my toe.
I was really happy to come to Athens because I know we are going to Germany and I will see my brothers.
My brother in Syria is OK. He is in Damascus and there is not a lot of fighting there. He has his work and he does not want to leave Syria. Syria is not good now, especially in Aleppo because the president went there and was fighting with ISIS. Bashir is not good. The Free Syrian Army is not good. I don’t like any of them. I don’t know who the good people are. I just love my brothers. I don’t know how we make peace there. If we did of course I would want to go back.