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 Hala.
In Germany, I have a new definition of what it means to be Syrian. I think Syrian people are very strong because we try to be happy no matter what our circumstances are. We take life as it comes and accept the life God gave us.
Syrians want to get to know everybody. I saw so many videos on Facebook about friendships between Germans and Syrians. I think they live very harmoniously.
Maybe I am a little biased, but I see that Syrians really want to get to know their neighbours.
My neighbour, Neil, is very helpful. When Mohammad had an injury, Neil took us to the hospital. My children are swimming right now with Neil. He is a good man and is teaching my children a lot.
I do want to say thank you to all the people who have helped me, and even those who haven’t helped me, but simply smiled at me.
A smile means so much to me, to us, as refugees.
At times I feel normal and other times I feel afraid when I go to social events. I’m afraid because I don’t have another country to go to. I don’t have many options. I am sad sometimes when I think about my future because I don’t know what will happen.
Sometimes I hate thinking of myself as a refugee. When I came to Europe, I was afraid that people would not treat me well, but I have gotten along with everybody in Germany.
When I talk to my German friend, Cristina, I tell her that she is just like my sister. She would help me with anything. Sometimes we don’t speak for a week, then I miss her so much. We have to know how each other is doing. When someone in Syria asks me how I am doing, I always say I am happy in Germany. I am happy when people like Cristina ask me if I need help.
But it is not always easy. When Zuckerfest [an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan] arrived, and I was in Germany, it was very difficult. I remembered all the beautiful memories I shared with my family in Syria. It was not the same in Germany.
It’s not just remembering the past. I am always thinking about where I will go in the future. Will we have to go in the street? Will we have to go to a place that is not comfortable for my children?
I like being here because the people are very nice and international, but I feel like I don’t have the time to really get to know the place. I can’t play sports, I can’t enjoy life in Berlin…but I try to be strong for my children. I came here so that they can study and have a better life.
With my final thoughts, I want to say that, yes, I am a refugee, but mostly, I am a mother. I can instill morals in my children.
Being a mother is the same all over the world.
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.