Marketing and customer experience executive, 1977, Daraya, Syria.

I was reborn in Luxembourg

September 22, 2016

I come from a modest family of ten

I have 3 brothers and 4 sisters. I am the middle of that crowd. We had a rather uncommon kind of relationship. We were much more than mere siblings and our parents we more than just parents. We had a very strong friendship based on respect, forgiveness and unconditional love.

As a kid, I did not get everything I wanted because my dad had limited resources. But my parent’s love was priceless and compensated all I wanted.

I believe this great background gave me a lot of strength in life, a huge motivation to go on with my life, to reach my goals. From a very early age, all I wanted was to keep my family safe and happy. I didn’t want things for myself.

I have always believed in future success and hope. I was not a demanding kid. I was calm. I cherished friendship. I always had a smile on my face. Even in the hardest times. I grew up in a suburb of Damascus. My grandfather always told me how important it is to keep on smiling.  In Arabic there is this expression: laughing is good for the heart! This is the attitude.

I was the first in my school class and loved writing. Not fairytales, I was writing about the reality I faced. I realize my father’s personality influenced me much. He was a simple man. A straight, loving man. He didn’t show his love much. He did everything he could to raise us well.

When I was eight years old, my mother asked me what I want to be when I grow older. I said: “I want to travel around the world, marry a Parisian woman and work hard for my family.” I also wanted to build a big toy house for all the children to play.

 

Shoes with “the right sign”

What I also really wanted were sport shoes “with right sign”! Later, I understood it was Nike shoes i wanted… My mom smiled and said “One day you will have all of that and the sport shoes too!” She taught me how to smile even if one has big sadness inside.

Well, to make a long story short, a few years later I worked in a Nike sales department as a student. Since I couldn’t afford to buy the Nike shoes, at least I could work for the brand.

 

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The day my life took another direction

I was 5 minutes late for the very last exam of my high school diploma. They refused to let me enter the examination room and deprived from my right to do that last exam. It felt so unfair, but I could not do anything. As a result, I should have had to repeat the whole school year. I felt so much anger. That felt so unfair. I couldn’t repeat that year, it felt like a waste of time.

Instead, I decided to stop school and to follow my child’s dream: travel around the globe. I left Damascus when I was 17 years old. In Lebanon, I worked in the fashion industry.

Fashion has always been a part of my life. When I was young, I spend much time watching my mother stitch clothes for my siblings and me. It is such a vivid memory.

She actually taught me how to stitch. I helped her stitching the clothes. I like colors. I like to create something. I love cooking also. It’s one of my passions. Like writing.

 

The time in Lebanon was very hard

I missed my family dearly but I always had hope. Earning my life helped me to start achieving one of my dreams: to help my family financially. I will never forget the first salary I received, I was so happy to send the money to my family.

During all that time, I never stopped writing. My pen used to console me. Writing gave me a lot of strength to go on.

After few years abroad I went back to Syria. I decided to do my high school diploma. I got very high grades but I couldn’t go to college afterwards because my older brother had a very bad accident that left him handicapped. He had to take of his 6 kids… and since he couldn’t, I had to earn my life to help him. My plan was to study at the university, become a doctor. I couldn’t.

I sacrificed my future for my family.

I left Syria again in 2001. Mainly because it increased my chances to earn my life well. Also, I love travelling, getting to know new cultures. I worked in many different countries. All that time, I continued sending money to my family. I made the best out of the situation.

Most of my work was related to marketing. I worked for big brands like Adidas, Massimo Dutti or Mango. I managed to get an ISO certificate for quality control.

After a while I missed my homeland, my family and my 31 nephews.

I decided to go back to Syria. I felt strong with all the experience I had gained abroad. I built a big house and a shop in Darayya – a suburb of Damascus – for me and my family.

I remember telling my parents: “I am the happiest person ever.” My mother laughed and replied: “ Your dreams are coming true one by one. Still, the Parisian woman is missing…”

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The war

I had a successful time until the war started in 2011. Then my homeland started to change.

For the first time in my life, I felt my life was in danger. Syria became a place of killing, hate, anger, death and destruction. Syria became a place where you don’t know when you will die nor why.

My pen dried out. Hearts and ideas dried out. My dream house, my shop got completely destroyed by a bomb in February 2012.

I wish to share these two pictures that show the degree of destruction of Damascus after the bombings of 2012.

 

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I had to leave Syria. The regime threatened my family and me. I don’t want to mention the details. I had mixed feelings when I left Syria. I was relieved to leave the war but I knew I probably won’t see my family again as my siblings left for different places.

 

I had to start my life from scratch

I reached Luxembourg in December 2012 after a very long and hard journey.

I had to start my life from scratch. Basically going back to the situation I was in as a child. In the beginning, I had a lot of energy. I had many dreams and plans. But I quickly realized life wouldn’t be easy in Luxembourg as an asylum seeker. It is very difficult to live with 25 euros a months, even if food and housing is provided.

I was very worried for my family. I couldn’t help them. I felt very lonely. I could only count on myself. I was one of the first Syrians in Luxembourg. I hardly met anyone. I didn’t have any friend.

My life improved a lot when I was granted the refugee status on the 25th of November 2013

I found a job a few months later, beginning of 2014. I found that job by myself. One day, I went to Ikea and asked the delivery service if they had a job opportunity for me. It was one-year contract within a delivery firm based in Luxembourg and linked to Ikea Arlon. It was a good experience but unfortunately after a year the contract came to an end.

Now, I’m unemployed. I hate that situation. I want to be productive, earn my life. I am looking for a job as a driver or any job related to customer service or marketing. I like to connect and talk to people.

 

I was reborn in Luxembourg

I love Luxembourg from my heart.

To me Luxembourg is a place without discrimination or hate. There is no difference between black or white people, religions or concepts. I can be myself and express my opinions. Luxembourg is a place where I can build a future and fulfil my dreams.

I learned the value of life, work, love and equality. Even if I’m facing the difficulties of the languages and rare job opportunities.

I have the will to find a new job.

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Connecting to people is essential to me

I am a very sociable person. I like to join events, cook Syrian, meet new people. I’m also enjoying writing again. I am working on a comedy film scenario which I hope will find support from people from the movie industry.

I met a few Syrian friends. We share lots of ideas. Together we started a Facebook group named “Syrian Youth in Luxembourg”. Our aim is to connect with the Luxembourgish residents, share our culture and launch cultural events.

I am also volunteering for the Luxembourgish NGO Catch a smile that provides support for the refugees in Greece for example. I just spent some time with them in Thessaloniki helping the refugees stuck in the camps. Needless to say that this experience shook me up to a level that is hard to express. I am very happy and thankful to have the chance to support their cause.

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