Danica Simonet volunteered with GSBTB Open Art Shelter for Women and Children throughout summer 2016. There she interviewed some women from Syria for Brother’s Keeper International, where this post was first published.
Here is the voice of Rawda.
I want to be known as a mother. My nickname is Um Khalil. “Um” means “Mother” and “Khalil” is the name of my son. I should not be labeled only as refugee, my nickname even demonstrates my identity as a mother.
I would like to tell you a little bit about my life. Here are the chapters of my life.
Childhood: I grew up with a father that always supported and wanted the best for us. Although I didn’t enjoy school, I was happy during childhood.
Marriage: Then I got married when I was 22 years old. My husband was studying to be a veterinarian, and we were living with his parents, so we were doing well economically. We created our life and I worked side by side with my husband to build our home.I was very happy during this time, but then the war came and everything changed.
Fleeing: We lost all of our livestock during the war, so we decided to leave Syria, which was not easy. The saddest moment in my life is when I was fleeing from Syria to Turkey. I remember being pregnant and walking in the forest. There were lots of twigs on the ground and it was difficult to make out landmarks. Suddenly, I tripped and began to roll down a cliff, with my daughter, Abir, in my hand. I couldn’t let her go, but luckily a tree stopped us. It really seemed as if I was going to die. I thank God everyday for saving me, the baby, and my daughter.
Then after all this fear, we finally made our way to Turkey, where we stayed for a week, then met up with my brother-in-law’s family, and continued the journey to Germany.
On Remembering: Now in Germany, I always think about the happiest time in my life, when I was living in my home, with my family, and had my freewill. My two daughters would visit me every week with their husbands, and my mother-in-law would visit me every morning just to say hello. Those moments are like a dream to me now.
I miss my family. My happiness is tied to sadness.
It is interesting. Now what makes me happy is also what makes me tired: my children. They are screaming and playing all day, but I am happy they are safe and that there is hope for them in this life.
On Adjusting: I appreciate everything that Germany is doing for us. I understand that it is taking a long time because a lot of people arrived at once. We just came here with higher expectations. I thought that it would be easy to get residency and to get a flat. I know it is a hard and complicated situation for both sides. I would just like to live a normal life again. I want to make a home: to raise my kids, cook for them, and wash their clothes.
Photo Credit: Ekvidi Photography
What would you like to say to the people of Germany?
Recently we went to a picnic at Tempelhofer Feld. The volunteers helped by taking care of my children, taking me out of this camp, and taking us all to a picnic.
These were happy moments, because while sitting on the grass, watching my children play around me, I was reminded of similar events in my village back in Syria. I felt relieved from the stress at the camp. The volunteers gave me peace, even if just for a moment, it helped me.
To the people of Germany I want to say, God bless you all. We appreciate all you have done for us. But please try to help us get out of this camp permanently, so people will have the chance to live in peace.
I want to feel at home and at peace in a green field once again.
Thank you, as always, for your support.
Danica Simonet is a college student from the US who is volunteering this summer with Brother’s Keeper International. She is passionate about getting to know refugees and sharing their stories. She hopes others will join her in doing the same.
Brother’s Keeper International is a storytelling initiative based in Berlin, highlighting firsthand accounts of refugees, volunteers, and other inspiring humans. We blog most frequently at Medium, where we publish in-depth photo essays. We also post volunteer opportunities (or create our own!) to give ideas for practical ways to get involved in your own community.