Ibrahim, 10 years old, and Yahya, 8 years old, from Idlib, Syria

Ibrahim and Yahya, along with their parents, their older sister and their baby brother, reside in a refugee camp in mainland Greece, awaiting relocation to another country in Europe. It’s been almost 1 year since they first arrived in Greece. They fled from Syria to Turkey first when their father’s factory was suddenly bombed one day in Idlib, and the threat of war on the family’s livelihood became imminent.

When he first arrived at the refugee camp, Ibrahim tells us, “I saw it was a camp with tents. I thought to myself, I am not trying to live anywhere with tents ever. And I just didn’t know it was going to be like this.”

“In Syria, everything was very good. Here, it’s nothing good. I used to wake up in the morning, go to school, come home and watch TV. Everything was good. I miss everything from Syria.”

 

Yahya chimes in, “Everything, Everything in Syria is more good. Really everything…”

 

Ibrahim expresses, “The school is very good there, in Syria. The school in Greece only has 4 or 5 classes for hundreds of kids. But the problem is the classes are not good. The English class is only ‘what’s your name?’ ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. Me and my brother are in the same class, even though we are two years apart. We should be in class 3 and class 5, not together. In our class, some people are learning new things, but many are not.”

“I came here and only want to go to school and learn more. I didn’t know Europe would be like this. I want to be back in Syria. I don’t want to be here.”

Yahya, 8 years old, from Idlib, Syria

“So much is different here from Syria. In Syria, I had a lot of friends, and I knew so many people, but here I don’t know so many friends because here everyone comes from other places and other countries and kids are always fighting together too. So I don’t want to play… 

Also, Syria is much better than here because we used to live inside of a house, our own home, and nobody was fighting together. But here, everyone is sad, and everyone is angry, and everyone fights.”

Yahya, 8 years old, from Idlib, Syria

“And in Syria, we used to have a TV and our own bicycles, we played with so many friends. We also used to play with marbles a lot - in Syria we had a very big bag of marbles! Hundreds! All different colors too! 

But here, between me and my brother, we only have 5 marbles. And my brother accidentally broke one of the marbles in half the other day. So now we have only 4 and a half marbles.”

Ibrahim, 10 years old, from Idlib, Syria

When asking Ibrahim what makes him happy these days at the refugee camp, he responded “only to play with my friends, be with my family, play with my baby brother… but nothing is good.” 

“Me and my little brother, Yahya, play together a lot, but we don’t play with lots of other kids - only 5 or 6 other boys here. Not all of the kids here are the same, and some of them also say bad words, so we don’t all play together all the time like in Syria."

“Every day here, we do nothing big, we just play anything. Sometimes basket[ball], sometimes we play with chess, sometimes with the shared tab[let].”

Ibrahim added, “I also hang out with my little brother a lot, and my sister too.” Ibrahim's baby brother, Ahmed, is only 8 months old, and was one of the first babies to be born at the refugee camp. He tells me, “It makes me happy to be with my baby brother Ahmed. I like to play games with him so much, and I help put him to sleep too.” 

Ibrahim, 10 years old, from Idlib, Syria

Ibrahim is notably very talented with language, and stands out as one of the greatest young English speakers at the camp. 

“I learned English with the books in Syria. And when I came here, I started speaking with all the people here, and then I learned many new things. Now I speak Arabic, English, and a little bit of French.” 

When I asked him why he began learning French, he told me, “I want to learn French, my mother has a good friend in France, and if I my family goes to France I will know French.”

“I already know some words in French, like ‘Qu'est ce que c'est?’, ‘Je veux’, ‘pomme’, ‘jaune’, and others, and I know how to count. I learn French here with another volunteer, who comes to teach me and my friends.”

He told me more about his fascination with France. “I want to go to France because I dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower. From when I lived in Syria, I used to tell my mom, ‘Mom, I want to go to Europe - no, not Europe- I want to go to France! And I only want to see the Eiffel Tower and then we can come quickly back to Syria!' This is since I was very little, even before the war was so big.”

Ibrahim, 10 years old, and Yahya, 8 years old, from Idlib, Syria

I asked both Ibrahim and Yahya about their biggest wish. Without hesitation, they immediately answered, “To go back to Syria.”

Ibrahim then added, “I want to be in my home again. I want to see my friends. I want to speak my language.”

He also said, “Shishbarag is my favorite food that my mom makes. It’s made from flour, with minced meat, and we eat with with a yogurt sauce. We used to eat it together as a family all the time. We ate it a lot in Syria, but here we can’t eat it because we don’t have meat in the camp.”

Yahya commented too, chuckling, “My favorite food is pizza… one year ago it was the last pizza I ate, when my family was in Turkey, that was the last time. One day I want to eat it again with my family too.”

When asked what their hopes for the future were, simultaneously, both Ibrahim and Yahya replied, “Stop the war in Syria.”

Photos: Shayanne Gal / Voices of Refugees

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