Dalal is only 20 years old, yet she worries a lot. She has dreams of continuing her architectural studies, or study art. But she often longs after the people and the safety in Syria. To not feel like a stranger. This is Dalals story.
I remember having a test at school, when the war started. I was 14 and went to a school for gifted pupils. My biggest dream was growing up and moving from my hometown Hama to the capital Damascus to study at the university.
My mother went with me to the test, and waited in a nearby park. When that semester's tests were over, the conflict escalated. We had to move several times during the first months. Life was restricted to staying at home and going to school. Even getting to classes was risky.
My grandfather died three years into the war, so we fled again. My father left the country and we moved to a place close to my relatives. At that time, I was preparing for high school.
There was always a risk of getting killed by a missile or from shell splinter.
The two years my father was away, life became increasingly difficult and dangerous. I had started studying architecture at the university. Our school was bombed twice. Eventually, my mother decided that we would leave Syria and join my father. My brother suffered from heart problems, and his health was steadily deteriorating because we were unable to visit the specialist doctor that lived in another city. My mother decided we would flee, and didn't want to leave me behind. There was always a risk of getting killed by a missile or from shell splinter.
We left for Turkey, and then she continued on along with my brother to join my father in Sweden. After my application for family reunion was rejected, I started thinking about getting to Europe on a scholarship. At that point, I was unaware of the critical condition my brother was in. When I found out that he was due for surgery, I decided to get to Sweden. Greece, and then overland via Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Germany.
The rubber boat that we used to get to Greece was supposed to take four people, but we were thirteen people on board. The trip took 80 minutes, but in the dark it felt much longer. We eventually realized there weren't any life vests on board. We had asked some friends to track us via GPS, but we weren't able to turn our phones on.
I felt numb. In the end, I wasn't able to move. I asked a girl to hold onto me so that I wouldn't fall into the water.
I suffered throughout the journey. We traveled alone through forests. In Serbia, we were disconnected from the outside world for three days. We were lost in the border area, and we were cold and wet. Once we reached the border, the authorities wouldn't let us pass through. We tried to go back the way we came from, but the bus that brought us there had already left.
We spent the night in a remote area, and then started walking in same direction as the bus until we reached a highway. A car picked us up and brought us to a border crossing 14 kilometers away. We waited out in the open that night, before crossing the border to Croatia.
We tried to enjoy those experiences and cherish every moment.
The best moments of the journey were when were able to stop and rest. In Greece, a friend of the family took care of us and calmed us down after the ocean crossing. We were able to rest in Austria and Germany as well. We tried to enjoy those experiences and cherish every moment. I tried to do the same thing in Turkey as well, despite the harsh circumstances. I also enjoyed getting to know new cultures, visit strange places and meet people that taught me new things.
When I left Turkey, I had no other option but to get to and be with my family. Prior to that, my plan was to get to Germany and resume my studies. But I'm prepared to start a new life in Sweden. I think there are possibilities for young people here as well.
I reached Sweden in November 2015. At first, I didn't like it here at all. The authorities placed us in Boden, in the north of Sweden. The trip there took 15 hours. We got to a small road in the forest, with no houses nearby. I could barely breathe, I felt a pressure over my chest. I was scared of that place. It had chosen me before I chose it.
But I felt comfortable with the people. The Swedish people seemed nice, sympathetic and cooperative. But at first, I was not happy, to say the least.
I didn't know what it meant to be a stranger before I left Syria. Syria is home, and safety.
My father had told me about Sweden before I got here, so there weren't that many things that surprised me. But I didn't think that everyone would be so obedient to rules. I didn't think one would have to wait for so long to get the residence permit, and the sheer volume of paper work surprised me. I also didn't expect having to be so self-reliant, there being so few personnel. I was impressed by how good English the Swedes spoke.
I now live in Eskilstuna. I am quite well. I live with my family, and not with strangers. It's not so remote as the asylum accommodations are. Getting to the city is easy, since we live so close to it. The place we live in is quite small though. I try to help my family to the best of my abilities. I don't receive any money, so I have to live off them.
I didn't know what it meant to be a stranger before I left Syria. Syria is home, and safety. I miss walking its streets, and feel the scent of the flowers. Meeting all of the family. The noise of the night that doesn't know sleep. I miss the kindness in people, the way they would compete in being helpful. I miss our simple parties, the bazaars, and friends. Hearing various Syrian dialects echoing in the streets. I dream about going to the capital where there's a coffee shop for celebrities, and another one for young people. If you walk around, you see normal simple people eating at food trucks.
I miss seeing the mosque, the church and the bars all in the same area. I miss unfamiliar beggars saying a prayer for your well being. I miss the old part of town where time has worn down the stone pavement, images of the people that have passed walked here in history. I miss there being so many people in the morning and in the nighttime. In short, there's nothing I don't miss from Syria.
Sweden could assist newcomers from day one if they let Swedish families take you in. Especially people coming here alone. In that way, people could get to know Swedes and learn about Swedish traditions. To make them feel at home and feel love. The system could be simplified to allow for people to resume their studies, and to allow for English speakers to find a job. That would make them productive members of society faster, and not turn them into burdens.
More possibilities should be available for people waiting for their residence permit, and processing the applications should go quicker so as to not waste people's time. Otherwise, they will get bored, lazy and depressed. Especially after the turmoil they've been through getting here. If you're stuck in emptiness, it can affect you as well as the society.
People that have recently arrived ought to respect the new society they live in, make an effort to get into society and accept the cultural differences. And also, to try to be a productive member of society.
I tend to think a lot, and sometimes I worry about the future.
I want to resume my studies, and get a job. I want to be independent. I studied architecture in Syria, and perhaps I can continue in that area. Or perhaps study art which is a passion of mine. At the same time, I've become increasingly engaged in Syrian issues and I've developed an interest in journalism and international relationships. I want to help Syria from Sweden.
I'm worried about not getting used to the Swedish system. It's very different to what I'm used to. I'm worried about finding myself in a dangerous situation, like having to go back to the war. I'm worried about failure, because I have no other option than to succeed. Sometimes I feel unsafe because I feel like a stranger. I tend to think a lot, and sometimes I worry about the future.
If I'll be able to live completely independently, I'll return to Syria after the war. But that depends if I'll be able to readjust to a Middle Eastern society after having been integrated to this society. Of course, I hope that I'll be able to return to Syria and fix the things that have gone wrong.
It also depends on whether I'll feel safe enough to return. I don't know when that will be, the war might go on for a long time. The main reason for me being here is to study and work.
I miss the good in people, the way they would compete in helpfulness. I miss our simple parties, the bazaars, friends. Hearing various Syrian dialects echoing in the streets